How Ashley and Andy Williams Give Back to Veterans
The Flip or Flop Fort Worth hosts are largely driven by their military connections.
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A veteran, as the saying goes, is someone who, at one point in their, “wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount up to and including their life.” Though their active duty service ended more than a decade ago, Flip or Flop Fort Worth hosts Andy and Ashley Williams continue to serve their country, by way of integrating transitioning veterans into nearly aspect of their thriving flipping business.
“My check was not cashed. I get to chase my dreams and build a life here at home,” Andy said. “So I have a fiduciary duty to every Marine before and after me to make sure that service is not a sacrifice. So I continue to serve.”
From simply mentoring transitioning veterans to filling out their crews with fellow vets, here are a few of the ways the Flip or Flop Fort Worth hosts have made it their mission to give back to the military community that raised them.
'It's not just a transaction — it's a transition'
Andy, a Marine veteran whose service ended in 2004, said he became especially motivated to work with transitioning veterans after a personal tragedy shortly after his separation from the Marines.
“I started this passion when my best friend died in Iraq in 2006,” he said. “When he died in Iraq and I wasn’t there, I made it my life mission to make sure that transitioning veterans was something I was going to do.”
His wife and business partner, Ashley, an Army veteran, is equally dedicated to using their successful flipping business to give back to the community she credits for teaching her “respect is earned, not given,” and “serving isn’t just your job, it is your duty.”
“Some people just flip a house to make a profit,” Andy told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We flip a house because we actually want to add value to the community we serve. The value of the land in America is built on the fact that we go overseas and serve. It’s not just a transaction, it’s a transition.”
They've identified how much veterans and flip projects really have in common
“When I’m able to take a house down and rip it apart, there’s a lot of that anger that I had from serving overseas that I’m able to incorporate into that demo phase,” Andy said. “But when I get to the design phase and putting the pieces back together, that’s kind of like what we’re going through as veterans.”
Many of the areas Ashley and Andy choose to flip in around Dallas-Fort Worth are not necessarily the “best” neighborhood — more likely the area next to the best neighborhood. They purposely choose blocks in need of a, ahem, transition of some sort. Veterans, many of whom struggle to adapt to the cultural and economic transitions coming out of the military, can likely relate, then get to play their own part in revitalizing a neighborhood.
“When we close [on a home], we map out the process as we bring life back into a home, taking it from distressed state,” Andy said. “We consciously choose to bring our fellow veteran along with us, who is often times going through the challenges of re-integration.”
Most of the companies they work with have a veteran connection
As we see in several episodes of season one of Flip or Flop Fort Worth, many of the outside crews brought in for Andy and Ashley’s flips are owned, operated and staffed by veterans. That’s no coincidence.
They have worked with a veteran landscaper, a veteran tree trimmer and debris removal and recycling companies led by veterans, and their networking continues even after construction has wrapped. Andy’s brokerage firm, Recon Realty, works with veteran-owned title companies, a disabled veteran mobile notary for closings and a veteran loan officer for potential buyers.
Industry exposure is key for them
Aside from their steps to actually hire and integrate veterans into their workforce, Ashley and Andy also make a conscious effort to introduce them to the real estate industry itself. They walk veterans through the homes they’re renovating, introduce them to their personal networks of local veterans and connect them with others in the industry to help foster relationships during the often difficult transition to civilian life. In turn, they say, these veterans can be exposed to new opportunities, ideas and career paths available to them after returning home from service.
“Real estate gives you a real sense of purpose,” Andy told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “The sense of pride you get when you took something from distressed and you added your detail, great design, great flow ... who can take away the process we had? We’ll have that the rest of our lives. That’s the big thing, to share that with more veterans.”
They want vets to learn from their early wins — and early mistakes
The cultural transition from military service to civilian life is challenging enough on its own —but consider the possible financial challenges for veterans looking for work upon their return, and the shift can seem overwhelming. Ashley says she saw real estate as a safe space for her and Andy to “park” their money upon leaving the military and build on it. Sharing their experience with this part of the transition is essential when working as mentors.
“It was really scary to transition and to not have a safety net,” Ashley said. “Real estate does give you a safety net. If you don’t flip it, you can rent it, you can develop … there’s so many different options.”
Social impact before profit
While they’re of course hoping to avoid any “flops” with their investments, Ashley and Andy say their drive for profit is primarily motivated by their mission to support their communities: Fort Worth, veterans, all of the above. To put it simply: The more profit they can make from a flip, the more resources they can allocate to investing in mentoring and hiring veterans.
“Each time we buy a little piece of America, each project is an opportunity to add value to our community: to make a positive impact and return. We choose to impact the veteran community. The day it becomes just a transaction, Ashley and I will find another problem to solve.
Flip or Flop Fort Worth premieres Nov. 2 at 9|8c on HGTV.