Rural Portland resident Sara Farris, who along with husband Hiles has tackled several real estate “flips” over the past few years, is pictured on the porch of a home the couple purchased and restored in south Portland. (The Commercial Review/Virginia Cline)
Rural Portland resident Sara Farris, who along with husband Hiles has tackled several real estate “flips” over the past few years, is pictured on the porch of a home the couple purchased and restored in south Portland. (The Commercial Review/Virginia Cline)
A rural Portland couple has turned one of the most popular trends in real estate into a career.
Sara and Hiles Farris, 5480 East 100 North, Portland, are in their second year of flipping houses. What is flipping? Flipping is buying a house or property with the intent to sell it for a profit, most times making minor or extensive renovations.
“Fixing up houses is not for the weak of heart,” Sara noted. Especially after taking on their biggest challenge last spring when they bought a home that had been uninhabited for two years.
The couple bought the house, located at 108 Meridian Heights, Portland, at a sheriff’s sale. Sara said homes sold at sheriff’s sales can’t be inspected prior to the sale, so the couple had to peer in the windows before making their bid. “You are buying a pig in a poke,” Sara said of the process.
After Sara and Hiles looked through the windows they saw the home’s charm and elegance “and knew it needed to be saved,” said Sara, a retired Jay County teacher who was inspired to tackle flipping after watching shows on the process on television.
The couple replaced the roof, installed new windows, new appliances, a new garage door, a new boiler system, remodeled a bathroom, made plumbing repairs for leaks, refinished floors, installed new carpet, new downspouts and gutters, did landscaping, painted and hung wallpaper.
“It’s been a challenge to say the least. We are very proud of this house,” Sara said of the results. They held their first open house in August and a prospective buyer is coming to take a look at the home for the second time.
The first three homes the couple flipped in Portland were a lot less work. The first home Sara and Hiles bought at a sheriff’s sale only needed the carpets stretched and landscaping was done. The home sold in three weeks.
The next one was bought from a realtor. Sara remembers the buyer writing an offer when she and Hiles were closing on the home. The home didn’t require any renovations.
The third was a newer home. The couple replaced the roof, repaired a ceiling, painted, cleaned the carpet, landscaped and installed new appliances. Sara also staged the home. Staging basically means temporarily furnishing and decorating a home to create an atmosphere to attract potential buyers. The home sold in about six weeks.
“That’s the fun part for me of course,” Sara said. She was a drama teacher at Jay County High School for 25 years. “That was the fun part — staging the set.”
Sara also staged a home in Portland for someone who lived in Florida. An offer has been made on the home.
The couple has also purchased four homes in Brown County that they rent. Hiles recalled one of the homes was surrounded by so much brush you could hardly see it. The realtor told them that prospective buyers wouldn’t even get out of their cars after driving to the home. He said after they cleared the brush and a friend power washed the home, it looked brand new.    
Even though Sara and Hiles flipped the first three homes in Portland quickly, Sara said people don’t get rich flipping houses. “You go to the bank and you get loans.” The mortgage and utilities have to be paid until the home is sold and materials need to be purchased.
Sara said HGTV gave her the inspiration to flip houses. Sara was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and went through two chemotherapy treatments until she began losing her eyesight and 33 radiation treatments. “Do what you love while you can,” she said of her love for renovating and flipping homes.
“We are bargain hunters,” Sara said. The couple purchased a chandelier for the Meridian Heights home at a Boy Scout auction in Brown County.
They have also found bargain buys for their most recent project. Although not a flip, the couple is helping their daughter Kayla remodel a house she bought on Division Road. Kayla has helped Sara and Hiles flip homes, including painting ceilings and landscaping at the Meridian Heights flip. Daughter Keri is unable to help because she’s too busy raising a one-year-old, but Sara said she supports them however she can and attends all their open houses.
One of the bargains was found at Jay Community Center after the recent flood in Portland. They bought 25 4-foot by 8-foot sections of the wood floor that was in the old gym and was removed after being flooded.
The sections weigh 200 pounds each and Sara said some of the Maple wood is warped, but most of it is useable. Kayla and her father are installing the wood that is actually in individual pieces after the 2 by 4’s are removed that are temporarily holding the sections together. “It just takes time, a lot of time,” Hiles said.
Kayla has opted to not refinish the wood and keep the original paint marks that are found on a gym floor.
A box of walnut, cherry and oak trim was found in the attic above the garage in the Meridian Heights home. Kayla wanted to use it above the fireplace in her new home and she, along with Sara and Hiles, created a work of art with the remnants.
Also ceramic tile has been installed in the bathroom of the home. Sara and Hiles bought a trailer full of the tile for $5 and someone delivered it to their home for $30. Kayla is a welder and makes wine racks and other items that she sells at Gallery by the Green in Brown County and at the Brown County Winery. She plans on putting galvanized metal on her living room walls.  
They have found many bargains at the Highway 40 Yard Sales, the World’s Longest Yard Sale on Ind. 127 and at a Habitat for Humanity resale shop in Muncie.
Kayla plans on having Sara decorate her home when the renovation is complete. “She’s got an eye for that kind of stuff,” she said of Sara.
“Can you tell I love what I’m doing?” Sara said.