How Flipping Houses Helps Veterans Transition to Civilian Life
The couple behind Flip or Flop Fort Worth explain how real estate helped them find value and stability in life after the military.
Not long after ending his time served in the Marines in 2004, Andy Williams found himself looking for work and struggling to find a way back into civilian life. Three years and several deployments with an anti-terrorism security fleet later, he met Ashley in Iraq, whose four years of service in the Army was about to come to a close and who was also unsure of how to move forward with her own impending transition.
As is the case for many veterans returning to civilian life, the transition for Andy and Ashley was a bit rocky. They struggled to find stable, fulfilling work that allowed them to stay home — without months-long deployments — and start a family.
"I got a new job and immediately my job said, 'You’re great, you do your job awesome, but you’re too intense,’” Ashley says. “She said I didn’t fit the culture because I was too direct.”
But with a few years of experience investing in property during his time in Baghdad, Andy recruited Ashley to work with him to combine their skills — she taught him how to use spreadsheets, she has an eye for design — to move into real estate full-time. Now, Andy and Ashley have developed fulfilling careers that not only allow them the freedom to make their own schedules and stay home with their children, but also thrive thanks to some of those skills they had learned in the military that were often deemed unsuitable in civilian jobs.
“Being direct has been a very effective tool because everyone knows exactly what is expected of one another,” Ashley says. “Since construction work has many areas of expertise, it is important to be able to describe exactly what you're looking for to not confuse the contractor while and clearly defining your vision.”
Meet Andy and Ashley 00:52
As we see on the new HGTV show Flip or Flop Fort Worth, Andy and Ashley have built a thriving business out of their home base in Texas, where Andy was born and raised, buying and flipping run-down homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Andy gets his hands dirty finding the properties and managing the renovations, Ashley takes the lead in designing for maximum profit and they both work together to keep a consistent schedule with their two kids, Ashton and Amina.
Their experiences and successes in flipping and real estate also ignited a passion to give back to their core community of veterans, with Andy devoting much of his time mentoring veterans transitioning out, advocating for them to choose their own paths and sharing everything he has learned thus far in his post-military career.
“Oftentimes a veteran would call me, and I would mentor [them] then invite them to see what I do and how,” Andy says. “Other times I would go to an organization and select a veteran that I would see needing a mission, then empower them. The intent is that if I were to teach one, they would teach one to teach one.”
In their flipping projects, Andy and Ashley also make an active effort to work with other veteran-owned businesses for contract work and ultimately create an impactful, pay-it-forward system within the veteran community in Texas and across the country.
“Veteran small businesses are more likely to hire more veterans, and the company culture is a good fit for transition," he says. Within our organization we educate them on the concept of buying, fixing, renovation, selling and the keys to being successful in this business.”
In one episode of Flip or Flop Fort Worth, we see Andy and Ashley face many challenges in one flip in a suburb just outside of Fort Worth, including a minor plumbing issue that turns into a major headache with the entire sewer system. But thanks to some unusually cool heads, Marine-style hustling on repairs and Ashley’s focused, rustic vision for the house, the two end up with a gorgeous finished project, on time and on budget.
“The most common mistake I think flippers make is not working with what they have and having unrealistic expectations for a remodel,” Ashley says. “To stay on budget you have to remain emotionally unattached.”
The mission for these two is clear: Do good work, focus on family and inspire others who are experiencing the same struggles they've overcome. (And maybe create some entertaining television along the way.)
“We want to show other veterans and their families that it's possible to transition, add value in your community, create an impact and make an honest living,” Andy says.
5 Flip Tips 00:40
Catch new episodes of Flip or Flop Fort Worth starting Nov. 2 on HGTV.