Sarah Lemp, 36, lives in Livonia, Michigan, with her husband, Jason, and their five children, ages 2, 8, 11, 13 and 13. In 2014, the stay-at-home mom, who refers to herself as a longtime "DIY-er" with an affinity for coming up with "affordable decorating hacks," started buying run-down trailers online to renovate and sell for profit.
The first time Lemp bought an RV online, she "didn't really have a game plan," but wanted to renovate a camper her family could use for road trips. "I liked the idea of camping and had fond memories of camping as a child," she says.
"Gidget" pictured on All Things with Purpose
Lemp's first DIY camper took around three months to fix up, and from there, her family decided to continue flipping RVs and bigger campers due to the "teamwork and togetherness" these kinds of projects instill in their lifestyle.
With the help of her kids and husband, Lemp has since flipped and sold 10 RVs of different styles and types. She's made $22,000 in profit, plus an additional $1,000 to $2,000 a month that she earns from running her blog, All Things with Purpose, which she started in 2012 to share her family's adventures and DIY projects. She now features her RV renovations as well.
"I've always been interested in inspiring women in particular who may have felt intimidated picking up a hammer," Lemp says. "When I started fixing up RVs and sharing the progress, I found a whole new audience of people who had dreamed of doing something similar but were too scared to do it on their own!"
Lemp now earns an average of $6,000 in profit for each camper she sells. She aims to spend around $2,000 to buy each RV and $2,000 or less on renovation materials, which usually include paint, new flooring, new cushions and/or furniture, window coverings, decor, caulk and sealants for the roof.
To help keep costs down, Lemp will occasionally partner with relevant companies, such as Behr, Disney and Arrow Fastener, and feature them on her blog, either in an advertisement or via a written review, in exchange for free products to use when flipping her RVs.
Lemp didn't have much experience renovating RVs before Gidget. However, "I had a can-do attitude and was confident I could learn," she says. "I looked up specific things on YouTube, like how to paint a camper exterior, install a new breaker box and 12V converter, or which caulk is best to use on a roof. When I was stuck, I would ask my dad or a friend for help."
But after having flipped multiple styles of RV — "from vintage trailers to a 1990 Class C motor home" — which each needed "major repairs and a serious facelift," Lemp is now far more sure of her reno skills than she was in the beginning.
When shopping online for campers to flip, Lemp typically uses Facebook Marketplace, since it's a free service for both buyers and sellers. She also turns to Facebook to market her final products. "I've tried using other platforms to sell my finished RVs, but they were always costly and didn't get nearly the response," she says.
Lemp was able to sell an Airstream trailer that she bought and flipped via Facebook Marketplace in just one day and her most recent trailer renovation sold for $12,000 within three days on Marketplace. She also uses the platform to purchase most of the furniture they include in their RVs.
Deciding how to price and sell her RVs can be a tricky process, especially since "no buyer will ever appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that you have put into the project," Lemp says.
"So much emotion is invested in a remodel, it's hard to put a price on that. I try to price things competitively and in light of what items I am including in the final sale," she adds.
Time is also a factor. It generally takes about a month to complete a project, but Lemp has done the job from start to finish in a week "with the right amount of help."
"I would love to increase this production, but with very few warm months in Michigan, I would need to build a heated pole barn or rent a space to accommodate this," she says. "We are open to this, but are currently weighing the pros and cons."
Lemp's favorite part of her business is the flexibility. She's "able to step outside and work while [her] kids are napping or occupied." And many times, she can include them in the work.
As for the future of her RV-flipping operation, "we're always playing around with the idea of taking this side hustle into a more full-time venture," Lemp says. "But for now, we are grateful to have a side business that fits so well into our life and brings in enough money to help pay for school supplies, braces, adoption expenses and trips to Disney World!"
CHECK OUT: 7 spring side hustles that could help you earn up to $50 an hour — or even more via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.
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