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Flipping the Scruffy City | How home investors turned the town

"It tickles me to death to be able to step back and look at the changes being made in this community that we all love."

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Some historic homes with personality and charm are tucked under branches and coated with cracking paint. They've faced the test of time and yearn to be reborn in the booming Knoxville housing market.

That's where the flipping community comes in, and the Scruffy City has a big one. One Facebook group has more than 3,000 members. These home flippers are buying hidden housing gems, fixing them up and turning them into real-estate market gold.  

There's one particular section of the city that experienced the hand of the flipping community: South Knoxville.

Two flippers making a mark on the city are Kevin Tipton and Randy Wagner. They own and operate their own home-investment company, Devine Properties LLC.

"If it looks like it's gonna be a good deal and we can make some money because that's how we make a living, then then we will go after it," Kevin said.

Randy is out beating the pavement every day to find the investment properties. Once he identifies a good prospect, he hands it over to Kevin for an assessment. From there, they decide if it's worth flipping. 

During the pandemic, as the housing market started to get hot, so did their business.

Credit: WBIR

"The flipping mark here in Knoxville is a great market. Of course, there's a lot of people needing homes. There is high demand and low inventory," Kevin said.

The two just sold a property off Beaman Lake Road in East Knoxville. It took them a few months to flip the home; however, they made a pretty profit. 

It sounds like easy business, but in actuality, Kevin and Randy say it's a ton of work and it took them a long time to get to this point.

"I wouldn't advise anybody to just, you know, take their hard-earned money and dump it into a property and really not have any all-knowing at all about real estate and what all entails," Randy said.

It's more complicated than what people see through home-flipping shows on TV. It's more than adding crown molding and a new paint smell. In fact, most of the work isn't that pretty. 

"It's a great market, great business to get involved in," Randy said. "But you've got to be able to acquire some knowledge before you just jump in."

Joshua Whitley knows all about the risk. He's a home inspector in the area and advises home-flippers on a daily basis. He said there are certain things people need to watch out for when trying to secure a home for rehabilitation.

"It's all a risk versus reward," Joshua said. "You could be out anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000 to replace an HVAC. The hot water heater, if it's gas or electric, you could be $1,000 to $2,000. And then, there's foundation work, which could be $5,000 to $25,000, just depending on how bad it is."

Randy said they battled some of that when they first got into home flipping. 

"It's part of the business, you're going to run into situations that you didn't expect," Randy said. "And sometimes those costs, a lot of times those costs are going to over-exceed the budget that you had originally."

Randy and Kevin are facing that battle right now. They bought a major flip home just off of Sevier Avenue in South Knoxville. As partners, they agree it's their biggest project to date. 

They bought the property because of its location. South Knoxville is one of the hottest markets for flip homes in the area.

"Anytime that we find something out there, I mean, anytime somebody sends me a deal out there, I immediately get Kevin's attention," Randy said.

Kevin said he's seen how much change flippers brought to the area.

"I grew up in South Knoxville, graduated there in 1989 from South Doyle. And just to see what's happening over there right now is very exciting for me," Kevin said. " I just love going down Sevier Avenue to see all the new breweries and restaurants and just the just the energy that's that's going on there."

Joshua said he understand why flippers want to buy homes around the area. He said property values are increasing at a rapid rate, the demand for homes is still strong and people want to be in a bustling area.

"Flippers are revitalizing all these areas that have these beautiful homes from the 40s, 50s, and 60s and turning them into these new modern-day homes. And they're really drawing in a nice crowd of people," Joshua said.

Randy agreed. He's happy to make his mark on the South Knoxville flip market. 

Credit: WBIR

"It tickles me to death to be able to step back and look at the changes being made in this community that we all love," Randy said.

If you want to check out some of Randy and Kevin's other properties you can do so at the Devine Properties website.

For more home inspection tips visit Joshua Whitney's website.

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