Fixer Upper King Reveals Secrets

The Cosmetic Fixer - Matt's favorite

Matt Stansfield is the Fixer-Upper King.

He just finished his last fixer upper, and after nearly 20 years of making his living doing fixers Matt is hanging up his hammer, retiring with more than $1.5 million in cash.

After a national real estate boom that has seen appreciation rise to record levels in many markets over the past five years, the fixer upper is taking on a renewed interest for many wannabe real estate investors, but Stansfield realizes most people who buy fixers won’t even break even.

Matt and his wife aren’t sure if they are going to stay in the United States or retire to some other country, but one thing’s for sure. Matt and his wife don’t have to work anymore. They’re comfortable and don’t have to worry about the bills. Their California home is paid off and they’re thinking about selling it.

“It’s been a rewarding experience,” said Stansfield. “But I’m tired of it and it’s a good time to quit.” The fixer upper is the fix-all for many real estate investors. Fixer uppers are the most sought after of real estate purchases, but they are often times riddled with problems. “After all,” said Stansfield, “you have to remember why they’re called fixers.”

Stansfield has more than an average understanding of how fixer-uppers are worked over. He’s done more fixers than most people will ever challenge, and he’s bought and sold homes from coast to coast in California, Florida, Oregon and New York. Stansfield just closed escrow on his last fixer. It was his twentieth.

Stansfield cleared $2.76 million in the fixer upper market, which designates him as a fixer upper king. He’s made money buying property that needed generally as little work as possible, trying to always find the cosmetic fixer that showed promise.

“I always wanted to retire by the time I was 50,” said Stansfield. He’ll turn 50 in November. Matt has almost always been an independent thinker. He worked for a large corporation for just a year after college, but then decided to go it alone. He met his wife of eight years doing a fixer upper. She rented a home next to the one he bought. She eventually purchased the home from Stansfield and it was a relationship built on a strong partnership of love, hard work and devotion.

It hasn’t been all good times and hot selling houses though. On three occasions he nearly lost his shirt, paying too much for property that he eventually had to move into in order to give them enough time to sell.

Stansfield lost nearly $18,000 on his first two fixers, which would have knocked many out of the business for good. But he learned to set a budget and stick to it. “The most important thing about doing fixers is deciding what your expenses are going in and doing what ever you have too to stick to that budget,” he said.

The cosmetic fixer has always been his favorite. He’s bought homes from real estate agents, foreclosures on the courthouse steps, tax sales and from all sorts of private individuals. “The easiest to buy were often the most work,” said Stansfield.

He’s fought for zoning changes, found himself on the short end of tax sales, worked out extended payment arrangements with mortgage companies on the brink of foreclosure, experienced IRS redemption periods on homes he’s purchased at auction and all sorts of other real estate issues. He says it’s been a war of sorts and his war is now over.

Doing the majority of work himself has been the key to his success along with dependable contractors, who he found in every state where he has completed fixer uppers.

Stansfield went years without talking about how others could reap huge profits doing fixers, but now with retiring he’s telling others to be extremely careful before making the move to buy fixer uppers. He says most people fail to make a profit doing fixers because they over spend. “That’s because they’ll over spend and not be able to stick to there budget. If you’re gonna do a fixer,” says Matt. “Stick to your budget or face the consequences. Prices aren’t gonna keep flying forever.”

Studies indicate the majority of America’s wealthiest people make at least the largest portion of their money through investing in real estate. Most investments, however, are for 10 years or longer. The average holding time for Matt’s real estate investments were less than a year.

Matt and his wife are going to take a vacation for the first time to celebrate their retirement. It’s a month long vacation they have dreamed of in Hawaii, where they’ll take in the good life they have long desired.