Zen and the Art of Real Estate Investing with Jonathan Greene

129: Building Systems to Scale in Real Estate Investing with Serena Norris


On the surface, systems may sound like one of the boring details—something you only deal with if you have to. However, systems can make your life as a real estate investor much easier and maybe even save you money in the long run.

On this episode of Zen and the Art of Real Estate Investing, former graphic designer Serena Norris outlines why she left the corporate world to build a thriving career flipping homes and building systems along the way. Serena is a house flipper, broker, and realtor at Heaton Dainard. She is the head of marketing at Limitless Financial Freedom Expo and founded Scale with Serena. She’s flipped or BRRRR’d more than 125 properties.

Jonathan and Serena’s conversation explores her exposure to real estate as a child in a family full of general contractors, her pivot from a career in graphic design to real estate flips, and how she transferred her love of organization and systems to a standardized process for flips. She shares why lower- and mid-range homes work best for property flips, where flippers go wrong organizationally and in design, and why a detailed punch list can avoid problems late in the flipping process. Serena also outlines the value of using a home inspector, why contractors are a part of your team, and how a cost-of-work budget template can help you accurately estimate costs for a project. Finally, she emphasizes creating friendships and relationships with other investors who can advise you along the way.

At first glance, flipping homes can feel like a lonely and tedious enterprise, but changing your perspective and putting systems in place can help you create a well-oiled operation that works for any project.

In this episode, you will hear:

  • Serena Norris’s exposure to real estate as a child in a family of general contractors and what drew her to the aesthetic of homes
  • How her career as a graphic designer led her back to real estate and starting her own business
  • Meeting her partner at her cousin’s wedding and why they work so well together
  • Putting systems and organization in place out of necessity
  • The decision to do eight or ten deals at a time, which became Serena’s sweet spot
  • Using her training as a graphic designer to problem solve in real estate transactions
  • The challenges of aligning buyer expectations with construction costs for higher-end homes and switching back to lower- to mid-range homes
  • Where flippers go wrong the most organizationally and in terms of design
  • Unfinished touches on a property and how detailed punch lists can avoid this problem
  • Utilizing home inspector remarks to train contractors on what you want to be done on your properties
  • Why your contractors are a part of your team as a home flipper, and you aren’t a one-person show
  • The importance of purchasing only the materials you want to manage as you renovate
  • Creating a cost-of-work budget template to accurately estimate costs for the next project
  • Getting multiple bids and taking advantage of relationships to find good contractors
  • Serena’s advice for someone flipping a home for the first time
  • Having close friendships with other investors and why those relationships matter

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