Shows about home rehab and flipping abound on the airwaves these days, so it couldn’t be that hard, right? Well …
When “This Old House” launched in 1979, it was one of the first home improvement shows. Today, there are hundreds of television shows, ranging in topic from budget décor to historic home renovations. In addition, millions of subscribers enjoy the home improvement channels on live-streaming sites such as YouTube. So, what does it take to be the next HGTV star? And is five minutes and an iPhone all you need to launch your own YouTube channel?
Real estate investors who have tasted fame share their experiences and how to navigate through the land of infotainment.
Engelo Rumora is a property investor, motivational speaker and serial entrepreneur who has been involved in more than 400 real estate deals worth more than $50 million. Rumora has founded five businesses in Ohio including List’n Sell Realty, a real estate brokerage, and Ohio Cashflow, which specializes in providing turnkey properties. Not a shy guy and born in Sydney, Australia, he’s been dubbed The Real Estate Dingo.
“I’m very loud and proud,” says Rumora. “You just have to put yourself out there, right?”
He’s working toward hosting his own house flipping show. Rumora began expanding his brand with YouTube and now has more than 350 videos. He has a video team that shoots five to seven videos one day each week, whether it’s in the office or touring houses. That visibility has generated “a ton of production companies” to call him, but he’s skeptical about those who push potential hosts through interviews yet haven’t raised production funds.
“They will fish for talent before they even have any money to actually put the show into production, and that is not—it’s wasting people’s time,” says Rumora.
Now he is shopping a demo reel, called a “sizzle” in the business, presenting his concept where he gives newbie house flippers advice while showing off his Aussie side with language like “g’day mate.” Rumora believes he’ll succeed by continuing to knock on doors.
“It might take five years, but I will get the show because we’re going to be in front of someone at the right time, at the right place, and they will like my character and pull the trigger on my reality TV show,” says Rumora.
Chris and Kelly Edwards founded The Edwards Companies, a full-service real estate investment, management, maintenance and brokerage firm located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Also, they own Orange Elephant, a property turnover company that provides painting and repair services for rentals. In addition, they stay busy with a large investment trust and an insurance agency with five locations.
Since the Edward brothers already ran successful businesses, they weren’t looking to expand into television. However, in 2014, a tenant who worked in the industry thought they’d be natural hosts so she connected them with a production company. That resulted in a 15-hour-long day shooting renovations around Raleigh. It was stressful, with hot lights in their faces, and a crew who kept asking them to repeat their lines. To ease their on-camera experience, the crew handed the brothers something they hadn’t had since college—Bud Light at 7 in the morning.
“Chris and I both cracked them open like good Southern boys do, and it did help loosen us up,” laughs Kelly Edwards, who is co-founder and managing principal along with his twin brother, Chris.
The excitement continued with the production company pitching them to networks as the Southern version of the Property Brothers, a show hosted by identical Canadian twins, with the title “The Flippin’ South.” There were rave reviews, talk of getting an agent and “let’s do lunch.” Then, nothing.
It turns out, one exec wasn’t sold on the concept.
“We were disappointed, but we got over it,” says Kelly. “We still have to earn a living, so we’re going to keep doing what we’re good at.”
Recently, L.A. started calling them after seeing news articles about the brothers. This time, Kelly and Chris were prepared to take charge of how they were portrayed.
CONTROL YOUR BRAND
No longer blinded by the bright lights, the Edwards brothers communicated their own vision for the show. They specialize in revitalizing older homes that Millennials and hipsters love to buy. True to their roots, they restore fireplaces and use reclaimed materials rather than tearing down and building new, cookie-cutter houses.
This time, it looks like a TV career might just work out. And while Kelly says it’s “kind of like trying to tell an airline captain how to fly his plane,” the key is taking charge and defining what makes you unique.
“Be true to yourself and who you are,” he says.
Rumora agrees to embrace what’s quirky or different about yourself to leave an impression.
“Do YouTube videos, write a blog, attend speaking engagements, speak in public, go to conferences and throw yourself out there to be seen by as many people as you can,” says Rumora.
Also, follow new technology so you know where the opportunities are to show you’re a thought leader. For example, Facebook Live and Periscope are fairly new live-streaming platforms.
The question remains whether the time and effort spent pursuing a platform online or on screen will produce a return on that investment.
Edwards advises not to underestimate the time commitment, to weigh if the investment will truly be returned and to beware of noncomplete clauses.
“Treat it like a business, because if you sign something, you’re hooked to a production company for 12 months, and if another agency or TV show comes after you, you can’t do anything,” says Edwards.
Rumora recommends starting small with minimal costs—no need to hire a production crew or marketing person. Simply use the camera on your smartphone and upload a video. While Facebook-sponsored posts and YouTube ads have tracking mechanisms, Rumora doesn’t have a solid way to calculate the return on his YouTube videos, but he still thinks it’s worth it.
“You’ve got to be in it to win it,” says Rumora. “The more content you can submit to the world, the more eyes that see who you are, will enable you to grow your brand and your business.”