With over 300 active loans currently on our platform, it’s clear that we have some incredible renovation projects happening around the country. While you may have come across these homes on our platform, we thought it would be of interest to highlight the people behind the projects and give a little more detail about their work. To that end, we’ve begun a Monthly Borrower Spotlight post, in which we interview some of our best borrowers and delve into what has made them so successful.
This month, we caught up with Jeanine Smith, a real estate entrepreneur in Atlanta who has been working with GROUNDFLOOR on several projects. We recently hopped on the phone with Jeanine to chat about her journey into real estate and what her biggest piece of advice is for prospective flippers.
How did you get into home renovation/house flipping? How long have you been flipping houses?
To be completely honest, I decided to get into the flipping business because I am a huge HGTV fan (shoutout to Property Brothers and Egypt Sherrod!). Like everyone else who binges HGTV, I thought it would be super easy, so in 2018, I decided to try it out myself and flip my own home. As you can imagine, it wasn’t nearly as simple as it looks on TV!
The process of flipping this first home involved a lot of trial and error. It took a lot of time to put together a team that I trusted and that worked well with me. I was doing a lot of research into prospective partners on sites like Thumbtack, as well as doing reconnaissance on people working on other homes in the neighborhood. In the end, though, it was worth it -- within three days of listing the renovated house on the market, I had an above asking price offer, and seven days later I had $70K in my account!
After that successful project, I wanted to keep going. I started trying to learn as much as I could about the industry, and began looking into lenders who would finance these projects. The first company I found was GROUNDFLOOR! I loved the loan structure and terms they offered, and I was pleased that they were willing to lend to a beginner like me. So, I took the profits from the sale of my house, paid off my debts, and jumped into a second project with GROUNDFLOOR.
How many projects have you completed? How many are you currently working on?
In total so far, I’ve completed five projects: three in Texas with a friend, and two here in Atlanta. Currently, I have five projects going on, all of which are in partnership with GROUNDFLOOR. One of them is a big renovation of a beautiful Victorian house in Brunswick that is 108 years old! I also have a couple of new builds happening as well.
What is one of the most important things that you take into consideration when you are completing a real estate project?
The top priority is definitely whether or not the project will be profitable!
I also try to think a lot about the surrounding community and how my projects will impact the area. For example, I’ve done a few flips on Nash Road in Bankhead, an area in Atlanta next to where I used to live. Back then, Nash Road had a lot of dilapidated homes, and people were always driving super fast along the street because it was used as a cut-through. I remember calling into the city a lot to complain about the conditions! Now with my real estate business, I’ve been able to make tangible changes to better that neighborhood by taking some of the ugliest and most unsafe houses on the block and turning them into beautiful, safe homes for families.
How have you seen the real estate industry change since you first began flipping? Any trends you’ve noticed?
As is true everywhere right now, the cost of houses has jumped up like crazy, and is continuing to rise. For context, the first property I purchased to flip in 2019 cost $99K. Now, houses are listing for $189K! It’s insane how expensive things are currently.
In fact, these days, land lots are cheaper to buy than older properties. Because of this, I definitely plan on doing more new construction projects in the future. Though it’s a lot of paperwork and logistics up front, it’s actually much easier on the backend because you don’t have to worry about running into any problems left over from the original contractor. I’m also really having fun designing these new builds - I’m essentially working with an architect to design my dream house and bring it to life. Very HGTV!
How did you find GROUNDFLOOR?
I was originally recommended to use GROUNDFLOOR. Then, after doing my own research into the company, I found that GROUNDFLOOR was the perfect choice for me.
What has been your experience working with GROUNDFLOOR?
Working with GROUNDFLOOR has been such a great experience. GROUNDFLOOR makes it so easy to work with them -- I don’t like working with anyone else now!
The deferred payment option is especially helpful. It’s a little costlier than other monthly payment loan options, but you’re paying for peace of mind. Having to worry about monthly payments on top of everything else will make your stress levels shoot through the roof, especially if you are a newer flipper.
The GROUNDFLOOR platform also is incredibly helpful and simple to use. I love that I can request draws and communicate with GROUNDFLOOR easily right from the portal. Everyone at GROUNDFLOOR is wonderful -- it really feels like they care about me and want to see me succeed. I especially love my Business Development Representative James [McGowan] -- I’d honestly adopt him if I could!
You have a pretty large online community that you’ve created focusing on women and real estate -- can you talk a little bit about that?
Absolutely! When I first started flipping, I found that there didn’t seem to be many people -- especially women -- within the Black community involved in this industry. I didn’t really see anybody within that community talking about real estate projects online, and there didn’t seem to be any online groups or forums specifically geared towards those like me (at least, not that I could find). So, last year I decided to start my own group called Black Girls in Real Estate. I knew that I wasn’t the only Black woman involved in this industry, and I wanted to create a space where we could share experiences, provide resources, ask questions, get recommendations, and generally get support from each other.
Fast forward to now, and we have over 40,000 members on Facebook, and over 17,000 followers on Instagram! I receive about 1,500 new women requesting to join the Facebook group per week, all in various niches in the real estate world. We have women spanning the industry from wholesalers and lenders, to architects and general contractors -- and more people are joining all the time.
I think everything that happened last year put things into perspective for a lot of people. As the pandemic shut down the economy and people began losing their livelihoods, I think there was a new focus on wealth building and creating generational wealth. And real estate is one of the best ways to start building that legacy. I’m thankful that through my group, I get the opportunity to help coach people on how to get started in this industry and support them however they might need as they grow their businesses.
What are some of your goals for your business in the next few years?
I have a pretty big goal for Q4 of this year. I am looking into purchasing a hotel -- I have a friend that did an $8.3M Hilton deal last year, and I am interested in doing something similar in Georgia, most likely in the Statesboro/Brunswick area. I’ll be bringing women from my group into the deal as well to create hotel ownership. I’m excited about the opportunities this will create!
If you could give a newer flipper one piece of advice, what would it be?
I’d say firstly that you should be cognizant of who you’re working with -- there are many different styles of general contractors out there, some who work with newer flippers and do lower price-point projects, and some who specialize in high-end flips. It’s important to find someone that aligns with your specific project.
Other than that, the best advice I can give is to be well capitalized and to have a great team to support you. Money and a solid team will get you through most anything in this business!
Thank you so much, Jeanine! We love working with you!