Can Wisconsin transplants strike midcentury-modern gold in the Coachella Valley?
That's the premise that backs HGTV's "Desert Flippers," hosted by Eric and Lindsey Bennett. The duo flip about 20 desert homes a year with help from Lindsey's brother, Mike Schneider.
The Bennetts, both 38, moved from Madison to Palm Springs 12 years ago. They now live in Rancho Mirage with their three sons.
The show blends surprises (from scorpions to squatters), budget busters (faulty AC systems are legion), DIY moxie, Eric's sportive quips and the always-gratifying sledgehammer shot. Each episode's cliffhanger: that ever-shifting profit margin, calculated by finance brainiac and loan officer Eric.
We caught up with the Bennetts as they escaped triple-digit desert heat during a family vacation in Wisconsin.
What's the difference between flipping homes in Wisconsin versus Palm Springs?
Lindsey: The market out here is like Wall Street: In one year, Palm Springs can appreciate 33%, and it can also fall fast. Prices are getting high right now; it's getting riskier for us. We have a lot of money on the line. In Madison, the market is even-keeled; it goes up about 2% a year. And it's freezing there.
You've been known to flip some blight.
Eric: We look at some of these price points and we say no, no, no. We want the deals that make sense, so we're buying worse and worse property that others don't want to mess with. They have potential, but they're just bad — scary as heck.
Lindsey: We've bought some doozies. One house was rumored to be a meth house. A man actually dug a hole in the living room that he called his panic room.
Juggling finances during flips, raising three kids, hosting a show — is there a control freak in this relationship?
Lindsey: I am a bit of a control freak. I take a lot of responsibility for everything and also our children, so, yeah, I don't always get to be the funny one.
You also key to design. What's your go-to shop in Palm Springs?
Lindsey: From the very beginning I've shopped at Revival. I love where I can find a treasure for next to nothing. Midcentury is such a niche market here — when we started, it was intimidating. Everyone's an expert, and I'm not one of those people. I learn from everyone.
Some renovation shows are criticized for having a "scripted vibe." We didn't smell that with this show — why?
Lindsey: I think because we're from the Midwest. I don't like things to be fake; we're not actors. From the very beginning when they would tell us to do something again, we would be like, "yeah, no." Just being raw, genuine and natural is way more entertaining.
What's the most common argument you have when flipping homes?
Lindsey: Carpet and paint — all it needs is carpet and paint! That's what he thinks a flip is, I think because in the beginning, that's all we were doing. It's been a point of contention.
Eric: I'm not sure it's still a point of contention. We've learned that even though my initial scope is too small, Lindsey helps that blossom into an appropriate-size renovation — with really nice returns.
How often do you exceed your renovation budget?
Eric: 110% of the time.
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