At 59, Debbie Standefer, RN, has learned how to flip houses in her spare time.


by Mike Lee – Writer

They say necessity is the mother of invention. For Debbie Standefer, RN, case manager at Norman Regional, necessity was the breeding ground for a profitable side business.
“When I got divorced I had to strike out on my own and the only way I could afford a house was to get the cheapest, worst house in the neighborhood and fix it,” she said. “I think I did so well on the first one I think I’m on my sixth one.”
So by day Standefer is dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s for patients. At night, she’s using a T square and plumbing toilets.
And she’s loving it.
“It’s fun because when you buy it and do it yourself you have complete creative control,” Standefer said. “Some houses I completely make into something different and some houses I kind of keep the floor plan, make it pretty and livable.”
A couple of those houses had three-quarter baths with a shower sink and toilet. She’s ripped out walls, gutted plumbing and made them a full bath with a tub and shower.
You know how bad it is when you have to clean a toilet, right? Imagine removing a decades-old O-ring and ripping one up from the floor.
“My parents were both very resourceful and they could fix anything,” Standefer said. “It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do any of this stuff. Back when I first started, the Internet wasn’t readily available so I would talk to people and read books at the library or at the bookstores.
“But now, in the last eight years or so you can Google anything literally so you don’t have to buy a book anymore.”
She bought one house with a stem wall foundation and the floor joists were rotted. She shimmied into the crawl space with power tools and replaced those floor joists.
She admits it almost killed her but what’s that old saying about what doesn’t kill you?
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically and that’s probably the one I’m most proud of,” she said.
She bought the home for $25,000, put $25,000 into it and sold it for $105,000.
It’s hard to shake a hobby where sweat equity turns into money in the bank.
“That’s part of the fun of it, you have such complete control of it,” she said.
She shies away from doing her own central heat and air but that’s about it.
“But I do everything else,” she says. “I plumb all the houses and do all the electrical. There has only been a time or two that I’ve had to call in an electrician just because I couldn’t figure out where the short was. The wiring and everything I do all that.”
On several occasions she’s been approached as a confused female at Home Depot and people try to offer her help. She politely refuses.
At home, she’s often glued to HGTV and the remodeling and flipping shows.
“I’ve learned a lot from mistakes,” she says.
And now she’s become a sort of resident Bob Villa for those who work at Norman Regional. On the floor she’s Debbie Can Fix it.
Word has gotten around about Standefer’s successes.
“One of the doctors was building a house out a little bit and she was stressing because it was going to cost her another $30,000 dollars to put gas from the road to her house. I told her just to do total electric,” Standefer said. “She asked ‘Can I do that.?’ I told her it was her house you can do pretty much anything you want to.” She went to her builder and they upgraded her appliances and she got a much nicer appliance package for electric with an induction cooktop. She was able to save about $35,000.
“I don’t know why her builder didn’t tell her. Well, because men build differently than women do.”
And while she has a friend who helps, most of the heavy lifting falls on Standefer’s shoulders.
“I joke about I’ve been single for 15 years now and I used to think I needed a man to mow the yard and help with the honey-do’s around the house. Now I’m the honey-doer.
“It’s pretty empowering.”