Home flipping isn’t just a trend, it’s an art that requires knowledge, integrity, and a strong team. Andre Halston of FlipBama knows all about that. His home flipping company has flipped and constructed 29 homes—but he’s not your average flipper. Previously a chef, Halston decided on a mid-life career change and now focuses full-time on FlipBama. Read below to find out how he got started, what makes FlipBama different, and what you should look for if you’re planning to flip a home or buy a flipped home.
1. How did you get started flipping homes?
When I was 12-13 years old, I was doing two things: I was learning how to cook, and I was helping my uncle who owned a construction company. I learned the basics [of construction] at a very young age, and it was just kind of something that sat inside me for years. For the first part of my career, I was the personal chef of Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev on his U.S. tour, and I was a chef for many years for Ritz Carlton hotels and big corporations and companies. But I had progressed to a level where I said, “It’s time for me to do something else,” and I was always very passionate about building. When I was a chef, I would find a house in the different places we lived, and in my spare time I would find subcontractors—an electrician to help me do this, a plumber to help me do that—to improve homes. And so I had always done it and just said, “That’s it, I’m going to stop this part of my past and go into my future.” And the future was with regards to homes.
2. So how did you put your new plan into action?
I love the environment where someone can see something that is totally destroyed and see how to turn it into something special. So, I went and got certified and licensed and all of those things and decided to do this on a full-time basis. I’ve partnered with some great subcontractors that have a lot of integrity. Because if you’re going to partner with me, and you don’t have integrity, it just won’t work. We have discipline, and anybody who sees a FlipBama house knows right away that it’s a great property with a lot of integrity. And there are no shortcuts in anything we do.
3. How did your background as a chef help with home building?
You have to have the same detail as a home builder as you do when following a recipe. [When I was a chef] it would take me hours and sometimes days to prep and put together a great dish. But then people eat it, and it’s gone in 30 seconds. But you can’t take away a house in 30 seconds. The creativity is what I love in both trades.
4. You sell all your homes fully furnished, but don’t initially tell the buyers. Why is that?
It’s easier for the homebuyer. It’s one less thing they have to worry about. Everyone comes in here and sees the furniture and they’re just amazed at all these things. They have no idea that it will be theirs (unless somebody tells them). I tell them at the closing and then say, “Just give me a dollar for it.” A lot of the burden of furnishing a home is off their plate. They can just move in. We do everything from beginning to end. We’ll put food and wine in the refrigerator when the home closes. We put towels [in the bathrooms]. We take care of them. All they have to do is show up with their toothbrush. We do it all because that’s the fun side of seeing the family walk into the home and feel that it’s theirs. That’s what FlipBama is: Enriching houses to become forever homes.
5. How have you found the housing market to be here in Birmingham?
As long as you build a house with integrity, the market is wide open to you. Being in Birmingham, there are so many opportunities in different parts of this city, but we have to be very strategic on where we are going and what else is happening in that environment.
6. What’s been your favorite project you’ve worked on?
I don’t want to be cliché, but every single place is different. Every single place has a story. The uniqueness of what I try to get across, as soon as I look at [a house] is what is the vision? This one (pictured right) is a favorite because it’s 95 years old and it was probably months away from getting demoed. So I think, how can I make it different? How can I make this place livable? And what is the belief of the community? What difference will it make to them?
7. What’s your best advice for someone who wants to get into home flipping?
• Do your research as far as understanding the neighborhood. Drive around a few blocks to see if there are others doing what you’re doing or thinking of doing.
• Does the house have good bones? Make sure to be well-educated on what to look for in a house. Stand outside the house and look from the bottom up—at the roof, around the chimney. Think how much you want to put in on redoing the house. And what is your return on investment?
• What’s your story? There has to be a story behind what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you want to be part of the community or not? Do you want to be in an area that is going through change?
• Find the right people to be a part of what you’re doing. You can’t do everything. Don’t hide from inspectors. They’re not there to hit you over the head; they’re there to ensure compliance.
8. What advice would you give to someone looking to buy a flipped home?
Demand to see the inspection reports on every single facet that has been touched in that house. You don’t know what’s behind the walls, but the inspectors know. They know that it’s been insulated, they know that the wire has been run correctly, they know that there’s been no shortcuts. The codes for houses change all the time. So, you want to make sure you have a person that’s building it with credibility. If you have questions they can’t answer, then don’t buy it.
Details Find more information at flipbama.com.
This story appears in Birmingham magazine’s April 2020 issue. Subscribe today!
Source: Thanks https://www.al.com/bhammag/2020/04/8-questions-with-a-birmingham-chef-turned-house-flipper.html