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HGTV star Tarek El Moussa talks about his new show — and girlfriend

HGTV star Tarek El Moussa, left, speaks with homeowners looking to flip a South L.A. house.
HGTV star Tarek El Moussa, left, speaks with homeowners looking to flip a South L.A. house.
(Erik Voake / HGTV)

Real estate’s reality-renovation power couple — “Flip or Flop” exes Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead — yet persevere. The demolition that was their tabloid-splashed 2018 divorce is now well-settled dust; they’ll air the ninth season of their wildly popular HGTV show in August, marking their third as uncoupled hosts.

Besides “Flip or Flop,” Anstead has moved on: a new husband, baby and a solo show, “Christina on the Coast.” El Moussa seemed moored to his million-dollar yacht, but enter new girlfriend Heather Rae Young, an agent with the Oppenheim Group and a regular on Netflix’s docu-soap “Selling Sunset.”

Young moved into El Moussa’s $2.28-million Costa Mesa home last year — and appears on an episode in his new solo show, HGTV’s “Flipping 101 w/Tarek El Moussa,” which premiered Thursday.

El Moussa mentors SoCal rehab rookies during the 14-episode series as they juggle fears and test the limits of maxed-out finances. Flipping houses is all about calibrating that dicey risk-reward ratio, one that El Moussa knows in spades. He’s finessed hundreds of O.C. home transformations.

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We reached El Moussa on the road to Los Angeles International Airport — catching a flight to Honolulu to speak at one of his “Homemade Investor” workshops (he also surprised Young with a Valentine’s Day outing at Oahu’s Kualoa Ranch).

We’d usually start with a business question, but the internet’s ablaze with the warp speed trajectory of your romance with Heather — replete with shots together on your yacht.

Heather’s the queen of Bad Decisions.

Tarek El Moussa inspects a property with flipper newbies on his new HGTV show, “Flipping 101 w/Tarek El Moussa.”
Tarek El Moussa inspects a property with flipper newbies on his new HGTV show, “Flipping 101 w/Tarek El Moussa.”
(HGTV)

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We should probably tell readers (and tabloids) that Bad Decisions is the name of your boat.

(Laughs) We don’t know if I’m a bad decision yet; we’ll find out. Don’t do a headline — She’s the queen of Bad Decisions!

In what ways is Heather influencing your approach to real estate?

I’ve been getting a lot of influence from her, bringing more of a West Hollywood or Los Angeles vibe to some of the houses I’m doing, instead of doing the standard Orange County remodel. [The couple also rent a condo in a West Hollywood high-rise.]

Does this signal more swank in the type of homes you cover?

One thing that’s definitely next on the list for me is developing, remodeling and flipping high-end spec homes. So instead of people seeing me buy a $500,000 house, I’d love to see them watch me build a $5-million or $10-million house. You know, just some really cool, unique, crazy houses.

Describe the range of flips covered on your show.

They’re spread throughout Southern California — across Orange County, L.A. County and even San Bernardino County. One of the really cool neighborhoods is Brentwood. It’s a multimillion-dollar house and we have another in Simi Valley and a really cool full-frontal ocean-view property in Pacific Palisades. On the low end, $500,000, and on the high end, in the low $3 millions.

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That high-end market is a hefty risk for newbie flippers.

Oh my gosh, I’m not kidding, when I meet some of these rookie flippers buying these high-end homes, I want to run — it’s really scary. I have a lot of empathy for them because I’ve been in their shoes. Some of them, I didn’t think there was any way possible they were going to pull it off.

We’re envisioning a kind of deer-in-the-headlights approach to financing such flips.

One couple financed the purchase price, they financed the closing costs, they financed the down payment and they financed the construction. So they went into the property with like, negative 25% down. It’s crazy! And they paid a huge premium to the lender to get everything financed. They didn’t come $1 out of pocket, but their monthly mortgage payment was extremely high.

Flipping houses is said to be neighborhood-specific, in terms of spotting areas with rising values that have older home stock. True or false?

So many people think you have to buy into a certain neighborhood and it’s actually false. The neighborhood doesn’t have to be popular; it doesn’t even have to be up and coming. Houses still sell in every single neighborhood. So you just have to make sure you buy it for the right price — if things go wrong, you’re still going to end up pretty OK.


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