You are the owner of this article.

Frederick couple invest in, flip houses with company American Flip House

  • 15
  • 5 min to read
House Flipping

Tina and Brian Merryman pose for a picture in a town house on East Fifth Street in Frederick the two are flipping.

Brian and Tina Merryman’s lives are the making of an HGTV home renovation show — although they promise it’s not that glamorous.

The pair own the investment and house flipping company American Flip House, which invests in houses, flips them and sells them, in addition to investing in rental real estate. Tina and Brian were recently listed at number 8 on the “Top 20 Real Estate Investors to Keep Track of in 2020” by Yahoo.

“It was amazing, we are very blessed because there are some big names on that list, Grant Cardone alone, that guy is super successful ... so I feel humbled and very blessed to be a part of that list,” Brian Merryman said.

They’ve flipped nine houses so far, five in Frederick County, one in Sykesville and one in Westminster. The other two are in southern Pennsylvania. They try to keep their flips to within an hour’s drive of Frederick.

While it may sound like fun, easy work, house flipping requires a lot of time and dedication. Brian also works full time as a lieutenant for the Montgomery County Police Department, often putting in 18-hour days.

He keeps track of his schedule in a strategic journal, setting aside time exclusively for his family. Tina and Brian have three children, one of whom has special needs.

That’s their “why” — why they work so hard to make investing and flipping their full-time gig.

“You have to be motivated by your why, and our why is our son, he is 11,” Brian Merryman said. “He is a middle schooler at Oakdale.”

The Merrymans’ son, Matthew, was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was 1. The intense chemotherapy left him with dystonia, a medical condition that hinders his cognitive development and his movement. Matthew uses a wheelchair.

They want to make sure that Matthew is always well-provided for, even long after they are gone.

“So we really, really try to remember that. ... Every day we learn something new and I’m not saying there aren’t tough days there, but we just keep pushing and striving,” Brian Merryman said.

House Flipping

Brian Merryman looks out a window of a town house on East Fifth Street in Frederick that he and wife Tina Merryman are flipping.

Fixing and flipping

The process begins with finding houses. Tina and Brian work with several Realtors to scope out properties.

They make about 10 offers a week, most of which are rejected or sent into negotiations.

After they buy a house, the couple will walk through it with their real estate agent, Daniel Travelpiece, who sells the houses once they are done. They’ll come up with a design together for the house — such as taking walls down and replacing flooring.

The couple hire contractors to do the electrical work, plumbing and other large aspects of renovation. They’ll often come in and help, but they have to juggle everything from acquisitions to design.

The Merrymans often bring their children with them to the renovations, or to scope out properties.

“And then we realized we can’t be in here like Chip and Joanna Gaines swinging the hammer. That’s part of what we love about it,” Tina Merryman said. “One day you can go in and help out, the next day you’re negotiating, and turning deals. So it’s a very versatile business, investing in real estate.”

Tina is responsible for the interior design of the house. That includes colors, flooring and lighting, but does not include the furniture, which is brought in by a staging company, Maryland Design Group.

Staged houses sell about 73 percent faster than houses that are shown empty, according to The Mortgage Reports. A story by Forbes said staged homes also sell for 17 percent more than non-staged homes.

Many house flippers simply paint the house white and try to make it as much of a blank slate as possible. But the Merrymans like to weave their own elements of design into it.

“That’s not our brand. It’s definitely profitable if you’re doing it in certain neighborhoods, but we want to give people a forever dream home, and these are people who might not qualify for an expensive, new-build mortgage, but they want a like-new beautiful home,” Tina Merryman said. “That’s where our niche is in house flipping right now.”

The Merrymans’ goal is to get each house flip completed in 120 to 180 days. Often, the flips take less time than that, but they can also take much longer.

Their most recent flip, a town house on East Fifth Street, was in the historic district, which made altering the exterior much more difficult. For example, the Merrymans couldn’t replace the front door of the house unless they wanted to buy a specific, and expensive, kind of door. The Historic Preservation Commission requires doors that are replaced to match the original ones as closely as possible, in terms of both material and design.

While Tina and Brian originally wanted to invest only in houses that were built in 1940 or later, they have since invested in several prewar homes, even if they are a bit more work. Other investors call them “big rehab.”

One of their more recent purchases is a house in Buckeystown that was built in 1878.

“When we get into those older homes ... I think people are generally in awe,” Brian Merryman said. “It’s like an old restored home with a modern touch. I’s a really good balance of both.”

House Flipping

Brian Merryman heads to the second floor of a town house on East Fifth Street in Frederick that he and wife Tina Merryman are flipping.

Getting started

The couple’s first foray into real estate investing was when they began renting out their house in Hagerstown after deciding to move to Frederick for the special education programs in the public schools.

But they didn’t consider it a career possibility until they traveled to Florida for three months so Matthew could receive deep brain simulation treatment. They both had to stop working during their stay, and found themselves researching real estate investment.

Brian realized they could potentially do real estate investment and house flipping full time, and it could potentially be lucrative. They began to invest more in 2015.

Tina had already had experience owning her own business, one that sold natural and holistic products to women online. She decided to close it down once American Flip House got going.

The idea behind the name is that Brian and Tina want to invest in America by taking homes that have fallen by the wayside and give them the TLC they need to find new owners.

The company was originally named MLAC Investments, after the initials of their children, until a business coach told them that they needed a name that people would remember. They decided to rebrand to American Flip House last year.

“Our former business name was a commodity, not a brand. And we realized you reach a ceiling, where we were going to be marketable so we could put other people’s money to work,” Tina Merryman said. “... Having a brand attracts more of a network, at the end of the day.”

Tina and Brian advise that any couples who want to work together prioritize their communication and try to play to their strengths.

“I think that couples that work together, if you don’t have a yin and yang, I’m not saying it can’t happen, but you better put your cards out on the table,” Tina Merryman said. “I think the yin and yang is a big part of what makes this a possibility.”

It helps that Tina’s least favorite part of the job — negotiating and sales — is Brian’s favorite part. But it also helps that Brian is a planner while Tina is more spontaneous, and Tina is detail-oriented while Brian sees the bigger picture.

“You have to rely on the strengths of others,” Brian Merryman said.

The couple see flipping houses as just the beginning of what they hope to accomplish. Brian would love to try public speaking or writing a book in the future. The pair also hope to coach other people who are starting out in the house flipping industry.

“I don’t think it stops at flipping. I think flipping is a skill set and a means to bigger and greater things, so I drive down the street now and I see mega apartment buildings and I say, I want to own that,” Brian Merryman said. “This is something we’re trying to get better at every single day.”

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley.

(15) comments

AmericanFlipHouse

Thank you Ms. Riley for the well-written article. It was a pleasure to meet you and Graham (who must not be the older Graham from 2015 that we couldn't figure out)!! And ps: We could not have started scaling our company the way we are without help. It really takes a village and we are so grateful for our coach Stefan Aarnio, project manager Daniel Travelpiece executive assistant Lashelle, our joint venture money partners, our skilled contractors, marketing & PR teams, and our A-list of realtors such as Daniel, Stephanie Vincent, Valerie Vinson Chris Vinson, Donna Tidwell, Jerry Robinson. Thanks to the friends and family members who have made a point to support and encourage us. Thanks above all be to God!

walter3rd

The house looks great. Great job starting your own business. Good luck in the future.

m21701m

The house in this article on east 5th street has numerous historical preservation violations from their renovation. Buyer beware the city will likely make you fix all of that at YOUR expense.

HistoryFrederick

Actually this company had all exterior changes approved by the historical society ahead of time, as soon as they purchased the property. This property has also been approved afterward, and passed the home inspection to sell. It looks great. Thankfully they did their homework and Frederick remains one of the largest contiguous historic district on the U.S. East Coast.

sue1955

21701; I noticed first thing in looking at the picture with the stairs that code regulations stipulate a railing on stairs. I remembered back when I was watching those home shows on TV when flippers were remodeling houses that were not up to code that they had to address and modify staircases to railings. In other words, they could not have an open area to the floor below (like pictured in this case) and it was not legal in accordance to the current code.

TeamMatthew

Precisely! Just went in today, I believe. The buyer’s didn’t want it either but it’s mandatory. And that’s not a preservation society thing that’s just a safety home inspection thing. No one liked it but has to happen. Oh well.

TeamMatthew

Definitely sounds like you are “looking for something” our of frustration or anger - we truly truly wish you peace and a blessed life. 50% assuming you may be the neighbor that has not enjoyed the renovation process - We truly hope that you build a close relationship with the people who buy the property. We wish you the very very very very best and enjoy downtown living🙌🏻 God bless you.

walter3rd

Sad that some people read articles in the FNP for no other reason than to make negative comments. Talk about the glass being half empty. Great job on the house.

m21701m

No one is looking for anything.. It's just reality. There are in fact non conforming materials on the house which can be a nightmare for any potential buyer. Buying in the historic district is something that should be done with caution. One non approved door could cost you a thousand dollars to replace. It's a really any buyer can face. I'm on my 3rd historical home renovation.

tjday1995

Tina and Brian are two of the most honest, kind, and genuine people I know. I would buy one of their houses in a heartbeat because I know they'd stand behind it!

TeamMatthew

You are awesome!!!!

Brookhawk

You need to be careful with flipped houses. My condo neighbor bought one (not one the people in the article were involved in), and the HVAC leaked all over the downstairs neighbor while the new hardwood floors all separated between the planks because it hadn't been installed properly. Some of these things are slap-dash at best, done for looks and done to sell fast. As with any home, you need to be very careful when you buy and have the work checked out.

sue1955

You are exactly right, Brookhawk.

Kelpfarming

Pretty cool. Good program too. Cheers

TeamMatthew

Cheers! Thanks for commenting

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominem criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.