Flipping is particularly attractive in high appreciation markets like Los Angeles. However, as prices continue to rise, it is super important for flippers to closely monitor their margins to ensure they can exit the deal as they have planned. In this episode, host Lisa Hylton chats with Los Angeles flipper Katherine Nilbrink about her experiences in the Hollywood market using this strategy. Katherine also shares how she got started in real estate and how she decided that flipping homes was the path for her.
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Flipping Homes In Hollywood With Katherine Nilbrink
I have with me a special guest. Her name is Katherine Nilbrink. She’s a flipper here in the Los Angeles area. I’m excited to have her here with me to talk about how she got started in real estate and her experience flipping. Thank you, Katherine.
Thank you, Lisa. I’m excited to be here and share a little bit about what I know.
How did you get started investing in real estate?
I’ve always been the one who loves to take an old house and fix it. I can see the vision of a house in any shape it’s in. I can see how it could be and I’ve always looked at real estate. I love doing that. I follow houses all over the country and other places in the world too because I dream about that. Every time I bought a house, a lot of times I have been a bit of a fixer-upper. We’ve done the work and things like that ourselves. We bought a house in LA at a good time. I did the research and it was an up and coming neighborhood in 2013. It was an old craftsman bungalow fixer-upper. We lived there until the spring of 2019 and we sold it for quite a great profit and that was a little bit of a launching pad. We then moved up to the Central Coast. We live outside Pasa Robles. Thank goodness we left.
Out there is quieter and relaxing, I can imagine whenever I visit. That’s a Wine Country and I love up there.
It’s nice and peaceful up here and I have cows. When we did that, we had an opportunity to take a bit of the profit. It was an opportunity to do something we both had wanted to do. My husband has always been a little bit interested and he’s seen the potential of doing flipping or investing in real estate. We decided to take some of the profits that we made on the sale of our house and start investing. We invested in a deal and it’s in the works. We’re an investor using some of our money. It’s making money. Somebody else is flipping that house. When they sell it, then we get a return on our investment, a particular percentage of that’s agreed upon in the contract.There's always a risk in the real estate market. Click To Tweet
We still had some and we decided that we would try our own hand because that’s the part that I like. I like to do the work. I can take an old diamond in the rough and bring it back to its former glory. I love old houses that way. There is so much potential and why tear down something that could be perfectly great? In old houses, there’s always a lot more character. We took some of the other money and we purchased a house that was in dire need of repair. It was legally unlivable. There had been water damage because the water heater had burst and nobody was in the house at the time. It sat there and there were no floors in the house. There are no cabinets. It has partially been demoed. I’m working on that. It’s up in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Universal Studios. Before we did that, I did. I took a look at, “What’s the purchase price? What are the comps in the area? If I put in the XYZ amount of money, will I still make a profit on selling it later?”
There’s always a risk in the market. I’m going to market with this house and it’s not the best time of year to be selling a house. There are different thoughts about that. There’s the peak season for selling houses in the spring and summer as we all know, but there’s less inventory. People who are buying have less to choose from. It is what it is. The house is going to go on the market. It’s very exciting. It’s coming along beautifully and completely transformed. It was such an ugly house to look at in the beginning and we finally took down some of the full edges and they saw what we have done. It’s still in progress. It’s not even done and they’re blown away by what’s happening. It felt good to have this eyesore changed.
How did you find that house in the Hollywood Hills?
I work with an organization called Fortune Weavers and they have an academy. I’ve been learning through them. They also teach how to flip. They teach how to wholesale. They teach all the different opportunities you could have in investing in real estate. They are great. I love them. They’re hands-on. They’re located in LA and they also are doing the work themselves. They also invest in properties and are wholesaling and all that. One of their executive team is a big wholesaler. He’s always finding houses. At the time, they had so much inventory and they didn’t have enough people to do the work. He basically wholesaled it to me. He found the house and I’d purchased it. There was a finder’s fee and that’s how wholesaling is. You learn how to find houses as well throughout this process and how to run the numbers and we’re conservative.
We don’t say, “It could sell for $6 million,” which you dream about that. If we price it good, it’ll sell more quickly. I’m good at that. I did that for a house in LA. I looked at the comps myself. I wasn’t a realtor, so I looked at the comps. I looked at what the neighborhood has been doing and had been doing for the past few years. I thought, “I would be happy if we could get XYZ for it.” I priced it low so that I can get people in the door who want it to live in that neighborhood. Basically, it drives a price war. I know I’ve been through that process, once you put any contract that you want to live in a house if there are other people fitting on it, like, “I could stretch my budget.” You get wedded to the process. We did have a bit of a bidding war and we got what we wanted for it.
I know how to price competitively to get in the door and then start that process because I don’t want to overprice it. People often make that mistake. They overpriced their houses because they want this high dollar amount and then it’s out of reach for a lot of people. This house that I’m looking at that I’m getting ready to sell in Hollywood Hills, it’s a bit of a risk. It’s a smaller house in the area. It’s a two-bedroom. People usually want at least three, but it has 10,000 square foot lots. They could add to it. It has great views over Universal Studios. There are a lot of different benefits. Also, the benefit is that it’s a smaller house, so it’s at a lower price point. People who want to live in that neighborhood, who might not have the budget for that neighborhood, they have an opportunity to get into that neighborhood.
You think about all of these things before you go into a deal. Of course, you have to look at the construction budget and if it’s estimated correctly. There are always surprises. It is a process and it’s a lot of fun. I think one of the biggest things that can be a big stumble are contractors. If you don’t have a good contractor, it could be a nightmare. One thing I will always recommend is to use licensed contractors. Don’t use handyman because that’s your quickest way to losing a lot of money. You think it’s good to save some money, but it doesn’t. They’re not licensed, so they don’t carry insurance. Their guys don’t have insurance. It hurts on the job. They come after me. I’m the one who has to pay their medical bills and that is a recipe for disaster. Always use licensed contractors and there’s an interview process for that too.
For people getting started, they have the same kind of desire as yourself, they see themselves as people who want to be a part of the process and would like to flip, what would you say? They’re maybe one or two key things that they need to think about or do, action steps that they need to take to get started.
I recommend not going on your own and trying to figure it out by yourself because we often have people like other students in the Academy who have tried to get on their own and they’ve lost a lot of money. I recommend either finding a mentor, somebody who’s done it a lot and knows what they’re doing and can teach you and show you the ropes. You can use the Fortune Weavers Academy or something. I’m not trying to sell them. I’m not getting any kickback because it’s a lot of money. If you don’t have the capital yourself, first of all, if you do and you go in and you lose it, that’s a bummer if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you have investors and you don’t know what you’re doing and you lose their money, that’s a big problem because you have to find the money and pay them back. I recommend it. I think it can be a great opportunity for a lot of people. Even if you don’t have the money, you find capital. There are a lot of people out there who have money. It’s not making them a lot of money doing what it’s doing. Using them as your capital and investments, that’s a great opportunity for you to get in the door, but you have to find them. There are ways to do that. There are also legal ways that you have to think about doing that and you have to learn that as well. There are ways to safeguard you as well as them in the process. I recommend finding somebody who knows what they’re doing and use them as a mentor.
As this project here comes to a close, as you wrap up this project and potentially sell it, what do you see on the horizon for yourself in terms of projects? What do you want to tackle next?
We are looking for more projects. I’m looking to build capital for more projects so I can be doing multiple projects at one time and not only using my money to do projects, as well as continuing to invest. On the horizon, our goal is probably to do 6 or 7 houses and learn the ropes well. My husband and I also want to learn how to wholesale because it’s a great way to make some money on the side and I’m great at finding houses. We are learning how to wholesale them. I’m always finding little gems and I’m like, “I can’t do $6 million houses, so let’s find somebody else. How do you do that? What do you have to do to prepare for that?” I could say, “I found this great opportunity. You might check it out.” You can do more things to help.Having investment properties and rental properties are good collaterals. Click To Tweet
Learning how to wholesale is something I want to do and I’m learning that through Fortune Weavers as well. We also want to start building a legacy and have rental properties that give us a residual income throughout the year. Money’s tied up in two projects and nothing’s coming in. When they sell, then there’s a chunk of change and that’s great in lots of ways on lots of levels. Having that constant knowable income is also nice. Having investment properties and rental properties are good collaterals. Eventually, as markets change, you can sell them. That’s what’s on the horizon for us. My husband likes to join this full-time with me, which was great.
As you all think about scaling essentially your business and doing more houses, does that also led to having certain systems in place in order to make that all happen?
It does. I’ve run a business in the past, but it is a very different kind of business. I am in nutrition for many years. I ran an online business and programming, as well as worked in corporate for a while, to develop the Global Health and Eating Program for the Whole Foods Market. I worked in Academia, as well as teaching nutrition programs. I run the gamut and over it. On one level, I’m in my early 50s and there is a lifetime of knowledge in that on some levels. At times, I think about walking away from it, I’m like, “Am I doing it to service?”
I’m looking to be of service in another way, in this way and using my creative processes differently. As far as systems go, setting up, bookkeeping systems and running a business are important. We are also starting to create relationships with other people for realtors, stager, wholesalers and start to develop those kinds of systems as relationship systems where maybe sellers are finally calling you all the time saying, “I’ve got these deals.” I’m not always looking for them myself and something I might not see, so there are those and I can funnel to other people as well.
There are all kinds of systems that you start to put into place as this grows contractors, where you buy your materials, how you speak with your contractor and how you tell them what you want. As the designer on-site, my contractor, he’s great. He’s been doing this since the ‘90s. He’s good. We can bounce ideas off each other but in the end, it’s my decision. He may be purchasing this stuff because he has those relationships and those deals. He could buy anything and I was like, “I don’t like that faucet.” How do you talk to them and how do you tell them all that stuff? Setting up those systems as well. My husband is good at the systems. If I could grab him for more of his time for this stuff. We are building that together.
This was helpful to learn about your story, to learn about what it is that you’re doing and what you’re planning on doing for the future as well. If our readers want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you and to learn more about flipping or your latest projects?
I’m on Instagram, @KatherineNilbrink. If you scroll down, you’re going to see a lot of my old work. I haven’t cleaned out, so you can see the nutrition stuff and everything. Not a lot of what I’ve been doing because I’m not huge on social media. It was something that I didn’t love, but you can find me and message me there. I don’t have a website yet. I will start to put together portfolios as I grow, but I actually still have my old website up under my name, KatherineNilbrink.com. It’s all nutrition and everything else, but you can contact me there still. You can email me at KNilbrink@MAC.com.
Thank you so much, Katherine. I appreciate it.
This is fun. I love talking about it and I’m learning more and more. I’m new at it and I’m always willing to help anybody with any information that I have. If I can help somebody else realize their dreams, then why not?
Thank you so much. Take care.
- Katherine Nilbrink
- Fortune Weavers
- Katherine Nilbrink – Instagram
About Katherine Nilbrink
After almost 30 yrs as a nutritionist and working in health and wellness, Katherine Nilbrink, MA, MCC, CHC, decided a change was needed. With a desire to access her more creative side and her love of following trends in real estate and restoring old houses that she bought to live in, Katherine decided to pursue this passion.
However, Katherine is not just ‘another flipper’. Her unique way identifying and researching real estate purchases and bringing diamonds in the rough back to life and has lead to quick success with all of her homes being sold over asking price within days of hitting the market. Most of her work is done in Los Angeles but she is looking afield to other markets.
She is now adding to her knowledge with studying for her real estate license and looks forward to continuing to building her portfolio. Katherine is an avid hiker and loves long distance trekking, having recently walked across Kenya. She is originally from Boston and after living in Los Angeles for 9 yrs she and her Swedish husband moved to the Central Coast of California with their 2 rescue chow chows where they enjoy the quiet and amazing views. “