Young Investor finds jewel of a fixer-upper in East Memphis

Published on: September 16, 2019


In 2012, Ben Parrish bought his first investment property - a house he planned to live in, fix up, and eventually sell for a profit. The experience taught him a lot about flipping.

"I made the No. 1 mistake in buying the biggest house on the street," said Parrish, who works for a software startup. "I bought a five-bedroom, four-bath, 3,100-square-foot foreclosure. And it was an atrocious wreck."

In fact, when Parrish took possession, the house even had squatters. He embarked on a massive top-to-bottom renovation, taking the house from eyesore to neighborhood attribute and retaining ownership for about six years.

"Throughout that time, I was able to rent the house out, and it paid the mortgage and gave me a little funding on the side to pay for college," he said. Fortunately I bought low enough where I could sell it one year ago for a decent profit."

The house took five months to sell, and while it was on the market, Parrish went on the hunt for his next long-term flip.

"I wanted a live-in construction project - my favorite kind," he said. "I'm a very ADHD person. I've got to be doing something all the time."

With the help of friend and realtor Tyler Bowman of Weichert Realtors Benchmark, Parrish set out on the hunt for a fixer-upper he could work his magic on without pricing himself out of the neighborhood. Because he was marathon-training at the time, he literally ran by a house that caught his eye.

The home, in the Colonial Plaza neighborhood in East Memphis, had several features that appealed to Parrish. It was dated and in need of renovation, but unlike his first purchase, this house was in excellent condition. The previous owners - a husband and wife who passed away about two years ago, both in their late nineties - had built the home in the '50s and remained in it for the rest of their lives. The husband had put his stamp on the property in numerous ways.

"Certain things he designed for himself, and one of those was the sunroom," Parrish said. "He was a quirky guy, I can tell you, and I love that. In the sunroom, he designed the glass so you can use the grill from inside. Things like that, that's stuff that I would do. He was a man after my own heart."

Parrish came up on the house the same day he closed on the sale of his previous home. He knew he had to have it, and with Bowman's help, he made an offer amid competition.

After one failed offer and then a brief negotiation, Parrish landed the house.

He bought the three-bedroom, one-bath, 1,800-square-foot home in February for $127,000. For two weeks, he stayed at his parents' house while waiting for the purchase to close.

"Ruth Carr at Financial Federal is Memphis' greatest loan officer," Parrish said. "Our process was quick and efficient. I think we exchanged two emails and one phone call, and I had the money in about two weeks."

And for Parrish, that's when the fun part started. A former contractor, he enjoys ripping things out and rebuilding. First, he tackled the living room. He stripped, sanded, primed and painted the paneled walls. He removed dated built-ins from around the fireplace, cleaned and lime-washed the brick, and built a new mantel. Because he also enjoys building furniture, he built a coffee table and accent table for the space. He added an overhead light fixture.

In the entry he installed recessed lights. He stripped wallpaper in the kitchen and did sheet rock repair on almost every wall throughout the house.

Parrish went to work updating the space in other ways, as well, using gray paint on the walls and soft white paint on the trip to give the home a fresh, updated look. He also removed a few features added by previous owners.

"When I bought this house there were 44 Life Alert buttons around the house on the walls," he said. "There were wheelchair protectors on every door frame. And there was mustard carpet covering every inch of the house, which was beautiful back in 1975, but not today."

Parrish has many more projects planned for the future, including taking down the walls to open up the living, kitchen, and dining areas into a meandering open-concept space. He also plans to increase his property value by adding a half bath in a spot currently occupied by a closet.

"I'm a firm believer that you can't have a three-bed, one-bath and sell it at a good price," he said.

Since purchasing the house and completing his initial projects, Parrish landed his current job, which is based in Oxford, Mississippi. He's living in Oxford through the week and in Memphis on the weekends, living the life of a weekend warrior. Meanwhile, he's working on landscaping and various other projects.

"When I moved in here I thought I was going to have all the time in the world - until I took that job," he said.

However, he's in no rush. He plans to keep the house for at least another year or two, and in the meantime he's enjoying his new, quirky sunroom with its built-in grill accessed through the sliding window - and especially his detached garage, which features a massive work bench, loads of storage and plenty of space for Parrish's workout equipment.

"The sole reason I bought this house was for the garage," he said. "It is my pride and joy."

Though the renovation is going slower than he initially expected, Parrish is excited at the prospect of finishing the job and turning his latest fixer-upper into the house that exists in his head.

"One day I'll get to blow this place out and get it exactly how I want it," he said. "I would do this full-time, flipping houses, if I could."

Ruth Carr at Financial Federal is Memphis' greatest loan officer. Our process was quick and efficient. I think we exchanged two emails and one phone call, and I had the money in about two weeks.

Ben Parrish