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Originally published Friday, February 4, 2011 at 10:00 PM

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Woodinville teen finds age no barrier to buying real estate

Sam Scrivanich found a new sense of worth buying and selling foreclosure properties, and he's still in high school.

Special to The Seattle Times

Sam's first flip

Four-bedroom

house in Burien

Purchase price:

$287,000

Improvement expenses:

$6,000

Selling price:

$415,000

Profit:

$122,000

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Like a lot of entrepreneurial-minded people, Sam Scrivanich saw an opportunity in crisis. In particular, the rash of foreclosures and property auctions presented what looked like an ideal investment opportunity.

So in August, he jumped into the market, picking up a large four-bedroom house in Burien as well as a condo in Bothell. He spent about $6,000 fixing up the Burien house, doing the cleaning and landscaping himself and hiring workers to repair a chimney and give the house a fresh coat of paint.

He bought the 3,340-square-foot-house with four bedrooms and 3.25 baths for $287,000 at auction. He sold it after two days on the market for $415,000, a 45 percent profit.

The most surprising number is 18, the number of years Scrivanich has been on this planet.

He lives with his parents in Woodinville and is a senior at Inglemoor High School.

He found the house through Real Estate Investment Firm in Redmond, which specializes in what Scrivanich is doing: buying and flipping houses.

The company alerted him to the Burien house coming up for auction on a Thursday, he drove by it that evening, plugged some numbers into a spreadsheet to see if it worked out, and bid on it the next day.

Or rather, his father did. His son had football practice, so Larry Scrivanich went instead and wound up buying both the house and the condo with his son's money.

That was a surprise to Sam Scrivanich, and he's had a little more trouble unloading the 720-square-foot, one-bedroom condominium, for which he paid $87,000. It's in the Braewood complex in Bothell, close to the Brickyard Road Park-and-Ride and Interstate 405.

Banks have been slower to finance potential buyers there, he said, due to some window and railing problems elsewhere in the complex. Scrivanich said he has received an offer for $103,500; the deal is to close Feb. 8.

The elder Scrivanich had to co-sign the loans because his son didn't have a credit history, but the titles were in his son's name only. The sale of the Burien house helped the teen stay afloat and pay the bills on the condo while a buyer was sought.

Scrivanich is confident enough to want to do it again, buying a 1,905-square-foot bedroom home in Monroe on Jan. 14. He paid $175,001 and anticipates putting it on the market in coming weeks.

Who is Sam?

The teen's background has given him options not available to typical middle-class kids. His father owns Scrivanich Natural Stone in Woodinville, a third-generation family business, as well as the Mission Ridge Ski Area in Wenatchee. But Scrivanich's drive is his own, and rather than paint houses or work for minimum wage in a shop, he brings a passion to real estate that belies his years.

"To me it's not even work," he says. "It's just really interesting."

While the industry is competitive and stressful, he's enjoying himself. And he's well aware of the negative connotations flipping houses has, as investors make their profit where someone else lost their home.

"In 2000, when everything was on the rise, the only people who were foreclosed on were real nasty people who wouldn't pay their bills. But now it's just regular people like you and me who got unlucky. You have to feel bad for them," Scrivanich says.

Jared Higbee, an agent with Real Estate Investment Firm, says the youth is different. "He's not a normal high-school student, just from the point of view that you've got better things to do after school than manage four people working on a property."

Scrivanich found the firm online and has been both working with Higbee and his partners to identify potential purchases and also to learn more about the real-estate business.

According to the National Association of Realtors, which counts 1.3 million members nationwide, the average age of a Realtor is 51. More than a third of the membership had a previous career in business, finance, management or sales.

It's a trend many chapters are looking to reverse, and the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors recently created a Young Professionals Network to bring members together for networking and education.

Nick Glant, owner of NWG Real Estate in Seattle and the local board chairman for the Young Professionals Network, says the group's events usually draw about 50 members under age 35 — although there's no hard limit on age — and has approximately 200 names in its database.

"During the boom, there were a lot of young people getting into the industry thinking they could make big money," Glant said. Likewise, he estimates many people leaving the industry in the downturn have been younger.

But he is seeing more young people in the business who are doing what the older generation does well: building relationships and diversifying. Two brokers on Glant's staff were named top brokers in Seattle last year, and both are under 30. Glant himself is 30, having gone into real estate right out of college.

Found a niche

Investing in distressed property isn't for the faint of heart, and Scrivanich's path was more circuitous than most. Tall, with dark-blue eyes and shaggy blond hair, he exudes a sense of cheerful aplomb and maturity.

But as a boy the going was tougher, his mother, Jane Scrivanich, says. He was angry and distrustful of authority, and once ran away from school at 7, making most of the four-mile trip home alone.

He also has dyslexia and a learning disability that hinders his ability to process words. One test showed he was considered likely to engage in high-risk behavior, although he says he never got into serious trouble.

Does investing in distressed real estate count as high-risk behavior? Jane Scrivanich laughs. What her son's business ventures have done in the space of a year, she says, is turn an angry boy into a mature, respectful and self-confident young man.

Scrivanich views his early success in real estate as proof he has other strengths. "I thought I was just dumber than the other kids and couldn't do the same things." he says. "I started realizing that life wasn't based on arithmetic."

He first started reading up on the economic downturn in late 2009 and decided he wanted to invest his savings in real estate. His grandparents had given him $500 every Christmas and birthday, which, starting at about age 13, he invested into some stock funds.

His first plan, to buy a short-sale property in Palm Springs, Calif., where the family went on vacation and had friends, fell through after six months when the bank foreclosed on the house. He'd figured that properties and land could be had for less in the desert, but realized he didn't know much about real estate.

He didn't even know what a short sale was when he made his first offer. It's when a house sells for less than what is owed on it.

So he began to look closer to home and attended sheriff's auctions over the summer.

His father helped him through the process, showing him the ropes and how it was done, and gave him approximately $5,000 to help with the down payment.

"He held my hand through it, made sure I wasn't doing something dumb. Now I'm pretty much on my own," Scrivanich says.

His father's loan — which was paid back, Scrivanich points out — gave him a little flexibility when it came to fixing up the Burien house for the sale.

He also bought a shuttle bus, fixed it up and offered wine tours and airport services through a website, www.woodinvilleshuttle.com.

Between his savings, the proceeds from the shuttle business, and what his father gave him, he was able to put down $70,000 in cash on the Burien house and the Bothell condo.

His business interests took so much time that Scrivanich was home-schooled for a few months. He anticipates returning to Inglemoor High School in February and graduating on time.

He's already been accepted to Washington State University for the fall quarter, and has applied to University of Washington-Bothell and Western Washington University. He wants to major in business and economics.

In some ways, he's a typical teenager who likes skateboarding and snowboarding; he drives a sporty blue Subaru Impreza STi with a large spoiler.

But as he closes up the Bothell condo, he notices a note stapled on the door of the adjacent unit: It's going to foreclosure auction Feb. 4. He notes the trustee is Bellevue-based Northwest Trustee Service, the same firm he bought his properties from, and the entrepreneurial spark shines through.

"Maybe I can pick up both of them," he says.

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