Everyone should have a Scarborough Road

How one neighborhood impacted Molly’s life forever.

Scarborough Road, Cleveland Heights, OH

Molly Malloy grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and, by all accounts, she grew up a very lucky little girl.

She had an amazing childhood; self described as simply, “The BEST.”

Molly lived on a street that was a lot like most in the 70’s and 80’s across America; the kids were always outside running through neighborhood lawns, the neighbors were continually looking out for one another, hollering at kids as if they were their own, summertime street parades, picnics, scavenger hunts, and caroling during the holidays kept everyone busy and excited.

Molly and Friends on the 4th of July

Competition was always in play on Scarborough Road; who had the best decorated bicycle for the 4th of July, weekend volleyball matches between the grownups, who got their Christmas lights up first, and who had the best Halloween display (Molly’s family did — ALWAYS).

There was the house with the extra lot where all the kids played kickball and football, and it had the best climbing tree, so huge that the kids always thought that it should have gone to New York as the Times Square Christmas tree.

The “candy lady house” at the end of the street kept all the kids on their toes, but none of them ever got up the courage to actually knock on the door (although they all said they did).

Molly’s mortal enemy was the boy who lived two doors down and deserved every punch she ever threw at him.

The parents on the street were always thinking of things for the families to do together and so they created the “Scarborough A.C.” also known as the “Scarborough Athletic Club.”

Scarborough Road Family Get-Together

Molly’s family’s contribution was a fort that her Dad built in their backyard. Not a tree house. Not a dinky popup house. A FORT. It was a huge 15 x 15 two-story stronghold with strategic lookouts, a trap door, an awesome slide, and a fireman’s pole. It was also her mother’s supreme nightmare, confirmed as a safety hazard when Molly’s sister fell through the trap door and had to get 8 stitches in her head.

“Scarborough Road really was the best place to grow up,” Molly recalled.

There was nowhere else that Molly ever wanted to be so she decided when she got married that her family would grow up the same way that she did. They would find their “Scarborough Road.”

But once Molly’s oldest daughter was kindergarten age, they left the city and transplanted themselves out to the farthest suburbs with the best school system.

There were clusters of homes with small lakes and community beaches, property zoned lots at an acre or more, cul-de-sacs, association rules, and no sidewalks. It was a very foreign place for Molly, but it felt like the right thing to do. Her kids loved their home and community when they were there. Her husband’s salary was enough that Molly didn’t have to work and was able to do the things that she really wanted to do like join the PTA, keep the house in proper order, and make sure that her kids were going to have a childhood similar to hers.

Molly’s Change of Plans

Things didn’t work that way, unfortunately, and Molly found herself divorced when her daughters were only 10 and 7. The unexpected circumstances left Molly financially strapped and she and her girls moved in with her mother, where the girls shared a room in her mother’s small condo.

“This was not what I had planned for my family,” was all Molly could think of when it happened.

But there was no time to wallow in self-pity or wonder how she ended up here. Molly very badly needed to get a job. She hadn’t worked in over 12 years and, with an English degree, it was extremely challenging to find someone to hire her with a big enough salary to keep her girls in their current school system.

She decided to go back to school to get her nursing degree, but it wasn’t long before she realized that she couldn’t make enough money, go to school, and take care of her children with their busy tournament schedules and teacher conferences, without completely falling apart.

“I was so disappointed in myself — other single moms were raising their children and going to school while working without falling apart, so why couldn’t I?” Molly reflected.

Molly decided to put school off and concentrate on a job where she could grow, along with her salary. She became an executive assistant and, in the span of 3 years, worked at 5 different companies — always resigning after only a few months.

She couldn’t stand working for executives who didn’t seem to have much for her to do. It wasn’t that they didn’t have work that needed to be done; they just already had people in place that took care of the things that made the company run smoothly. Most of Molly’s job responsibilities were accomplished by 10 am, rendering her bored for the rest of the day. She couldn’t understand why she didn’t just “fit in” anywhere and why she couldn’t find something that felt “right.”

Molly’s last employer was (and still is) one of the wealthiest people in Cleveland, and a major real estate developer. Their name is, perhaps, one of the most recognized in the area, and she was lucky enough to become the executive assistant to the owner.

Even though she was working for a rather high-profile person, Molly only stayed 3 months because, again, she didn’t feel like she was essential to the success of the business.

Most people would assume that a person in Molly’s position would be extremely busy, especially since it was such a high-profile company. But it already ran as a well-oiled machine and they really didn’t need an assistant. What they needed was someone who they could call on in emergency situations, such as dry cleaning for the suit that was on the receiving end of a glass of wine.

But, this time was a bit different. In those three short months, Molly became so inspired by the owner and her accomplishments that she found herself wanting to be just like her boss. Her boss didn’t take any crap from anyone, giving her a bit of a reputation, which Molly found to be impressive.

Molly’s A-HA Moment

Finally, one day, Molly approached her boss and asked her why she decided to get into real estate development. Her answer was that a long time ago she and her husband had made the decision that they didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck, and that they were determined to be financially independent. They were young and they wanted to live by their own rules.

“This is America,” she said, “and people seem to [bleeping] forget that.” — Click To Tweet

A-HA! That was all Molly needed to hear.

Yes, she needed the paycheck, but she also needed to feel fulfilled. That’s why she left so many jobs in such a short period of time. Molly needed to feel like what she was doing meant something and picking up dry cleaning was leaving her feeling empty inside. She wondered what she was doing, besides wasting time?

Being a single parent, Molly considered everything that she did to be setting an example for her girls. So she wondered what kind of example she was setting when she was clearly compromising her own worth by going in to a job every day that made her feel empty inside.

All for what… a paycheck?

Molly and her two daughters.

Molly wanted to set the example for her girls that their work should mean something to them and, if they did that, then the paycheck would be the icing on the cake.

After talking to her boss, Molly knew what she wanted, and needed, to do.

She wanted to flip houses.

She realized at that point that she had always wanted to do that. Well, flip houses or be an astronaut.

She started to realize that when the options of what you want to be when you grow up don’t seem to be a possibility, it’s no wonder people feel lost, and unfulfilled with what they are doing, but can’t articulate why.

So while that ship had probably sailed from NASA, the idea of rehabbing was exciting to her!

Molly realized that she was always into walking through neighborhoods and checking out each house, wondering what she would do to it if it were hers. And, if you grew up in Cleveland Heights, you got the kind of house and its amenities that people pine over. Molly too.

When she had moved out to the suburbs for a better school system, her private goals were to rebuild their house, piece by piece, to make it stand out from what all the other houses looked like, and to run for the township to order to have sidewalks installed everywhere.

So when did she finally make the leap and turn her “a-ha moment” into a reality?

Molly’s boyfriend knew of her aspirations and they always said that if they could save enough money, they would do a flip together. It just always felt like it would never happen; they couldn’t save enough to work on a house, while sacrificing an unknown amount of time and salary.

Then, one day, the stars began to align.

Molly’s Education

Molly’s boyfriend had attended a seminar where the guest speaker was a guy who was offering a class on rehabbing, and talked about how easy it was to get started. Her boyfriend told her to go for it but, like most single moms, she tossed it aside.

It just wasn’t practical and Molly couldn’t justify it. For starters, the class was expensive. $2500. It was also four full days of classes, 8am to 4pm, on Saturdays and Sundays. While that feels like a small amount of time now, back then every hour spent away from her daughters seemed incredibly selfish.

It came down to the last day at her job.

The morning started as normal as any other day… Molly was finished with her work by 9:30am and, because it was one of those holidays not recognized by the government, she was the only person in the building. Her boss was out of town, everyone else had taken the day off but she didn’t have enough hours yet to take a vacation day. Her girls were off of school and she was at the office, alone.

Around noon Molly’s youngest daughter called and asked her to come home. She didn’t have a ride to a friend’s house, and said she would like to have spaghetti for dinner, and knew that her Mom would need a few hours to be able to make that happen. Molly told her that she couldn’t leave, and she didn’t want to call on her Mom again, for the fourth time that week, to drive her daughter to her friend’s house.

To Molly, this felt like failure. She felt sad and upset, but more than that, she felt like she was failing her kids. How much longer could she go on like this? How much longer could THEY go on like this?

Frustrated, she hung up the phone and opened up her email. She found the email that had the link to register for the classes on rehabbing… and she finally clicked it.

“I guess I clicked the link in the email that day because I didn’t want to live the life that I was living, and I feared that if I waited any longer, I would be too old (which in a way is dumb), and I would lose my chance to change our future.”

Molly thought about all the people she knew (too many) who felt like their career was what defined them, whether it brought them joy or not. Maybe going through her divorce and navigating such a huge financial change is what gave her the strength to finally do it, or maybe it was just the overwhelming feeling that there had to be a better reason why she was put on this earth than what she was presently doing.

“I think everyone who takes a leap like this has this epiphany at some point in his or her life. It’s at that point when you make a choice — one that, perhaps, is the scariest thing you’ll ever experience, but the right one, regardless.”

So Molly went for it! She took the classes, which taught her that she didn’t need to have all the money in the world to fund a rehab. She discovered that she could DO this, do it well, and make this her career and her world.

The biggest challenge Molly faced was not giving up.

Her instructor said that 95% of the people in their class wouldn’t last more than 3 months. But for Molly, quitting wasn’t an option. For Molly, this was the only thing that was left. This was her family’s future. This was Molly showing her girls that when you know what you want, you just have to go get it and not quit. Take life into your own hands. Don’t settle and your world will open up and become everything you’ve ever wanted it to be. Molly was determined to show them that, although it wasn’t going to be easy, it was going to be worth it.

Molly has never feared the challenges of flipping. Unknowns are part of the job, so walking away from an issue didn’t make sense to her. And, though, at the time of this story, she had only completed two flips, and was beginning her third, all she can feel is momentum, which, to Molly, is the most rewarding feeling ever.

Take life into your own hands. Don’t settle and your world will open up and become everything you’ve ever wanted it to be. — Click To Tweet

Molly’s instructor was a self-taught, hugely successful businessman who, at age 20, began his own flipping business and, by the age of 39, had made millions — from rehabs, rentals and wholesaling. He was an extremely intelligent individual, who focused closely on the money, and how most deals are fatal to investors and their businesses simply because they did not adhere to the fundamental financial rules that will either make or break them.

He recommended their first flip to be a smaller venture, which, naturally, meant a smaller home that needed less rehabbing, which also meant a smaller investment, lower carrying costs, and less profit.

To Molly, this was obvious and is a business platform that will remain with her LLC until she feels that her path needs to change. Molly’s preference is to do volume over larger profit for many reasons. For her, it feels like the safer way to go… but that’s not the main reason that she prefers this method.

Molly’s “Why”

Remember Scarborough Road, where Molly grew up?

Scarborough Road

Well, Molly wants everybody, regardless of income, to have a home where they feel like they live on Scarborough Road. Neighborhoods are why communities become attractive. Neighborhoods are what drive people to become creative for their families, to improve their schools and economies, and to help neighbors take care of each other.

“I can tell you from experience that there is nothing lonelier than being a single mom in a community that doesn’t care for those in situations that differ from theirs, and intentionally make it difficult for you to stay there,” she reflected.

Having been through that, Molly doesn’t want anyone to experience those same feelings.

Molly prefers sticking to smaller, more affordable homes, where young families can start and grow, or divorced parents can thrive in a home that’s their own, or where people can downsize when their children have moved away. There’s even that levelheaded dude who doesn’t want to expose his kids to the McMansion world… and Molly wants him to have that option.

“I just want to do my part to make life easier for people,” Molly said.

Another thing Molly was taught was not to get drawn in to “over-rehabbing,” especially if it doesn’t financially make sense for the area. This means that lower income areas shouldn’t be rehabbed with top of the line products and amenities.

But she wondered about this — why doesn’t every house, regardless of price, deserve granite countertops, hardwood floors, and all those details that make them stand out from other homes? Is it just because the person buying the home doesn’t make enough money? To Molly, that hardly seemed fair.

So she did the math, and dollar for dollar, the things that people want, or would love to see in their home, weren’t that much different in price, especially if she was careful with her spending and took the time to gather competitive pricing.

But most rehabbers aren’t in it for the time it takes to do these steps. Most tend to only focus on the time it will take to do it with the least amount of money possible. They are in it for the quick flip. This is not necessarily a bad system. It just isn’t Molly’s system and not at all why she got into this business.

So Molly spends more time researching pricing than most other investors, but has found that this research has paid off, and is now spending less and less time focusing on suppliers and pricing because she now knows where to look. Molly prides herself on being able to give these homes the things that buyers would love to have, and still be at their price point. She has paired with a general contractor who is experienced, willing to go the extra mile with her, and is, by all accounts, irreplaceable. It is imperative that your contractor is all of these things when it comes to your reputation.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Molly’s first flip.

Molly’s First Flip

Molly’s first flip was a HUD purchase; a 3 bedroom, 2 full bath, 1,515 square foot bungalow in a smaller suburb of Cleveland. She thought all of her bases were covered, but, it turns out, she didn’t, and fell into a very common trap when rehabbing.

Admittedly, Molly’s biggest mistake was hiring and trusting the very first contractor that she met. She didn’t take the time to check his prior jobs, gather recommendations, or see if he was insured. His confidence sold her on him. He was quite experienced and knowledgeable with contractor work and could rehab possibly anything, but the problem was that he never showed up to the job.

His “team” consisted of a very inexperienced, very young (like 18 years old young, so they were cheap) group of people. And by “group,” Molly clarified that she meant the 3 people that made up his “team.” None of them were professional plumbers, or licensed electricians, he had no proof of insurance that he could produce, and he was certainly not bonded.

(Want to know how to spot these “bad contractors?” Click here to download our “Contractor Survival Guide” ebook to learn how to find, hire, and manage great contractors.)

But, Molly reasons, she was new and naïve and went with him because all she saw was a guy who, she thought, was sincere and truly wanted to work with her. He quoted her $15k in total for a complete rehab of this 1515 square foot home.

Ok, so she made some dumb decisions on that first deal and didn’t do her homework and had no idea if the amount that he was quoting her was a lot, or a little, or somewhere in between. But, hey, we all make mistakes… some are just more costly than others.

She trusted him. But now she knows better and has the tools she needs to lead her down the right path and to help her make informed decisions on her own.

She got wise and fired him after he had only demoed one side of the kitchen 4 weeks into the project. He walked away with $5k of Molly’s hard earned money and there was nothing to show for it besides some holes in the kitchen walls. (Which she could have done herself!) Her budget was in the hole before she even began.

She bought the house for $40k, planned to rehab it for $15k, and thought she could sell it for $110k. At this point, she not only had to come up with the money that she had lost, but she also had to get a realistic rehab cost, which would be in addition to what she had already lost.

After learning from her first mistake, and doing the proper checks, Molly hired her current contractor who worked on her first two flips, and is currently working on her third. He’s not top of the line expensive, but he also doesn’t blow smoke up her you-know-what. He knew that Molly had been burned the first time around and really worked with her so she felt comfortable with the job and the cost. They settled on a rehab amount of $30k and scaled back where things could be fixed and touched up. The house sold within 30 days and after taxes, closing and carrying costs, and real estate agent fees Molly ended up walking away with $5k in her pocket and real life experiences and lessons that you can’t get from a 4 day class.

Not long after that, Molly started using Realeflow.

“It changed my life. Truly. I feel more and more confident every time I use it.”
Realeflow Repair Estimator

Although she trusts her current contractor implicitly, the Repair Estimator and Rehab Planner tools have made all the difference in Molly’s business.

“The Rehab Planner is like the invention of the wheel. If I had used this tool on my first flip, I would have known from day-1 that there was no way that rehab would have been done for only $15k and I wouldn’t have hired that contractor. I wouldn’t have had to rely solely on someone else and trust that what they were telling me was accurate. When it’s your business and your money and your future, you have to take matters into your own hands.”

For an inexperienced rehabber, like Molly, who is still learning how much materials should cost and what to use, having a tool that removes the hassle of comparing prices online, or at the store, has been a relief. Time is crucial to landing a deal so having all of this information and software that calculates everything has been invaluable for Molly.

Molly’s second flip went very smoothly and sold within 2 weeks of being on the market and her 3rd house is about to close in two days. She has used the Rehab Planner and has been able to work with her contractor to get an almost to-the-penny rehab amount. It’s so easy. She shows him what she wants; he makes it happen. She is confident that they can get this job done within 8 weeks, and sold within 4. That’s Molly’s goal… To improve with every flip and use the right tools to do it.

The Deal Analyzer has also had a big impact on Molly’s business. She loves being able to input a couple simple pieces of information on a given property and get an organized, comprehensive view that plainly shows how much money she needs to get the deal done and what she can expect to profit from it. For a new investor, the accuracy of this information can make or break every deal.

All of the things that you might forget to incorporate into your calculations, like holding costs, are in there. This analysis is even something that Molly brings to the table when meeting with private lenders. It gives them what they want to know — how much money is needed and how much money can be made.

Molly has a potential 4th deal in the works that, after analyzing, has some risk associated with it. Molly was thinking that it would be an expensive flip because of the taxes in the area and the interest rate that her lender will charge and the Deal Analyzer confirmed her suspicions. After plugging her numbers in, she was able to see right away that the interest from her lender would be too expensive if she holds the property for 6 months or more. This is the risk that she has to weigh and, thanks to the Deal Analyzer, she’s fully aware of this risk. Molly knows that she either needs a different investor with a cheaper rate, or she should walk away from the deal and move on to the next. It’s that simple.

“You have to invest with your head, not your heart or you will end up broke. You can always convince yourself that every deal is a great one. But really, you have to convince yourself that every deal is a bad one, until you have the one where you can’t find ANY reason that it’s not right.”

As a new investor, using Realeflow has given Molly the confidence to make decisions quickly and easily, with as much information as possible.

You have to invest with your head, not your heart or you will end up broke. — Click To Tweet

Molly’s next hurdle is to perfect her pitch to the private lenders with whom she can continually work, and at a financial rate that works best for her. She has already started spending more time learning about the different ways that Realeflow can help her and sees that there are so many advantages to using a tool like this. She can already see the leaps and bounds that her business is going to make in the near future.

For now, Molly has only scratched the surface, and knows that she will come across many, many challenges and setbacks.

“But I’m not worried because I have the things I need in order to survive. I won’t quit. I can’t quit. My work is changing lives. I feel fulfilled every single day. And my daughters have watched me take my life back and we are all better for it.”

Everyone should have a Scarborough Road, if they want it, and Molly is doing her part to help make that happen.

Click below to hear Molly tell her story…

Click the image above to watch Molly’s story.

We’d love to stay in touch…

Follow Realeflow on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium for more great stories and free real estate education.


You might also like…