Following an entire wintersession spent marathoning HGTV staples such as “Flip or Flop”, “House Hunters” and “Property Brothers,” Erica Chapman ’17 has started her own flipping business. Her specialty? High-demand singles on the college’s beautiful, historic West Side.
The Wellesley News met with Chapman to discuss her company, tentatively named The Single Life, LLC. Clipboard in hand, a busy and exhausted Chapman met us in her room where she offered us some tea and a hardhat — but not in that order. In her spacious single on the third floor of Shafer, Chapman’s construction crew was hard at work, installing exposed beams to add historical character.
Gloria Lopez ’17, who lives across the hall from Chapman’s single-turned-construction-site, described herself as “less than pleased” by the construction noise. Nonetheless, she admits that she cannot help but admire her hallmate’s quickly growing construction empire.
Shaking her head in awe and disbelief, Lopez said, “It’s just one of those moments where you’re like, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’”
It was indeed an entrepreneurial revelation that helped Chapman discover the real value in flipping singles.
“I went on Free and For Sale over wintersession and saw that completely unrenovated singles were selling for $400,” she recalled. “And I just thought, wow, what a steal! Four hundred dollars for a property in a town like Wellesley.” Within minutes, she had paid for a new, completely undecorated single in cash.
Over the course of her final week of wintersession, Chapman worked from dawn to dusk drawing up plans, calculating costs and editing her vision to devise the perfect, cost-effective renovation agenda. When she arrived back on campus in late January, the renovation kicked into gear — and it was desperately needed.
“The whole place was falling apart,” Chapman said. “The radiator was an eyesore, and it was in the worst possible location for the room’s layout. Oh, and it was like, fifty years old. The paint was peeling, the windows were almost impossible to open and the walls were so poorly insulated that I could hear my neighbors breathe.”
Nonetheless, Chapman believes in the potential of her single and claims she’s an incredibly lucky investor.
“It’s completely uninhabitable right now,” she said. “Like, I got this room for $400 because that’s really all it’s worth. Paying any more than that for this tiny hole in the wall would be inexcusable. It would be a complete scam.”
It would indeed be a scam, but it’s a scam that happens fairly regularly across campus, even right next door to Chapman.
Celia Pope, ’16 had a single in a state of disrepair similar to Chapman’s.
“My room has the same square footage as Erica Chapman’s room and the same problems,” Pope said. “I have chipped paint, a barely functional radiator, a leaking ceiling, and structural damage. I even worry sometimes that I may have mold.”
The price tag for Pope’s dorm in disrepair? A non- negotiable $13,000. By comparison, Chapman’s $400 buy on Free and For Sale is an evident steal.
After her fortuitous initial payment, Chapman hopes to invest $1200 in her new dorm, which will cover the costs for paint, a new radiator, drywall repair, new crown moulding, a closet door that actually opens and, of course, Chapman’s beloved historical beams. Her expected profit margin remains uncertain — knowing that her neighbor paid $13,000 for her crappy single, Chapman hopes to sell her single on Free and For Sale for an estimated $15,000 — either that, or trade up for a turret room.
Chapman is looking forward to expanding her flipping business once her room gets renovated and sold. “Luckily for me, but unfortunately for the student body, there are just so many dorms on this campus in desperate need of a flip,” Chapman said. “We have roofs falling off, problems with buildings sinking into their foundations, poor insulation, dysfunctional water heaters and appalling energy inefficiency. And no one else seems to be stepping up to do the work.”
Chapman is currently collaborating with students majoring in economics and math to determine the best upcoming markets for investing in singles. So far, she believes that the best investments are dorms such as Beebe and Claflin, as the dorms have an excellent location but appear to have gone at least forty years without renovation.