San Francisco contractors hope to serve vets while flipping homes

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Published May 31, 2013

| FoxNews.com

It started as a one-person company based out of a northern California home, overflowing with milk crates full of building materials, but RFC of San Francisco is now an eleven-member army with a proper warehouse for all their storage needs.

A family-owned business, Raymond F. Clark (RFC) of San Francisco is a general contracting company. RFC does a lot of work particularly in the more distressed areas of Oakland, Calif., flipping houses for a reasonable price and allowing people, who may not otherwise have been able to afford a house, to become first-time homeowners.

Some of the projects include an old barbershop, a small bungalow in the Macarthur area of Oakland, and most recently a Baptist church that will be converted into a two-unit, eco-friendly apartment. Very much in line with the company motto, “peace of mind is our duty,” as the firm aims to build homes that are affordable and durable.

The company is run by two brothers, Steve and Matt Clark, who launched the firm shortly after their father, and mentor, died in 2008. For the Clarks, reviving RFC was a way to carry out their dad’s legacy as both a builder and Marine Corps veteran.

“We looked to go into distressed areas to help be part of the solution,” Steve Clark told FoxNews.com. 

What differentiates them from their competition is their quality of the work and craftsmanship. The milk crates in their family home when they first started? Supplies for the furniture they handcraft for every home they flip.

Clark credits his wife, Jennifer, a real estate agent, with the vision and design brain behind the firm. “She has that sense of where areas are going and what properties have potential… she’s what sets us apart from our competition,” Clark said.

From taking typically traditional homes and giving them a Victorian facelift, to replacing plain tiles with herringbone so they look like wood, Jennifer provides know-how and creativity.

For Clark’s right-hand-man James Huling, a 20-plus-year Army veteran from New Orleans, joining the company after retiring was an easy decision.

“RFC is about sharing and making something out of nothing for others,” said Huling, who helps manage operations for RFC.

Huling, who had little experience in construction prior to joining RFC, started by laying tiles and is now taking classes to become a realtor. “[Steve] invested in me, is investing in our veterans, and he’s investing in this community,” he said.

Brendon DeSimone, one of the nation’s leading real estate experts licensed both in California and New York, says he advises all of his clients looking to buy flipped homes to do their due diligence. DeSimone explains you can tell a lot about a contractor by looking at the detail of their work.

His first rule is for buyers to have a property inspector come thoroughly check out the place. Second, he says, it’s vital to ask for documentation from the contractor to verify the flip was done with permits and the city has signed off on it.

“A sign of a good [flip] is in the information about what they’ve done and that they have a good [real estate] agent on their side,” he told FoxNews.com.

One of Clark’s main goals for the company is to be able to give back to the community and to veterans. Right now the company gives back about 5 to 7 percent of profits to outside causes, but acknowledges that first and foremost, RFC is a business and it needs to get a financial footing before upping that number.

In the current housing market, RFC will pay anything from $100G to $250G for a property, invest about $75G to $150G, and list it at $225G to $450G depending on the house and location.

Clark, an Army Corp of Engineers veteran, and Huling have done work with Wounded Warriors (Huling bikes to support wounded vets) and are hoping to connect with programs like Helmets to Hardhats.

Helmets to Hardhats links veterans with apprenticeship opportunities where they will be trained in the building and construction industries, helping them make the transition into civilian life.

“Construction can be therapeutic and has the same kind of familiar atmosphere you witness in the military -- there’s a specific site, you’re given an objective, so it’s like a mission,” Darrell Roberts, Helmets to Hardhats spokesperson, told FoxNews.com.

Another organization that helps veterans make the leap from military life to civilian life is the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate (BHGRE) Metro Brokers “Veterans to REP” program. Developed in February 2013 to help veterans begin careers in real estate in Georgia, the program offers scholarships to cover the cost of real estate school (about $3,000 per person), is open to all branches of the military and is even open to military spouses.

“The skill they get in the ‘Veterans to REP’ program is portable,” Craig McClelland, the COO of BHGRE Metro Brokers who helped create the program, told FoxNews.com.

Clark agrees with the need of having a transportable skill and actually hopes to expand the company using those skills. The aim is to flip homes in communities similar to Oakland that have the same needs. RFC has projects lined up in Colorado, and hopes to go to New Orleans next.

“It’s very important to us to reach out to serve our community, as well as those who have served for us,” Clark said.

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http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/05/31/san-francisco-contractors-hope-to-serve-vets-while-flipping-homes/