Economic conditions led Stephany Haxel to change her career. Through it, she's now changing others' lives for the better.
Economic conditions led Stephany Haxel to change her career. Through it, she’s now changing others’ lives for the better.
Last year, Stephany Haxel lost her job as a corporate recruiter. And though it didn’t feel like it then, that life change has been a blessing.
She and her husband, Jake, flip properties across Oklahoma City, from Edmond on the north side of the metro to Purcell on the south. After being laid off, Stephany decided to embark on a new career as a Realtor, and it’s given the couple a powerful edge in their real estate investing operations.
“It was a little scary at first,” said Stephany Haxel, who was voted the 2015 Rookie of the Year by the Norman, Okla., Board of Realtors. “I’d gone from a career I loved for 15 years to ‘Gosh, what am I going to do now?’ You just dust yourself off.”
Haxel, a native of Tulsa, originally came to Norman so she could pursue a journalism degree at the University of Oklahoma. Outside of a stint teaching English in Japan, she’s built a terrific life here with Jake, who works as a financial adviser.
Teaming Up for Success
They make a good team. As a Realtor, she has an edge at hunting down potential purchases as soon as they come on the market, and she’s quickly able to research each property’s strengths and weaknesses. And thanks to her previous work experience, she’s skilled at negotiating.
“When I was in recruiting, I interviewed people all day long,” Haxel said. “So I was constantly asking questions and trying to find what their motivation was.”
Jake, meanwhile, evaluates the money side of every deal and calculates whether it’s going to be a good investment.
They aim to complete seven to 10 flips this year, in addition to managing the seven rental properties they hold. They’ve cut back from the 23 they once owned so they can focus more on flips.
Flipping can be challenging sometimes—Oklahoma City’s housing market is very strong—but it’s still possible to find properties where an investor can quickly add value.
“Our model is we target distressed properties that we can fix up and flip and make a profit,” Stephany Haxel said.
What Makes OKC Great
There’s a lot to like about Oklahoma City. According to the Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation, the metro is one of most affordable for housing. It was No. 2 on WalletHub’s list of healthiest housing markets—in particular, it has good access to financing, low down payments and lower percentage of underwater mortgages.
And Entrepreneur magazine put OKC at the top of its list for great cities to start a business, thanks to its low cost of living and favorable conditions for small business lending.
“The people here are friendly,” Stephany Haxel said. “It’s affordable. Even when I drove from Norman to Oklahoma City, my commute was 20 minutes or less.”
The biggest question hanging over the region is how the disruption in oil prices will affect the housing market, Haxel said. Oil is a huge employer in Oklahoma, and that corner of the economy insulated the region from the worst effects of the Great Recession. The crash in oil prices turns that dynamic on its head.
“What will be really interesting to see is the next 12 to 18 months,” Haxel said.
While Oklahoma’s history of severe weather can “keep you on our toes,” she said, the city actually enjoys sunshine most of the year.
And sometimes the weather creates an opportunity: The Haxels are building a brand new house on a “tornado lot”—a property made vacant by a twister. Their contracting partner mentioned the opportunity to buy a lot at a good price, and Jake and Stephany decided it was too good to pass up.
“We just decided, why not?” Haxel said. “Let’s try it.”
They broke ground on the house in January, and by the time you read this, the construction should be complete. The Haxels are already thinking about pursuing other tornado lots—it’s a way to help rebuild neighborhoods that have been devastated by powerful storms.
How to Make the Flip to Flipping
The Haxels are experienced investors, but they seriously got into flipping only a few years ago.
“We had an opportunity to purchase a home—it fell in our laps, actually,” Stephany Haxel said.
But the deal took a long time to complete, thanks to legal issues and the involvement of a trust. The Haxels ultimately decided to flip the property.
And while they appreciate the steady income of the properties they hold—some of their tenants have been with them for years—the Haxels enjoyed the “immediate gratification” of improving the property and quickly selling it.
Advice for Others Interested in Flipping
• Make sure you have a budget. If you spend too much on upgrades and improvements that people shopping in that neighborhood won’t pay for, you’re going to cut into (or worse, eliminate) any profit when it comes time to sell.
• The Haxels are careful about bidding on any properties with foundation problems or flooding issues. The cost of repairs could easily outpace any increase in the sale price.
• Learn from your mistakes. If you do end up overspending on repairs, find out exactly what you did wrong so you can avoid those problems on future flips.
• Find service providers you can trust, and make sure they know about your goals. If your granite provider or carpet company knows you plan to flip 10 properties a year, they may be more willing to offer you a discount. At a minimum, they’re going to do their best work so you’ll be more likely to invite them back again.
And that includes working with a Realtor, Stephany Haxel said. In many cases, they’ll be another set of eyes for potential deals.
The great thing about flipping, the Haxels said, is that it takes a home that, in many cases, was a vacant eyesore and puts it back to active use.
When she was a corporate recruiter, Stephany Haxel enjoyed the impact that she had on job seekers. Helping them find a new job could change their entire lives. And she gets that same feeling when she and Jake sell one of their flipped, newly refurbished homes to a new owner.
“It’s so rewarding to see them excited about a new home,” she said. “I get to change their lives through their home.”