| Flipping Homes For 20 Years and Counting

Terrell Arnold, 40, stands in what will be the living room of his next house flip on the 1800 block of Wharton Street.

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January 15, 2015

Terrell Arnold, 40, stands in what will be the living room of his next house flip on the 1800 block of Wharton Street. Lauren Mennen/
By: Lauren Mennen

Terrell Arnold learned some of his earliest house flipping lessons during his teen years.

Growing up in West Philadelphia in the 1980s, Arnold spent his summers working in his father’s trucking business, and his friend’s father’s construction business.

“I learned how to be a mechanic, and also all the ins and outs of construction,” Arnold, now 40, said.

Right before Arnold left for college, his father helped him make his first property purchases. Arnold said he bought five houses in West Philadelphia off a tax sale, each one for about $2,500.

“I was 17 at the time,” Arnold said. “My friend and I renovated them ourselves. We did that our whole lives, so we knew how to do everything.”

Arnold rented out those properties, and left for college soon after. But when he started at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, it wasn’t real estate that he planned on pursuing as a career.

“I went to school to become a doctor,” Arnold said. “I was on track to become a paramedic.”

During his sophomore year, two events made him rethink that decision.

An injury while playing football forced him to return home for rehab. Around the same time, he got a call from someone who wanted to purchase one of those five houses he had refurbished.

“It sold for $90,000,” Arnold said of the home, which was located in West Philadelphia at 53rd and Cedar Streets. “I spent about $10,000 to purchase and rehab.”

After making that large profit in 1993, and while he was taking a break from school to recover from his injury, Arnold said he thought to himself, “is this meant to be?”

“I took that money and bought a bunch more houses,” Arnold said. “I started to do my research. I started really learning. I had a couple mentors that came and showed me how to do things, and then it really springboarded from there.”

After that, at age 19, he never returned to school.

“I saw the money I could make off flipping houses, and thought it just didn’t make any sense to keep paying all that money in tuition when I can make this money in a month or two,” Arnold said.

Now, 20 years after selling that first home, he believes that he made the right decision for himself.

Arnold said he has flipped more than 100 homes to date, and aims to do five to 10 flips per month.

Currently, he has three projects in the works: two in Point Breeze, and one in Glassboro, N.J.

Although much of Arnold’s projects have been in Center City, he recently decided to venture into Point Breeze, a sliver of South Philadelphia, as he saw the area was up-and-coming.

One of his Point Breeze houses – on the 1800 block of Wharton Street – is scheduled to be finished in early February. He purchased the row home in September for $75,000.

The Wharton Street house’s rear was damaged in a fire. Arnold is rebuilding the home, which will have three bedrooms and four baths in its 2,500 square feet of living space.

Like many of his other homes, Arnold said he is going for a contemporary look.

In the kitchen, he’s installing stainless steel cabinets and glass countertops. He’s creating an open living room next to the kitchen, in the back of the property, with a glass door that accesses the back deck.

On the second floor, he’s putting in two bedrooms, each with its own closet and bathroom.

The top floor will be the master suite, with a walk-in closet, sitting area, and deck with views of the Center City skyline.

Arnold estimates the total construction to cost $125,000. To cover the expenses, he took out a loan from Alpha Funding Solutions.

Arnold provided a breakdown of some major costs:

Kitchen: $19,775

Appliances: $1,000

Stove: $850

Dishwasher: $1,750

Garbage disposal: $475

Cabinets: $8,700

Tile floor: $3,500

Counters: $3,500

-Master Bathroom: $17,600

Bath tub: $600

Tub surround: $800

Shower: $1,700

Toilet: $700

Vanity $1,500

Tile floor $4,500

Floors: $7,800

Stucco: $8,500

Other various costs will go to HVAC, electrical, landscaping, plumbing, and molding.

Once the project is done, Arnold said he plans to list the home for $375,000. If he sells it for his asking price, he will make a $175,000 profit.

Arnold, who currently lives in Lansdowne with his four kids and fiancée, Nicole Williams, believes that knowing and studying the market you’re flipping in is the most important thing before taking on a project. He only recently started working in Point Breeze because he followed the activity going on there.

In addition, he said “understanding the bank you’re working with” is another important thing he’s learned.

“Alpha had the best terms for me,” he said. “They’re personable. I’m able to talk to the owners, and they make it a seamless transition between a lot of transitions.”

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