Egypt Sherrod has been doing things her way for more than two decades. At 18, she was the host of a jazz radio show. A year later, she became the youngest radio music director in the country. Then, after 19 years in radio, she switched careers entirely and devoted herself to real estate. Today, she’s a successful investor, author, speaker and philanthropist—and the face of HGTV’s hit show “Flipping Virgins,” where she guides newbies looking to make money with property investments.
We caught up with Sherrod to find out what’s made her so successful in real estate, what common mistakes trip up buyers—and what advice she’d give first-time buyers, sellers and flippers.
What inspired you to leave a successful career in radio for real estate?
I come from a family of real estate brokers and investors, but when you’re young, you want to go down your own road in life. I was drawn to communications. [But I still wondered if] maybe I should look at real estate, too...I started [buying homes] in my early 20s. I took money from some of my radio appearances and bought what they called ‘dollar houses’ [foreclosures acquired by the government] in New Jersey, and started renovating and flipping them. I fell in love with the business.
When I was on the radio, instead of just talking about gossip, I would talk about my life and inject some stories about working in real estate and being an investor. One day, I got a call from a casting director who said, ‘Hey, I hear you're always talking about real estate. Do you think you'd be interested in taking over an HGTV show?’ And that was the beginning of it all.
What was your experience like on “Property Virgins” and now “Flipping Virgins”?
We did eight seasons of ‘Property Virgins.’ The show was never cancelled. But you’ve got to evolve, and the next platform for me to show my personality and real estate talent was ‘Flipping Virgins.’ So I conceptualized that, teamed up with a production company, shot a sizzle reel, pitched it—and it got greenlit. Three seasons later, it's been great.
What’s your advice to property virgins looking to buy?
Save as much money as you can and make sure that you're working on your credit. [Next], meet with a lender, and assess your buying power. Once you have that number, search for your real estate Dream Team. The captain of that team is going to be your Realtor. He or she will help you connect with inspectors, your attorney, etc.
When you're out searching for homes, it's really helpful if you have a wishlist with your negotiables and non-negotiables. That will help you stay on track. Sometimes, people see something they love, even though it doesn't have what they need, then wind up in the [wrong] house.
What’s the biggest mistake first-time homebuyers make?
Shopping for homes before they know how much of a loan they're approved for or without understanding [the difference between] listing agents and buyers’ agents. You want someone who's going to represent you and have a fiduciary responsibility to you. Instead of shopping for houses, shop for the agent first.
How about mistakes that first-time flippers make?
Finding a dilapidated home and thinking, hey, I’m going to fix this up and make a lot of money. It's not that easy. Before you spend any money—on any investment—you want to understand the playing field first. Get a mentor or find a Realtor who understands how to evaluate ARV (after repair value). You want to know how much can you sell it for when it's done. That way, you can determine if what you're acquiring it for and how much you're going to spend on a renovation [makes sense].
What are some easy DIY home projects, and what should you leave to the pros?
Anything that requires a license—electrical, plumbing—leave to the professionals because you can hurt yourself. Things like painting, landscaping, installing cabinetwork or vanities, you can learn how to do. Nowadays, you can just Google a video.
What’s your advice for homeowners looking to sell in the next year?
Do an audit of your home. Have your friends, family or anyone who will tell you the truth look at your home objectively. [Ask them]: If you were a buyer, what would you change? Often, it has to do with curb appeal. Is your lawn manicured? Do you need a coat of paint on the exterior? Does your roof need to be soft-washed because it looks old?
What are some money rules you live by?
Pay yourself first. Always save more than you spend. Before you make any purchases, ask yourself: Do I really need it?
What was the best financial advice you got, and from who?
It was from one of my uncles. He told me that no matter how the market looks, stay invested. When we put our money in the stock market, [it can be] a rollercoaster. [Stock prices] don’t just go up, you’ve got to stick with it when it goes down. [Over time, the market has gone up significantly, but prices fluctuate.]
You have to keep your eye on your larger plan, which is retirement for me. If you know that you don't have retirement for another 20 or 30 years, why are you worried today? You lose money the minute you cash out because that's finite.
What's your best financial decision you've made?
Buying real estate! It’s [paid] dividends.