HGTV 'Flip or Flop' star became 'addicted' to house flipping after making $34,000 on his first project - but hosting the show was a whole different game
- "Flip or Flop" is HGTV's most popular series next to "Fixer Upper."
- The show, now in its seventh season, chronicles Tarek El Moussa and his now ex-wife Christina's adventures in house flipping.
- When HGTV asked El Moussa to do 13 house flips in just 10 months for the show's first season, he felt in over his head.
Tarek El Moussa started selling real estate in Southern California at just 20 years old.Around 2008, when he was 28, the US housing market fell into crisis mode. Americans were defaulting on their mortgage loans en masse and there was a huge uptick in the number of homes being sold or auctioned off for dirt cheap.
"The market had obviously become very depressed and I started seeing all these different deals coming across the table, and at the time I wasn't a house flipper so I wasn't buying those properties, but I saw that the [potential] profit was huge," El Moussa, now the star of HGTV's top-rated series "Flip or Flop," told Business Insider.
El Moussa was intrigued by the idea of buying a home below market value, investing money to renovate it, and selling it for a profit. After frantically reaching out to family and friends to raise funds, he found a business partner and they bought their first property in Santa Ana, California, for $115,000.
After putting in $20,000 into renovations and closing costs, they sold the house for $169,000, netting $34,000 in profit. That was when El Moussa "became addicted" to house flipping.
He was so obsessed with it, in fact, that he decided to pitch a TV show. El Moussa hired a production company to put together a short video about their budding house-flipping business and sent it to several networks.
A whole year - and two more successful house flips - passed until El Moussa heard from HGTV. They eventually shot a pilot episode starring El Moussa, the real estate broker, and his wife Christina, the designer.When HGTV picked up the show for a full season, they asked El Moussa to do 13 house flips in 10 months.
"At the time I had no idea how I was going to pull it off, but I knew that somehow I could make it happen, so we signed the contract - we ended up pulling it off," he said.
The first season debuted in 2013 with little marketing, said El Moussa, because the network was worried it may be "out of their element and they weren't sure ratings were going to be good."
Within weeks, the show struck a chord with viewers and HGTV moved it to primetime. In 2016, "Flip or Flop" attracted a total of 17 million viewers , according to the network. The success has spawned an HGTV franchise with "Flip or Flop" seasons set to film in Las Vegas, Atlanta, Fort Worth, Nashville, and Chicago featuring other house-flipping experts.
Looking back, El Moussa is glad filming the show pushed him to take on more investments, even though it seemed intimidating at the time. Five seasons have aired since the first, and they've bought, renovated, and sold at least 14 homes in each season. "The bigger the disaster, the better the makeover," El Moussa says during the show's opening credits.
"We built a good brand, the show turned out really, really well - it's fun, fast-paced, exciting," he said.
The show will return this December with new episodes.