From Swearing Off Real Estate To Making It A Career
At an early age, Jenn Skarda started, unbeknownst to her, a career in real estate. “We grew up living in the car. My parents’ fun thing to do was to go look at homes. We would find some unique ones.” Her parents also flipped homes and as most realtors’ and flippers’ children know, if their parents do it, the kids are doing it, too. “We cleaned and fixed up many homes. I helped my parents cut the grass or clean the garage. That is kind of where I first started. What’s funny is some of that work was pretty gross, so as a kid I said, ‘I don’t ever want to grow up and do this.” And despite her best efforts and a college degree, Jenn Skarda found her way back to real estate and is happy she did.
Getting the cart and the horse at the same time
While still in college, she adventurously and impressively began her own career in real estate. “I hadn’t even graduated yet.” Her parents had moved to Saugatuck and partnered up with a real estate agent who came across a house/farm in Fennville that had a lot of potential. Her parents fell in love with it and thought it would be perfect for Jenn. Maybe it was because they knew she loved horses growing up, or maybe they just saw the income potential, but they were sold. “They went and looked at it. My mom fell in love with it. She called me. I was working three jobs and still in school. I was like,’what are you thinking!” Her mom said, “well you just have to go see it.” Jenn listened to her mom and went and saw it. “It was a 20 acre farm. The pond had dried up. The owner had been in a concentration camp… He had boarded himself in the home. He had glued, screwed, and nailed all the windows shut and even put wood panels over them. He hadn’t maintained the farm in many years.”
Labor of love
Although it sounds like a place that many would run from or better yet, the scene of a horror movie, Jenn and her parents saw the potential. “I had fallen in love. But I thought, ‘I can’t do this. I am still a student in college.'” But she tried anyway and managed to get financed. “I lived there a little over two years. I was fixing it up and working on it. I learned to split the property up. I leased ground to a local farmer for pumpkins, sunflowers, & corn.”
Throughout the process of renovating the farm, she had a lot of doubts and many tears. “It was a money pit. I had a guy come give me a quote on the roof . He ended up falling through the roof! …there were a lot of times, I thought ‘why did I listen to my parents?’ But through every little accomplishment, (that were actually big accomplishments), like getting all the windows open, that was a week long project… you eventually let light in and you get the claw-foot bathtub glazed, you put the new kitchen in, and it is so cute, it becomes a labor of love.”
Eventually, Ducks Unlimited also helped Jenn get the pond up and running. “They came and dug it out…, and I suddenly had a waterfront property. I painted inside and outside, got a new roof, planted beautiful gardens, trimmed the hybrid fruit trees that the previous owner neglected.”
She not only polished up an amazing property, but she also met her future husband. “He did the floors.” Jenn then split the land into parcels which provided enough money to finish the rest of the home. “I paid off my college loans and was debt free and still had money in the bank. How many kids can graduate college debt free? I eventually sold the house with a few acres.”
That farmhouse wasn’t the only great idea Jenn was given from her mom. She also, “…encouraged me to get my license when I was at Western Michigan in 1997. She always wanted me to have real estate knowledge and something to fall back on. I took the course and loved it but didn’t take the test right away. I was just happy to have the knowledge. My husband and I took the class & test together a few years later.”
Using realtors to buy and flip homes was one of the reasons she eventually took the leap and became a full-time agent. “We weren’t having positive experiences. So, I took my license out of escrow. And I said, ‘I need to start selling my own properties. At least if I am my own contact, I will know what is going on. I will know who is on my side. It helped me learn what kind of agent I want… …responsive & knowledgeable, get clients answers to their questions, help them ask the right questions, and don’t leave them wondering.
Likewise, flipping houses also has made her an expert home evaluator which is great for her clients. “I can point out the things a client needs to know about the home before spending money on an inspection. I have knowledge of mechanicals, roofing, structural, etc as well as approximate costs. I love sharing the potential that a home has with a client and the equity that project could add to their investment.”
With her vast experience, Jenn also enjoys helping clients who are investing in real estate to find structurally sound homes with the potential to be good income producers. “I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about rental agreements, setting up LLCs, the importance of an attorney,” and all the other logistics that go along with income properties.
Advice for home buyers
“It is still a good time to buy. Date the rate, marry the home… Consider, what if interest rates go up? Then you are sitting in a worse position. If the rates go down you can refinance. There is currently less competition. We can ask the sellers for a little bit more without having to give up inspections. There is a 321 loan that can help your interest rate short term. I work with some great lenders that can help home buyers.”
Advice for sellers
“I am still seeing multiple offers. It is still a good time to sell.”
Why 616 REALTY?
“I really love 616. Scot is amazing. I love that he is always responsive to questions & truly wants us to be successful. Scot always makes your business 100% about you. When people inquire about my listings, the 616 REALTY team sends me those inquiries. At 616 REALTY… every month we meet with different people in the industry who can help us–a lender, an inspector, an agent who is doing really well. It is another way Scot helps us to grow our business and helps us grow as agents.”
Things have come full circle for Jenn. From a child who swore she would never be in real estate to including her children in the flipping process. “It’s funny, I hear my children making the same comments about it as I did as a kid – that they would never want to do this for a living.” And maybe, like Jenn, they will come to realize how great a career in real estate can be.