GETTING STARTED IN THE GRAVEYARD
tion and rehab side of the business, Tammy is taking what she likes to call the “60,000-foot view” in their latest investment, a mobile home park on the eastern shore of Maryland. “My gift is being able to look at the big picture and see the whole community, then sharing that with Jim and others. Jim manages all of the construction, contractors, maintenance, and turnover,” she said, adding fondly, “Jim is my best friend and partner in life and business. We join hands and hearts to bring the vi- sion of a thriving community to life!” “Nobody else is going to run your business the way you will,” Jim added practically, explaining that this philos-
ophy is what led the two to purge about three-quarters of their material posses- sions more than two years ago and move on-site to the Maryland investment. After the two purchased the property in 2015, they demolished 18 mobile homes, renovated 50 more, installed 15 new units, and took down nearly 100 trees. “Those homes literally were not set in the ground correctly,” said Jim. “There was no solid foundation at all.” Clearly, that was a problem that had to be resolved. Tammy went to work on the commu- nity’s foundation as well, working with residents to bring their accounts cur- rent, delivering boatloads of her famous sweet potato pie, and heading straight
to the heart of the households with regularly scheduled kid-oriented events including moonwalk rentals, barbeque competitions, and an Easter egg hunt. “We had to change the way that this community thought of itself in order to make it a good investment as well as just a good place to live,” she explained. “I would just cry when I saw the condi- tion of the homes before we bought this place. Now, it’s literally somewhere I would live myself – and I do!” “She came down here one day to meet with some residents and never came back,” Jim said. “I got a message that just said, ‘Babe, I’m not coming home. We’re making this happen from right
T he first deal Tammy and Jim ever did together had a slightly spooky under- tone. “That’s right, my first deal ever was located right across the street from a graveyard,” laughed Tammy. “I really did not have strategy down yet at that point!” Tammy recalled how they purchased the property and Jim did repairs which, in this case, were mostly cosmetic. “At that time, we just wanted to flip a house. I felt like I was a great real estate agent and Jim was a great carpenter and we needed to jump in,” she said. Soon, the property was market-ready, but that was where the Phelps-Keglovi- ches found that there was a little bit of a gap between the theory and the practice of real estate. “It was January. We were not in the best location. I was doing ev- erything I had learned to do, holding open houses and marketing the property, and our only buyer ended up being a woman whose parents were buried in that graveyard across the street!” After that deal was done, the two purchased another residential property that also needed some serious renovations and, due to an uncertain market, ended up using creative financing and their self-directed individual retirement account (IRA) to get the deal to closing. The takeaway after those two deals, for Tammy, was twofold: “The family that moved into the home raised four children there and are still living there today, which makes me so happy because thanks to the quality, in- tegrity, and care that we put into that renovation we’ve never had any problems with that property and they love the home. We also realized that we needed to look for bigger deals if we wanted to see the returns and cash flow we wanted from the investments we were making of time, emotion, and money.” The two have done more than a dozen residential flips over the years, but their primary focus has been on their seven multifamily developments spread across Maryland and Virginia. “Once we realized how many lives we could change if we took our business to multifamily, we couldn’t resist,” Tammy said. “We are perfectionists, and that works better, for us at least, when we are building communities of families instead of individual homes.”
here.’ And here we are.” The pair estimates that they are about 80 percent of the way to having the Mary- land mobile home park project “complet- ed,” meaning not only are the residences safe, clean, affordable, and rented, but also that the community and its asso- ciated programs, which usually include gardening, community service for local kids, holiday events, and financial literacy classes and resume-writing trainings for
adult residents, are fully implemented. Perhaps most importantly, the two will make sure that their community is a fixture in the larger community, often by hiring locals and mom-and-pop ser- vices to do ongoing maintenance rather than bringing in bigger, more turnkey maintenance operations. “When we first start renovating a building, we hire all neighborhood people to help us because it provides an opportunity for them
Tammy and Jim believe that the interior of a building should match the exterior, which means they must invest the time, effort, and money necessary to install stable structures underneath the bright paint and new layouts. The top two pictures show a unit stripped to the “bones,” while the bottom image showcases the final product.
Tammy described how many Baltimore residents’ children find themselves sitting on marble steps like these whenever they are not in school because they may not have anywhere else to go. Her buildings have courtyards and other gathering areas specifically for residents and their children so the steps are clear and the kids occupied.
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