Now Playing

Broker, Lawyer, Designer, Mom

Kelly and Delvecchio Finley


Buyers: Kelly and Delvecchio Finley
Bought: 4-bed, 3-bath in Oakland
Asking: $1.1M
Final: $910K
Realtor: Self

Kelly Finley was seven months pregnant, on hands and knees, installing wood floors. This would seem worrisome if you didn’t know Kelly Finley: a lawyer turned interior designer who sat for (and passed, on the first try, no less) her real estate exam just so she could act as her own agent when it was time to buy a house. “It was multiple choice,” Finley says of the two-part exam. “I will admit I excel at multiple choice.”

Finley’s husband, Delvecchio, despite knowing her quite well, was dubious. “I’m writing our first offer,” Finley recalls, “and my husband is like, ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ Uh, no, not at all.” But it was 2011—a sluggish moment in the market—and they were going after a fixer-upper in Los Angeles for $515,000. They landed it, using the cash Finley had been saving up to pay off her law school loans for the down payment, and the sellers cut her a $13,000 check, since she was the buyers’ agent. “Just for filling out four to five pieces of paper!”

Now that they had the house, Finley applied the same figure-it-out philosophy to the renovation. “I went to Home Depot and I bought two books: One was a woodworking book, and one was an electrical book. I read one, and I changed the light fixture. I read the other one, and I built some shelves. This wasn’t rocket science.” All told, Finley put $170,000 into the house, doing all the labor herself (except for the HVAC system). Did we mention she was pregnant?

In 2015, Delvecchio’s new job as the CEO of Alameda Health System required them to relocate to the Bay Area. By that time, the market had fully rebounded, and they were able to nearly double their money on the L.A. house. Finley put on her agent’s hat again. When she saw a hot mess of a house in Oakland listed at $1.1 million, she knew just what to do. “It was poorly marketed, the ceilings were low, and it was December, so no one else was really looking,” she says. They not only got the house but negotiated hard. As before, the sellers cut her a 3 percent commission check, this time for $27,000. “We used that money to vault the ceilings,” she says. The rest of the renovation, as well as the $183,000 down payment, was financed with proceeds from the L.A. house.

With a young daughter and a growing design business, Finley did less of the renovation work herself this time. “At this point,” she says, “I have learned to really respect people’s craft and expertise.”

The Family Business
Broker, Lawyer, Designer, Mom
To the Locals Go the Spoils
Tell a Story, and Make It Good
The Lottery Winners
Riding Out the Recession
The Soul (and House) Mates
Three Boys and a Dream
Not in Texas Anymore
A Reward for the Faithful
A Gift from Grandma
The Grateful Educators
Chasing the Dream
The Renter No Longer
The Data Optimizers
An Accidental Homeowner
The “Oh-S**t” Moment
All Aboard in the Marina


Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

Have feedback? Email us at
Email Erin Feher at
Follow us on Twitter
Follow Erin Feher on Twitter at