Cain: Former IT guy flips career to flip homes
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain On Businessfirstname.lastname@example.org February 15, 2013 7:20PM
Jeff Vickery is seen outside one of his rental properties Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 29, 2013 9:10PM
Jeff Vickery worked in information technology for about 15 years. The 33-year-old Joliet resident always has been good with computers and the field came naturally to him.
But something happened in 2011 that caused him to make a big career change. His mom died suddenly of a heart attack and his grandmother was diagnosed with liver cancer. She died in January 2012. Those losses made Vickery re-evaluate his life.
“You start to realize life is short and you never know when your number is up,” he said during an interview at the Red Goose Bakery in downtown Joliet.
He was fed up with cranky customers and the constant travel his job required.
“You’re in a hotel room, like all the other hotel rooms you’ve been staying in, and you’re tired,” he said.
So he decided to quit his computer career — with his wife Stephanie’s blessing — and start investing in property, something he had thought of doing for years.
The housing market may not be at rock bottom in Illinois because of the backlog of foreclosures but Vickery said he believes it’s close and there are some good foreclosure deals to be had.
In less than a year, Vickery created Victoria Investment Properties LLC; his grandmother’s middle name was Victoria. He now owns three homes: two rental properties and one house he plans to flip. He hires his old high school buddy to fix up the homes.
“I might be good with computers but I am not good with a hammer,” Vickery said.
Vickery admits he “knew nothing” about the world of investing in property before he got started. But he used his computer acumen to learn as much as possible and to research homes extensively before he bid on them during sheriff’s auctions at the Will County Courthouse.
First he familiarized himself with the Dunn, Martin, Miller and Heathcock list of foreclosures up for auction at noon every Wednesday in Courtroom 111. The list is available on www.willcountylaw.com.
Vickery then merged that list with a mapping program to see where all the homes were located. He decided early on to invest only in Joliet. Since he lives in Joliet, he said he wants to improve the housing stock here.
“If you’re going to do something, do it for the right reasons,” he said. “I love Joliet and I feel a strong connection to the town.”
After whittling down the auction list from 120 to about 15 homes he was interested in, Vickery and his remodeler buddy drove by them the day before the auction to see what they looked like. He would take notes on the condition of the homes so he would remember which property was which. Then he’d look at comparable sales in the area to gauge the home’s ultimate value after repairs.
One problem is you can’t go inside the homes, Vickery said. So there is some guesswork involved. But you can tell if the home is occupied or not.
“It’s like buying a storage locker,” he said. “The only difference is you’re doing it with a lot more money and a lot more risk.”
The first house Vickery bought was occupied, something he’s hoping to avoid in the future. If you have to evict someone, the sheriff’s office charges $300 to serve the eviction notice. But you have to bring “two able bodied” people of your own to the eviction to remove personal contents from the house. That didn’t happen for Vickery because the former owner finally left on his own.
The opening bid, which is set by the bank that holds the mortgage, was $28,000. Vickery bid $28,001 and got the house. Sometimes the bank can counter bid, but that didn’t happen in this case. He had to pay 10 percent with a cashier’s check on the day of the auction and the rest of the money within 24 hours.
Homes aren’t deeded over to the winning bidder until the case is approved in chancery court a month or so later.
Vickery pumped $15,000 into the home and he estimates it’s worth $80,000 to $85,000. In a few years, the rent his tenant is paying should pay for the investment.
Vickery said he’s learned a lot in the past year. He knows much more about zoning, contracting, foreclosures and liens than ever before. He plans to have a few rental properties and two flips a year. And he’s enjoying every minute of his new profession.
“Is this what I thought it was going to be? Absolutely not,” he said. “Would I do it over again? Absolutely.”