By Stephanie B. Mojica
The hit reality show “Flip or Flop” has not only changed Tarek El Moussa’s life, it literally saved it. “2013 was a life-changing year,” El Moussa said.
He and his wife Christina are prolific real estate “flippers” and host a related reality show on HGTV. One of his viewers — a registered nurse — noticed a lump on El Moussa’s neck, which turned out to be thyroid cancer. Fortunately, it did not spread beyond his neck and he considers himself to be well on the road to recovery.
“The worst part was the radioactive iodine treatment where I was confined away from my family,” El Moussa said. “Today I feel better, my energy is lower, but I won’t let that slow me down. I will keep chasing my dreams.”
At age 32, El Moussa never expected to host a popular television show and battle cancer. It’s a drastically different lifestyle from seven years ago when their brokerage business dried up as a result of the market shakeup, forcing them to reinvent themselves. In 2010, they took a huge gamble and started flipping homes. “We went from selling to flipping,” he recalled. At first, the couple was forced to significantly downscale their lifestyle, trading in a $6,000 a month mortgage for a $700 a month apartment. “Being on TV is the last thing we ever imagined doing in our lives,” he said. “I always tried new ways to grow our business and one night I said, ‘Honey, I am going to get us a TV show,’ kind of as a joke. She laughed and told me to go to bed. I looked online and randomly found a casting and here we are three and a half years later. It was the biggest long shot in history and somehow it worked out.”
Those brief but still vivid days of scrimping and saving are over, as the El Moussa family has moved into a luxurious Orange County home due to their business of flipping houses along with their television show.
The best thing that has come from this experience is our family creating something that years from now we can go back and watch. It is so exciting to watch our baby girl on TV and see how much she grows and changes throughout the season. Basically, it is watching our family and business grow and develop, and we are able to go back and watch the progression. It is also amazing to spend so much time with my wonderful wife.’
El Moussa wants newcomers to the art of flipping houses to understand what exactly they are getting into before they start purchasing properties in hopes of making a hefty profit.
“It is not as easy as it looks. Learn and study a lot of real estate before jumping in,” he said. “You make your money when you buy, not when you sell.”
The biggest piece of advice El Moussa offers to people at all levels of real estate investment is to never give up. “The truth is everyone will fail and fail and fail until it happens and you get that win,” he said. “Once you get that one win, you can do it over and over again.”
With or without the television cameras rolling, flipping houses is sort of like a legal “high” for El Moussa. “I enjoy the chase of the properties, the rush you get when you find them, the design and transformation, and the profit at the end,” he said. “There are many stressful steps in between with a lot of gambling but this is the best way I can simplify it. I study real estate and pricing all day every day and in order to become successful at flipping you must commit to learning every aspect of the business and understand failure is the path to success.”
There’s a saying that behind every successful man there’s a strong woman, and that definitely applies to El Moussa’s life. “We are pretty much together 24/7,” Christina El Moussa said. “We have been together for over 7 years and we are still best friends. He keeps me on my toes and there is never a dull moment with him. It is fun and rewarding to start a business and a TV show together and watch it grow. We both have a lot at stake and we provide a strong support system for each other. Plus, we both know our own strengths and weaknesses and they play well together.”