I sat down with the team at the production company, and I told them from the start that I’m not an actor. I don’t do well in front of a camera, and I have a face made for print media. They chuckled and stroked my ego telling me I had “this cerebral” look that they thought would play well. I don’t really know what that means, but it sounded pretty good.
I told them that I couldn’t act and I didn’t want to act. I didn’t want a show with staged drama. There is already plenty of natural drama in any flip project. They nodded in agreement, and we really seemed to be on the same page.
Then one of the executives said we understand you don’t do drama, but what if we got you a sassy assistant who could be dramatic. Yeah, he continued, I picture an attractive young woman to counteract your serious and calm demeanor. That big red flag went up in my mind. I knew this was going to be the same old kind of show. Still, my ego kept me talking.
By that evening, I was sitting in my office staring at a talent agreement and asking myself: Am I doing this to better my business or am I feeding my ego?
As I do with all of my opportunities, I try to remove my emotion as much as possible. I consider the costs and the benefits of each potential commitment. I was really surprised to learn that they really don’t pay the stars in reality shows any money. Once the show is a hit, you may have some leverage to demand a substantial salary, but for the first year or so you’re working for free.
So there was no financial benefit to the endeavor, but there was a big-time commitment. I barely have any time now. If I have to sit at a project and act or reenact a scenario, will I have the time to do the things my business needs of me?
Perhaps it’s just another investment, I thought. An investment just like I make all the time. This investment would be an investment in time. If it worked out, maybe it would lead to great free advertising, branding and potentially a large additional income.
This would be an investment of me and by me. So I had to take a cold hard look at myself, as I have done since the Marine Corps taught me its leadership principles — the first of which is to know yourself. I knew that I was no performer. The chances of me being a star based on my abilities in front of the camera were slim. I felt I was not well equipped for the job, and I would be fighting an uphill battle in a saturated industry. It’s like people jumping into flipping in the D.C. area now. They’ve already missed the boat.
Still, I thought, this is an opportunity that may not come around again. So I called a guy I know who happens to be a star in a successful flip show. We’re not drinking buddies or anything, but we’ve chatted on the phone before about a couple different opportunities. He’s a straight shooter and very personable. He told me to carefully consider what I was getting into. A show is a lot of work and very time consuming. He was also in agreement that there were already a lot of similar shows running, and we both worried that the idea has been overdone.
The idea for my show had no new angle. It sounded like just another home-flipping show. I’m not the wild and flamboyant type. I don’t yell and scream. I don’t have tantrums or breakdowns, not yet. There is nothing about me that stands out.
The next day, I called the executives and turned down the opportunity. They were surprised, but they really didn’t seem all that disappointed. They probably just moved on to the next flipper in line. I don’t know if they ever got a pilot made, but I’m sure they had no problem finding a flipper willing to be their star.
That was four years ago, and I’ve had many inquiries from production companies since then. One inquiry was interesting. A nice lady from California called me with a concept for a show. She wanted to bring me in to troubled flips. I would be like the savior getting the flip back on track. It’s great, she said, we’ll find the project and bring you in. Then at the end of the project, you’ll split the profit with the flipper.
That really showed how little television executives know about this business. The concept would make a good show and it would be somewhat different. But, I told her, there won’t be any profit on those deals. When a flip deal goes that bad, there’s no profit. I can save the project by getting it finished, but the question then becomes how much money will you lose. I can only help them lose less money.
Still, the concept sounded great. I had hoped to see that show on the air by now. But, for me, that show would require travel. How would I run a business while I was out saving other people’s projects? Again I took a polite pass.
The requests keep coming. At first I would respond with a long email about my busy schedule and my lack of skill for the job and politely decline to proceed. They almost never responded to my long explanations. I was hoping someone would try to talk me into it. No, they just move on. So now I just respond with a thank you, I’m not interested.
I can’t even stand to watch most flip shows. I’d love to see a show that concentrates more on design and how-to construction. Most shows are very misleading with the numbers and leave out a lot of expenses. Most are filled with drama and hysterics. I wouldn’t work with anyone who was that dramatic, and I certainly don’t want to watch them on TV.
There’s really no money being made by most of the characters in the show. What I’ve found is that many of these stars are monetizing their fame by selling real estate courses and running real estate investment seminars.
I just have no desire to do teaching. I love real estate investing. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from getting into the business. But I can’t sit up there and tell people that this is risk-free, easy money. My spiel would scare half the people away before they ever bought my $1,500 audio course and $10,000 boot camp.
I just love fixing homes.
So I’ll keep quietly slugging it out on construction sites and at closing tables, happy in my obscurity.
Justin Pierce is a real estate investor and real estate agent who regularly writes about his experiences buying, renovating and selling houses in the Washington area.