By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
You may not know his name. But you’ve likely heard of one of his latest projects.
Jimmy Tang, 37, is the developer behind 3243 Belvidere Avenue Southwest in Seattle — once the neighborhood eyesore and worthy of only a teardown — now a gleaming, new, and modern luxury home.
Originally from Vietnam, Tang’s father (of Chinese descent) died when he was only four months old. He and his siblings were adopted by an uncle, and a church sponsored the family to move to the United States in 1984.
A product of Seattle Public Schools, Tang said his childhood was rather uneventful and he mostly stayed out of trouble. “It wasn’t too bad for me. I made a lot of friends, and I’m easy-going.”
Tang attended the University of Washington (UW) and in his junior year, while pursuing a computer science degree, he interned at the Bon Marche. He impressed his boss so much, the company kept him on and eventually he moved into the IT department. He worked with the company through college and beyond. Tang also earned a master’s in computer science from the UW. Most recently, he worked at Expedia as a systems application engineer.
Techy stuff to real estate
Tang said it was the book, “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” by Robert Kiyosaki that opened up his eyes to the benefits of passive income.
That was in 2004.
“I started looking for rentals and bought my first two duplexes when I was 24, in Tacoma,” said Tang.
How does a 24-year-old buy two duplexes, you might wonder?
“In 2004, money was free,” Tang laughed. “I got a 5/1 ARM (5/1 adjustable rate mortgage with an interest rate that is initially fixed for five years then adjusts each year. The “5” refers to the number of initial years with a fixed rate, and the “1” refers to how often the rate adjusts after the initial period.)with zero down on one duplex — it was my primary residence. And the other was an investment property and I put 20 percent down from money I saved up from my job.”
Tang said he also bought homes at a discount, renovated them, and sold them for a profit — known as a “flip.”
“I did one to two flips at a time. I did well until the market crashed in 2007. I got out of flipping for awhile and just held onto the rentals that I had.”
Tang got back into real estate in 2012 through wholesaling (A real estate wholesaler contracts with a home seller, markets the home to his potential buyers, and then assigns the contract to the buyer.) to build up some capital. He also flipped one or two homes at a time while working full-time at Expedia, a job that he quit in September 2014. “I’ve just been doing this (real estate) full-time since then.”
Tang beat out 40 other interested buyers for 3243 Belvidere Avenue Southwest in the North Admiral neighborhood of West Seattle in May 2016 — the house described by the listing agent as a “major fixer” and “dangerous to enter.” Only licensed and bonded contractors were allowed inside, and only after signing a liability waiver.
The house had been vacant for at least two years. There was a tarp on the roof, the floors and ceilings were collapsing, and it was infested with mold.
The asking price was $200,000. Tang’s winning bid was more than double that, at $427,000. To put that in perspective, five years ago, the average house in Seattle (in move-in condition) cost a little under $427,000.
This house wasn’t just a simple flip.
Tang tore it down to its foundation and after waiting five months for permit approval, construction began in November. The brand new luxury home hit the market on May 11. Formerly a three bedroom, one bathroom house at 2,100 square feet, it has been transformed into a four bedroom house with three and a quarter baths, and a total of 2,845 square feet of living space. Tang added another story and a rooftop deck with stunning 180 degree views of Puget Sound.
Tang shrugged off criticism of the modern design, and that it doesn’t fit with the neighborhood. “I know everyone has their opinion, and I respect that.” Tang said. “You can’t build for everybody. And there are people who like it.” He added that he wasn’t the first to build a modern home in that neighborhood.
“To capture the view, it (the house) needed a rooftop deck. And I can’t do that with a craftsman (style home).”
Tang also believes the new house increases the values of surrounding homes and the neighborhood.
He has received and accepted an offer as of May 20. The sale is currently pending.
As far as construction projects go, Tang said Belvidere was relatively painless because he hired a general contractor who had more experience with these types of builds.
He said he learned a lot and his biggest takeaway for next time is, he will spend more time in the planning phase — on the architecture and design.
“We have a ladder which goes up to the rooftop deck. To me, it’s not the best location for it. I would definitely change the way we enter or go up to the rooftop deck.”
He also said he would switch the direction of the staircase from the main floor to improve the flow and make the kitchen feel more spacious.
“It didn’t look that way (so tight) on the plans,” said Tang.
Those TV shows…
When asked what advice he would give to people who have watched flipping shows on TV and now want to do it in real life, Tang laughed and said, “It doesn’t take 30 minutes!”
“Overestimate the time (to finish the job) and budget — add a contingency fund,” he said. “Run the deal past other, more experienced investors and make sure all your numbers, your rehab, and ARV (After Repair Value) are right.”
Tang said too often, inexperienced flippers will miss major issues like the foundation, or they don’t do a sewer scope. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix.
What makes him tick
In his down time, Tang enjoys all kinds of sports and staying active. “I like dancing, I used to breakdance,” he said, “but I’m 37, so I think I’m retired off of that.”
Always impeccably dressed in fitted button down shirts and pressed pants, Tang has a girlfriend (sorry ladies!) and he enjoys dining out and catching up with friends. His favorite food is Vietnamese and his go-to dish is oxtail pho. He tries it at every Vietnamese restaurant that has it on the menu, and he said the Great American Casino in Tukwila serves the best oxtail pho. “It has smaller chunks, smaller pieces that fall off the bone, I love it.”
His outlook on life, “Follow your vision. You can’t please everybody, and have faith it will work.”
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.