Two years ago, Ken Corsini received a phone call from a casting director looking to schedule an interview with him and his wife, Anita, for a new television series. (The couple, who share three kids, are the cofounders of Red Barn Homes, a real estate company based in Atlanta.) Anita laughed when she heard: “I told Ken, ‘Nobody is going to put us on TV!’” So when the two sat down to chat with the production company folks on Skype, “We just had fun with it,” she recalls.
Little did they know their happy-go-lucky approach would land them the spot on the small screen. That summer they filmed the pilot of Flipping the South, which showcased their knack for buying, renovating, and reselling properties in and around Atlanta. “We never took ourselves too seriously and enjoyed our time on camera together,” Anita says. “We had a wonderful crew that put us at ease, and they captured our real-life interactions and decision-making process.”
The show eventually evolved into Flip or Flop: Atlanta, the latest addition to the network’s hit franchise. The spinoff, which premiered two weeks ago, is structured much like the original Flip or Flop : “It takes you through the process of identifying and purchasing the property, walking through the house in its original state—my favorite part!—renovations, and selling the home,” Anita explains.
Each project can take six to ten weeks to complete, depending on how big the remodel is. “We buy houses under $100,000 up to about $500,000. However, most of our properties fall between $200,000 and $300,000, with sale prices in the $200,000 to $300,000 range,” Ken notes. “We try to acquire properties and budget renovations at 75% of the finished value—basically targeting a 25% gross profit margin.”
In the first episode of Flip or Flop: Atlanta, the pair take on a split-level fixer-upper in Buckhead, turning the 1970s eyesore into a sight for sore eyes. This Thursday, in episode three, they work to transform a trashed rental house into a rustic masterpiece. As for Anita’s favorite project of the season, “If I had to choose one, I would say the little farmhouse,” she says. “If you could see how far that home came, you would want to give it an Olympic medal!”
Here, the duo offer other entrepreneurial couples advice on starting their own business, share the biggest mistake many house flippers make, and provide a behind-the-scenes peek at their new series.
What makes a property a good candidate for a flip? Does every fixer-upper have potential?
Anita: I look at dilapidated homes and can see potential in any of them. With enough vision, any house can turn around. It doesn’t always make financial sense to flip each one, but honestly, every home has potential.
Interestingly, we had a house under contract today that we had to cancel. It was a very distressed property that needed a lot of work. In many cases, it’s these very houses that have the most profit potential. However, in this instance, the house simply needed too much work and was actually likely a tear down. While a dilapidated house can sometimes be quite profitable, it can also become a money pit if you’re not careful in your renovation estimate.
Ken: [A property is unfit to flip] when the structure of the house is compromised to the point that it no longer makes sense to salvage it and tearing it down actually becomes the only option. However, if the purchase price of the house is less than or equal to the land value, there are times when we will scrap a house and build a new one in its place.
What’s the biggest mistake house flippers often make?
Anita: I think house flippers can “over-renovate” a house if they aren’t careful. Also, I often see flippers change a house, but it doesn’t fit the neighborhood. In both cases, you make the property harder to market and sell. If it is over-renovated, you may end up with an asking price that is well above the rest of the neighborhood. When this happens, the home could sit on the market for a really long time.
What’s the story behind your own home?
Anita: We actually live in a house a stone’s throw from the house we built when we were in our 20’s. The previous owner knew we were interested in the property and let us know that it was going to be at the courthouse steps. So we made an offer and many months later, the short sale went through. We practice what we preach, and found a total steal for our place. When we bought this house, we had four-year-old and one-year-old twins. I have been busy with them over the past several years, so much like the shoemaker's kids without shoes, the house still needs an overhaul. I look forward to making it into a home that screams “Corsini” in the near future!
Ken: While we both agree there is a lot yet to be done to our house, we’ve actually been working on it for six years straight. We’ve really turned the property into a fun place for our kids to grow up. We have a barn with goats, pigs, dogs, and cats. We have a pool, 10 acres of four-wheeling trails, a lake, a warehouse with indoor basketball, and a pretty nice treehouse for the kids (and yes, I’ve spent the night out there with them). Honestly, so many fun things that will make this a memorable place for our kids to grow up.
Describe your signature aesthetic. What type of vibe do the interiors you design evoke?
Anita: This is always a tricky question to answer for me. When flipping a house you really want the house to have a complete, cohesive design. It’s really hard to put a finger on it, but when buyers walk through a house and everything from the exterior to the interior flows well, they can feel it. I always pay attention to the neighborhood and make sure the house will fit the overall aesthetic. Most of my interiors have a warm, cozy feel, but I’ve been told I don’t have a specific “style” that fits into any mold. This always makes me laugh because that’s been me all my life—you could never really put me in a box.
I have not had any formal design training other than the school of hard knocks. I have made my share of mistakes over the years, and learned what works and what doesn’t. I’m not afraid to ask for help if I need it, and enjoy the creative process a lot. I don’t mind pushing boundaries or taking risks. I can mix things up that haven’t always gone together and make them work.
Talk about how you launched Red Barn Homes. How did business fare in the wake of the housing market crash?
Anita: We were young—really young—and super ambitious. We started the business with open eyes and hearts not knowing what was ahead. I had full trust in Ken and I knew we would be alright. To me, it was way more important for us to go for it. He had my full support and did a fabulous job navigating a new business.
Ken: Honestly, we were lucky when we first started out that we didn’t go and buy a bunch of properties. The first two years we were in business, we took fewer risks and used a strategy where we assigned contracts to other investors. It was in our third year that everything came crashing down in the real estate market, and we were lucky enough to get through it without losing our shirts. I think it actually worked to our advantage that we didn’t know as much as we do now, nor had the confidence or wherewithal to have over-leveraged ourselves before the crash.
What’s the best part about being married to your business partner? What’s your advice for other couples thinking about starting a company together?
Anita: Working together is great—it builds a different aspect of your marriage. For me, when I step back and really think about it, my best advice would be to respect your spouse and his or her gifts and talents. We have a lot of mutual respect for one another. We understand that we are both built differently, and celebrate the gifts we each bring to the table.
How would you describe your on-air dynamic?
Anita: We are ourselves. House flipping can evoke a lot of different emotions and you see all of it—but mostly, we just have a blast together, and I think the camera captures that.
What’s the best part about your job? The worst?
Anita: There are lots of great things about our jobs—I love the flexibility it offers and the creative opportunities the most. The worst part would be having to manage budgets and time—man, those things always get in the way.
Ken: We absolutely love the freedom and flexibility that comes with running your own business. I would say the worst part is all of the unknowns that you encounter along the way. From unforeseen repairs that need to be made, to buyers canceling contracts because their financing fell through—everyday we are faced with problems and challenges that couldn’t have been predicted.
Name a fun, “behind-the-scenes” fact about the making of Flip or Flop: Atlanta.
Ken: In the farmhouse episode we shot, there were a number of animals mounted to the wall that made the initial walkthrough quite interesting. Those animals are now hanging in our warehouse!
Anita: I kept saying, “This house needs a pop-of-wow,” meaning it just needed a splash of something—it could refer to the landscaping, tile, whatever. Ken and the crew would laugh every time I said it and gave me a bad time! We had a ton of fun.
Do you enjoy watching other house-flipping shows?
We love watching HGTV, especially with our kids. Watching flipping shows is always fun, but requires more of an emotional investment because we can relate to all their problems. It feels like a punch to the gut every time they find an issue with a house, because we just plain understand. Our kids love the Property Brothers—they think those two are so funny. I truly enjoy the Listed Sisters—they have such a great dynamic together and create some gorgeous homes.
What else do you like to do in your spare time?
Anita: We spend a lot of time together as a family, taking various trips and playing around the house. In the summer you can find us in our pool a lot! For me, I love taking classes at my local gym, spending time with friends and family, cooking, sewing, reading, watching Jimmy Fallon.
Ken: What spare time? Just kidding...(kind of.) At this stage in life, having young kids basically is your spare time. That said, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love coaching my kids’ soccer and basketball teams, and they love coming to my softball games. We love taking the kids four-wheeling and camping. Honestly, most weekends are spent around the house with the kids in the bounce-house, riding four-wheelers, fishing in our lake, swimming in the pool—or playing sports.
Name one thing every home should have.
Every house should have a place that you absolutely love, whether it is the kitchen, home office, or closet. The homeowner should have a place that makes it their “home” and not just a house!
What do you hope viewers take away from your show?
Ken: I’m hopeful that people come away from the show with a greater appreciation for what it takes to flip a house—the good, the bad and the ugly. At the same time, I really hope people are entertained! I think our before-and-after transformations are really good and I’m hopeful people enjoy watching Anita and me work together.
Anita: I really hope the audience learns something about this business and realizes all that goes into flipping a home. Our business is just one model for flipping, so I hope everyone can sit back and enjoy watching the process. They have the best seat in the house—they get to watch and take part and have no risk!
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