Bravo star Jeff Lewis: Do your real estate research and you could make a mint

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Jeff Lewis from Bravo's 'Flipping Out' will be at the Philadelphia Home and Garden Show Feb. 19

Jeff Lewis, the star of Bravo's long-running Flipping Out, put house flipping into the public consciousness. On his oh-so-watchable reality show, Lewis and his lovable crew buy houses on the cheap and refurbish them to sell to hungry home buyers. 

Lewis says he's excited about our local real estate market. "It's amazing what you can buy in Philadelphia," Lewis said, while driving to a renovation in  Los Angeles.

On Sunday, he'll be at the Philly Home and Garden Show where he'll talk about his more than two decades in the house-flipping and home-design business.

Traveling to these expos seems to be a regular part of your job.

I enjoy the travel, and seeing other parts of the country that I would never go otherwise. Plus, we make it mini-vacays. As much as I love my job, I also like to get away for the weekend.

And now you have a baby [newborn Monroe], so it's even harder to get away from it all.

I've always had obligations, whether it's my projects, my pets. I was never footloose and fancy free. It's another responsibility, granted this one has so much joy in it. But I've never been the guy who is laid back like that.

That type-A attitude probably helps your business.

There's a lot of really creative smart people out there, but they don't have great organization and business skills. They might be more talented than me, but I'm organized. I do so much due diligence. I know why we're paying what we're paying and what the neighborhood is like. I don't just go into a property and make it pretty, I think how I can add value. Every time I put a dollar in, I get two dollars back.

You take on what you can handle. The worse condition the house is in, the less people will be interested in buying it. Some houses are in such bad shape, they just market it to developers, but the bigger the project the better the deal.

What can people expect when they see you?

We do a moderated Q&A for 30 to 40 minutes and then we throw questions to the audience. They ask everything from design to real estate to showing me pictures for advice. I pretty much answer everything. I've learned a lot in the last 28 years that I've been doing this, and I've made a lot of mistakes but I tried to learn from them. 

Have you come across any true disasters in these Q&As? Where you have to tell your fans that their project isn't salvageable? 

If they've already done their kitchen, I can't change that now. I can't make them feel bad. I'll find something positive to say. But if you're going to do a remodel and I can stop you, I'll absolutely tell you. Don't put limestone on a kitchen countertop. But if you just put in limestone, I'm not going to make fun of you for it! I look at real estate all day, every day. There's a lot of people that do this, and I think they could make so much more money if they hadn't made certain decisions. If I'm building a house that appeals to a large audience, that will push the price up. But if you're waiting months and month for the right buyer, you're going to have to reduce the price and not get what you wanted. Just do the research and see what's selling in your neighborhood. If everyone is doing light wood or bleached oak wood floors, then do that, you're not living there.

How do you view the real estate outlook in the next four years, considering our president is a former developer?

What I will tell you, with the presidential election, that's a scary time because people don't know what will happen, people are less willing to spend during these times, but people still need to sell. If I were the sellers, I would have made sure to put their house in escrow by summertime, but they waited too long and I got a good deal. I closed in October. By January, I had an offer for $275,000 more than I paid for it and I'm still going to do the remodel and sell it for more. I don't want to give this deal away. My dad always said, "There's still meat on the bone." Even though it would be a nice quick turnaround, I think I can turn that $275,000 into a million if I do the work.


Jeff Lewis at the Philly Home and Garden Show, Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, 100 Station Ave, Oaks, Pa., 1 p.m. Sunday, $8 (online); $10 (at the door), 484-754-3985, www.phillyhomeandgarden.com

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