The art of “flipping houses” is one not for the faint of heart, and requires a diverse set of skills that range from the expectant knowledge of real estate to marketing, design, and the ability to “make a great impression” on people who interact with your business. And while the term “jack-of-all-trades” might not be a perfect fit to describe, one in the business of buying and selling distressed properties must be able to fill all those trades.
Senior Managing Partner of Revision Homes Paul Kazanofski is such a figure in real estate business in Middle Tennessee. Through the discipline he learned as an athlete in school, Kazanofski was able to overcome issues and is now able to share his knowledge with others, be it a potential customer, an employee, or someone looking to follow his success.
Paul Kazanofski recently chatted with Global Real Estate Education Network (GREEN) as a part of the website’s profile of successful real estate figures. Our interview with Paul is below.
GREEN: For readers who are unfamiliar with you, let’s discuss your background and how it led to your current vocation.
Paul Kazanofski (PK): Well, I’m actually from Canada; originally from Montreal, and I used to be a pro-boxer. I was a boxer – kick-boxing, martial arts, and all that. But I never was set out to be an entrepreneur. I was gonna do somethin’ in maybe music or boxing.
When I was around nineteen years old, I moved to California, and there I met – they were my uncle and aunt – but they were estranged from me because I wasn’t around them. And I started working for my uncle who was in the real estate investing business where he was buying and holding properties, and doing a ton of rentals. Growing up as a poor kid – I grew up with a single mom and all that – I didn’t understand how the other people lived. I thought everybody was poor, so I just didn’t know, you know, in life that you can actually achieve things. I thought you had to be an athlete or a musician, a rock star to make it. I didn’t realize that you can be an entrepreneur and make it. And I watched that from my uncle, and he saw that there was this personality about me. I had that “It Thing” is what he would always say. “You have something special about you,” which I didn’t even know I had at the time. I was a nineteen year old kid. I was working for him, and he would “daily grind” me, meaning that he would constantly make me a better person; make me a man. I watched how he intertwined with the people that worked with him, and how kind and generous of a guy he was. People loved him. He was a tough guy, but a fair guy. And everybody appreciated that. I watched that, and I learned from him.
He told me that one day I would be successful because my mindset was a lot like his. I basically got that “entrepreneurial bug” way back when I was nineteen, twenty years old. And it’s funny because I basically resisted it at the time. Of course… I had a lot of goals and dreams, but the one goal wasn’t to be an entrepreneur.
So, I went into being an entrepreneur, I started small, and remembered all the lessons that I learned from my uncle. And here I am today, running a multi-million dollar business and having fun, and doing a lot like my uncle was. You know, treating people the way that he used to, and all the lessons that I learned on how to build relationships, and raise money.
That’s kinda how that started. I started “flipping” houses here about eight years ago in Nashville. I moved from Las Vegas… and like I said, I took those principles that I learned, and I grinded every single day.
GREEN: On the subject of your uncle, what wisdom did he share with you to help you become the success you are today?
PK: The one thing I notice about my uncle… he wasn’t like a businessman that you saw on TV that was a really shrewd, ruthless, had to always win… I saw different side of being a business guy. I saw a guy that was really humble… I noticed how he was a fair guy. He had this way of building relationships with people. I would question him all the time, like “Why is he giving so much to these people that seem like they don’t really appreciate it?”
But what I didn’t understand was “the more you give, the more you get back.” And, you’re not always gonna have everybody on your team that understands that concept. But you will reach the good people that will “see your goodness.” I also learned how to buy correctly… how to find the right contractors, and how to build a relationship. A lot of people, they don’t understand that when you talk to a contractor, you have to build a vision to that contractor of what you want. Most people, they don’t really know what they want. So before… you talk to a contractor, before you buy a specific house in an area, you have to understand the principles of doing this. What areas to buy in – he taught me that. How to talk to contractors. How to have “the vision.” How to paint the vision to your whole team, and the people around you…
And I learned that you don’t have to be an over-bearing, horrible human to get something done. You can still be a loving guy who has rules who does instill discipline in the people that they hire, but at the same time to have a kind heart and understand that people make mistakes. And you have to be loyal to the people that [make] a mistake, and you work with them. You build them up instead of cut them.
GREEN: So, your uncle taught you to be charitable and compassionate as business tactics to get a higher yield in the quality of personnel that work for you… that’s sort of the mission statement of Revision Homes for how you engage people?
PK: Absolutely, and… this is “one hundred percent,” I know: People are not looking to make more money in a business when they work for a business. They’re looking for thanks and approval. They’re looking for someone who appreciates them. Most people leave a company because they’re not appreciated. They’re not loved. They’re not coached correctly… they don’t necessarily leave because they’re [unhappy] with the money that they make. That’s something that I think a lot of people don’t get when they approach a business, or to be an entrepreneur. You have to really take someone’s feelings into consideration.
It’s not just the money they make. It’s everything else between that… You have to have good people around you. You don’t necessarily hire people that are just like you. You have to hire other… personalities, other traits that they specialize in… Everybody has a purpose in a company.
Seeing my uncle when I was younger, he had that same ability to do that… Obviously, I run my business a little bit differently than my uncle. My uncle was more of a “buy and hold” guy, but I’m more of a “flipper.” Like I get the money right away, and then I put it in there. I re-invest it.
GREEN: And Revision Homes specializes in the rehabilitation of houses with the “flip” model? What can you share?
PK: Our mission statement is simple: We take the ugliest, deferred maintenance house and we make it into your dream home. But we do it “on the champagne taste on a beer budget.” We learned that… if you know how to negotiate, you build the right people, you know where to shop, you build the relationships… you can build a beautiful house on a really, uh, tinier budget than someone… who just didn’t do this for a living and wanted their house really nice and just hired some contractor basically out of the Yellow Pages or off of the internet.
Basically, we find the worst house and make it into the best house, but we’ll do it on a real thin budget. One thing I want to say is that we never, ever cut corners. If there’s something wrong with the house, we fix it. Because you’re trying to build a brand too. You can still do it on a “beer budget,” [so to] speak, but you still can have integrity to the house. You’re not gonna cut corners and hide something – let’s say there’s, like termite damage behind the wall. We fix the framing behind the wall…
Most people when they’re buying a house, they’re looking at the “big ticket” items. The windows, the air conditioner] unit, the roof… these are things that are very expensive. So, it’s not necessarily just the “eye candy of the house… it’s the things that people don’t see that we specialize in. And because we build the relationships with people, we can do all of those things in the house for a lot less…
GREEN: On what projects are you currently working?
PK: We don’t just necessarily flip here in Nashville… we’ve got a couple of deals in Chicago going right now, with specifically some really big projects out there right now. A nine thousand square foot house, for instance, where we have to do the roof, the painting, hardwood floors, kitchens, things like that. Uh, we have a couple houses here locally in the Nashville- Davidson County area, and those are just regular, ranch style three bedroom, two bath in nice neighborhoods, you know?
And you don’t always have to buy in the highest end neighborhoods… [but] the way you make the right return is in the buy. It’s how you buy the house. People think it’s when you sell the house, but really in all truth it’s how you buy the house. When you buy it correctly, and you leave room for that budget so that you can fix all the imperfections and all the problems with the house, and then thereafter turn it into a profit, you have to buy correctly.
What happens in this business is that people don’t buy correctly… and people don’t always hit home runs… but in the 292 deals that I’ve done in the last eight years, I would probably say [it’s] less than three percent where we’ve broken even or lost money.
For further information about Paul Kazanofski, Revision Homes, and the “always under-promise and over-deliver” philosophy of the business, be sure to visit the Revision Homes website. GREEN will be revisiting its chat with Paul to learn more about the art of “house flipping.”