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Scripting the flip: Family applies skills to real estate

By By Marta Tankersley
Staff writer
MARTA TANKERSLEY | Sunday Gazette-Mail
The Haney family — Austin, David, Katelin and Brigid — established True Blue Developers LLC in 2013 and are trying their hand at flipping houses.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
Flippers look for “distressed” property to rehabilitate and resell, like this house on Bard Avenue in St. Albans.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
In need of updates, this “before” shot of the kitchen in the house on Bard Avenue exhibits the amount of work that goes in to rehabbing a house for resale.
MARTA TANKERSLEY | Sunday Gazette-Mail
With one eye on design and the other on budgeting, Katelin Haney of True Blue Developers LLC, comes up with renovations to please — as evident in this “after” shot of the kitchen on Bard Avenue.
MARTA TANKERSLEY | Sunday Gazette-Mail
Once in need of TLC, the house on Bard Avenue in St. Albans has been transformed and placed on the real-estate market by investors at True Blue Developers.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
A house on Lancaster Avenue in Kanawha City is the only one the Haneys have held as rental property.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
The upstairs apartment in the house on Lancaster Avenue had a 1970s persona.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
Renovations complete, the Lancaster Avenue apartment has a neutral palette and inviting air.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
Bought at auction, this large house in Putnam County had a few surprises for the investors, but it is ready for a new family to call home.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
Updating kitchens and baths can add a lot of value to a property. This “before” shot of the master bath at Fox Run, in Putnam County, shows finishes from the 1980s.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
Luxurious white marble and a sparkling glass shower stall bring the Fox Run house’s master bath into the new century.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
This older brick home on Virginia Street in Charleston was “wholesaled” for a fast $2,100, according to investors at True Blue Developers.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
The Virginia Street property renovations were reserved to finishing the top floor.
Photo courtesy of TRUE BLUE DEVELOPERS
The Haneys made quick work of finishing the “distressed” top floor of the house on Virginia Street, leading to a wholesale deal and a fast $2,100 profit.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With experience in the business, education, accounting and legal industries, the Haney family thinks they have what it takes to make some cash in real estate by “buying, fixing and selling” houses, said Austin Haney, 29, of True Blue Developers LLC.

“We were watching too much HGTV,” said family patriarch David Haney, who owns and operates E&H Manufacturing — a member of the Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia.

“Investing in real estate was always an intriguing idea, but we hadn’t taken it seriously.”

That is, until he attended a free three-day investment seminar in South Charleston. It was associated with A&E’s popular television series “Flip This House.”

David and his wife, Brigid, a curriculum specialist for Kanawha County Schools, knew it wasn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, but they “saw potential and were excited,” David said. “I called Austin, who worked for Enterprise Rental Cars in North Carolina, to see what he thought about coming home and starting a business.”

Austin was an accounting supervisor but felt the position was too low-key.

“Accounting was mentally challenging, but boring,” he said. “So I decided to give flipping a shot.”

The family attended another seminar the next month. This time there was an expense involved.

They were provided with “access to a ton of information, documents, instructional videos, templates, coaching and support calls and more,” Austin continued.

“So within three months, we had our business license.”

With Austin on board to manage the numbers, adding 26-year-old Katelin to the mix was the final piece of the puzzle.

Her legal training from Florida Coastal School of Law would give the family business an extra edge.

Since she hasn’t sat for the bar exam yet, she is acting as a consultant and operations manager.

So far the best thing about TBD is, “We are all back in Charleston,” David said.

“Long term, this allows us to be financially comfortable and build up a retirement income.”

In the 18 months since starting their business, the Haneys have bought, rehabilitated and either flipped or held four local houses for a net income of $88,000.

“There is a learning curve, and we started out with one project at a time,” Austin said.

“Now that we are more confident, we are expanding operations and taking on more projects,” David said. “We actually made an offer on a house today.”

Flipping houses is not easy, they agreed. There are financing considerations, building codes, real-estate market ups and downs, economic concerns, getting the right contractor for the job and more to consider.

“We have a set of guidelines to factor into whether a property has good potential or not,” Austin said. “But every property is different.”

David added that they generally look for “distressed or outdated property in a neighborhood that will support the sale,” once the repairs and updates have been completed. Turning a project into cash can take some time and it depends on many variables.

“Our time frame really ranges,” Austin said. “Our goal is to keep improving these time frames as we go along and get more familiar with what we are doing.”

Case in point: A 1,100-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bathroom house on Bard Avenue in St. Albans — just listed for sale — was purchased at a cost of $30,500 only two months ago.

The Haneys made extensive renovations at a cost of $34,000. TBD put on a new roof, updated the electrical system, put in central heat and air, completely remodeled the kitchen and put in new appliances, new floors, a chain-link fence and railing on the front porch.

“We aren’t do-it-yourselfers and always use licensed contractors on every job,” Austin said. “Buyers want to know things were done correctly and contractors usually know about current code specs.”

They are asking $92,000 for the property, which would produce a return on their investment of about $28,000.

The Haneys don’t always “rehab and resell.” The 2,300-square-foot duplex on Lancaster Avenue in Kanawha City — with both a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom unit — is being held. That means they are renting the apartments. It took about seven months to purchase, renovate and rent.

“We really don’t want to focus time on property management, but the income potential increases over time with rental units,” Austin said.

The purchase price for the duplex was $65,000 and renovations totaled $53,000 — a total investment of $118,000. Since the property appraised for $170,000, TBD has a net gain of $52,000.

Another way to make money flipping real estate is wholesaling, which amounts to being paid a finder’s fee. “We got a hot lead on a house on Virginia Street,” he said. “We didn’t do a full rehab, just paid utilities, interest and made minor repairs before selling it.”

They cleared $2,100 in about five months.

But it isn’t all fun and games. It’s business. And with every business, there are risks.

While TBD hasn’t actually lost money on a deal yet, that reality is always in the back of their minds.

For that reason, David and Brigid haven’t quit their day jobs. And that’s a good thing.

The Haneys bought a big 3,600-square-foot, four-bedroom, 3½-bath house in Putnam County’s Fox Run subdivision at auction for $165,000 over a year ago.

“We moved too quickly on this one without doing all of our homework,” Austin said.

The rehab cost was another $89,000.

“I figured it was a better deal than it actually was, and we have learned a lot on this one,” he continued. “We joke and call it an expensive lesson.”

David agrees, “Sometimes it smells like a rose, but it’s not so sweet.”

The house listed for just $5,900 above the total investment.

Austin said what is most important is that all the issues cited in the home inspection were addressed as requested and the house is in tiptop shape now, just waiting for the right family to call it home.

Funding commercial real-estate investments is not the same as a typical home loan with a 10 or 20 percent down payment.

“Commercial loans have a completely different set of guidelines,” Austin said.

But TBD uses private loans. “For us, it all depends on the private money or hard-money lender terms to which we have negotiated and agree,” he explained.

“We borrow the entire purchase price and estimated rehab costs for each job and then pay it all back at the end when the house sells, including all accrued interest.”

While the Haneys are experiencing success flipping houses, “Everyone defines ‘success’ differently,” Austin said. “In a business like this, there is an equal mix of short-term and long-term success. We are still working on the long term goals all the time, but day to day, we measure our success by our results on each project,” he continued.

Austin believes TBD is set apart from similar businesses because their “combination of varying skills and mindsets — from four completely different career paths — have come together to make an awesome team.”

While there is a learning curve and lots of room for error, “The goal is to learn from the mistakes and grow without feeling defeated,” he said.

The Better Business Bureau has a warning for folks who attend flipping seminars like the one the Haneys were inspired by. “Be prepared to read contracts thoroughly, look for hidden fees, and know exactly what you are signing up for,” it said in a recent news release. “Get all promises and earning claims guaranteed in writing.”

The Haneys are active in the establishment of an association of real-estate investors where they hope to “network professionals, share knowledge and share opportunities.” Anyone interested in joining may contact TBD at 304-343-9999.

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