February 23, 2017
By: Jay Bobbin
Many shows about house flipping make the process look relatively painless, despite the potential setbacks in renovating or building a home.
And then, there’s “The Deed.”
CNBC’s entry in the category premieres Wednesday, March 1, and it’s determined not to shy away from the rough spots. The program finds property investors on the edge of losing it all – including their wits – upon hitting the wall, figuratively and literally, with their projects’ seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Enter Sidney Torres and Sean Conlon, multimillionaires and real-estate moguls who are willing to save the day with their finances and expertise, seeking a piece of the given property and a percentage of the profits in return.
Venture capitalist Torres is based in New Orleans, as are his episodes of “The Deed” (which will be shown first, running through March 22), and he describes his encounter with a city planner who caught the flipping “bug” post-Hurricane Katrina. After some early successes, she asked her elderly parents to sign a million-dollar loan that would let her convert an old village into historic homes – but she made no sales, then asked her parents to co-sign an additional $1.5 million loan.
“When I finally met with her at her office,” Torres recalls, “she broke down in tears … and rightfully so, because she put her parents and her husband and everyone that was involved in a lot of debt. And she was six months, seven months (into) not selling anything. There was no activity. The bank was calling the loan. I know how that feels. I’ve been in that position. And when we were shooting the show, (the crew) said, ‘She’s never going to break down.’ Not that we’re looking for somebody to break down, but we felt like she was very much like a robot.
“But she ended up breaking down, because she had nowhere else to go,” adds Torres, who reportedly has mulled a run for mayor of New Orleans (and who inspired the current Fox series “APB”). “And that moment, when she opened up and started to break down, I almost broke down because I could feel her pain. And I think that’s what this show really shows: that it’s real issues that you deal with when you’re developing real estate. It’s not as easy as everybody thinks it is.”
Ireland native Conlon, who operates out of Chicago (and whose episodes begin March 29), agrees. “A home is a very personal thing in addition to flipping,” he reflects. “I did walk up to America with $500. I know that sounds like the cliched story, but that is my story – and real estate, ultimately, was the way I was allowed to be something. Sometimes you see crocodile tears, but I actually, genuinely understand when people get to that point and they’re so traumatized. She genuinely was scared, and it actually is fine. I wish I had somebody to help me in some of the times that were very dark in my life in the business. I think we also happened to save her.
“You learn by experience,” Conlon reasons. “She probably needed to learn that lesson because she was wearing a pound of gold, so she obviously wasn’t as worried about her jewelry as she was about her well-being. I suspect there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from the show, too, and we do touch on all those things. Ultimately, real estate is about people. It really is, and you get all the emotions. It is crazy, but ultimately, it is about real estate and what it takes to make it in the business.”
Conlon concludes that what sets “The Deed” apart from similarly-themed programs is that “you may watch this show unvarnished, with warts and all. All of (the others) are educational, there’s no question, and you will learn something. They’re also aspirational. And (from watching ‘The Deed’), before you flip, you may stop to think. You actually could watch this show and know that there’s a whole other component that you have to pay attention to … I’d watch it if I wasn’t on it.”