869: ‘Flip or Flop’ Star Tarek El Moussa Bet on Himself and Won Big – You Can Too!

January 3, 2020

Flip or Flop star Tarek El Moussa bet on himself time and again while coming up in the real estate game; it always paid off. On today’s podcast, Tarek shares why going all in helped him achieve massive success and why this seemingly risky strategy is one that more real estate professionals should consider. Tarek also summarizes his history in real estate sales and covers how he landed a starring role on one of HGTV’s most popular shows. Plus, Tarek offers advice on getting started with flips, outlines the steps agents must take to boost sales, and more.

Tarek El Moussa3

Listen to today’s show and learn:

  • The easiest way to transition into real estate investing [3:56]
  • How Tarek got into real estate [4:29]
  • Why motivation isn’t enough to succeed in real estate [6:44]
  • How coaching changed Tarek’s career for the better [11:37]
  • The decision that took Tarek to $40k in commissions per month [13:55]
  • Advice on getting in front of more people [19:38]
  • How Tarek landed a starring role in HGTV’s Flip or Flop [21:46]
  • Advice for those who want to start flipping homes [35:38]
  • How Tarek stays motivated and balanced [39:01]
  • How a viewer helped Tarek beat stage-3 thyroid cancer [42:39]
  • How market changes have affected Tarek’s flipping model [45:48]
  • Tarek’s best and worst moments on Flip or Flop [50:33]
  • Tarek’s new show: Flipping 101 [53:23]
  • Defining moments in Tarek’s life [55:09]
  • Tarek’s new shows and courses set to launch in 2020 [56:18]
  • How to break through your goals.
  • Plus so much more.

Tarek El Moussa

Tarek el Moussa earned his real estate license at 21 & quickly developed an exceptionally successful business in coastal Orange County. Purchasing, renovating & selling homes for over 15 years – his venture earned him international recognition as the host of the prestigious show ‘Flip or Flop.’

Today, he offers his unsurpassed acumen to Nest Seekers International’s most discerning clientele in Orange County and Los Angeles ultra exclusive luxury markets. His innate ability to find true potential in every home, with an eye for quality & craftsmanship, & staying continuously ahead of the curb places him second-to-none.

Result-oriented, complete commitment to client needs, Tarek leverages the experience of selling more than 500 homes, digital & print marketing & unsurpassed negotiation capabilities – for every client.

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Read the Full Interview

Ian: All right rockstar nation, on today’s show we’re going to be talking celebrity. That’s right. We’ve got Tarek el Moussa from Flip or Flop on the show today. You guys love them and you are going to love this interview. It is intense. It’s high-energy, and it is packed with information not only about Tarek and his life and the show, but also about how Tarek got started the way, he motivates himself, the way he drives himself, his bouts with cancer, how he got the show started, how he got his businesses rolling, how he failed multiple times and just kept pushing, and all the challenges that he’s had to overcome in his life.

He’s going to talk to us about the secrets to starting his business, what you can do. Everything’s applicable here. He’s going to talk to us about balancing family and businesses and he’s literally working on 18 different things right now. What he enjoys most about flipping, what he hates about flipping, regrets, the things that he would do a little differently. The advice that he has on somebody who’s new in the business, whether it’s sales or the flipping business. What the future holds for real estate investing, how flipping has changed, literally his favorite show moments, and anything else you can think about. We’re going to go into it.

It’s a long interview so stick with it. He is non-stop info and action and energy from the beginning to the end. You’re going to love it. Let’s talk to Tarek. All right rockstar nation, I have one of your favorite HGTV celebs and personalities on here. Tarek el Moussa, welcome to Real Estate Rockstars. We’re so excited to get into it with you, we’re jumping right in.

Tarek: I’m ready buddy. How you doing today?

Ian: I’m doing great man. How are you doing?

Tarek: I’m doing good man. How could I not be doing good? I’m in the best business in the world. The business of real estate.

Ian: [laughs] That’s true man. Well let’s get into it. Just as a foundational item here, we’re going to have agents listening from every walk of life in every stage of the game. You got agents that are just getting into it and you’ve got agents that are crushing it, thousand deals a year. Every one of them knows about flipping and investing in some capacity, and in some way they know about you. We’re going to plug that together today and have you talk about your expertise in your real estate sales business, which you were in for quite a long time and then getting into flipping and being successful in it.

Tarek: Sounds good to me man. The foundation of everything I have today came from real estate sales man. Ground and pound, hitting the streets, just hard work and for real estate agents, that want to get into flipping man, it’s like shit. You are halfway there. You have the foundation. You have the knowledge of real estate. You are so close. I think the easiest transition for someone to become an investor is a real estate agent.

Ian: Totally. You got started at like 21, right? Tell me how you got into the business. Is it just by luck or did you actually plan [crosstalk]?

Tarek: No, it was absolutely by luck but at the end of the day the entrepreneurial spirit shines everywhere we go. I was 20 years old man, I was just out of high school and at the time I was living in Cerritos, California and I was selling kitchen knives. Cutco, you probably heard of them, everybody has. You know what dude? I was making real money. I was making you know enough money to get by and I was going to school. What happened was back then I had my sales book with all my leads. I was kind of an unorganized guy and I lost my entire sales book.

I was 20 years old, I had built a sales book of people to sell to and I lost the book and I found myself unemployed with no money, without a job, overnight. Bam, like that. A few weeks went by, I didn’t know what to do and my bank account was going low. I’m standing at a Washington Mutual Bank in Cerritos, California actually, and I remember looking at my ATM, my bank account and seeing I was broke. I had nothing and I was stressed, I was miserable. It was like a sign from a higher power man. I swear, I looked up to the right side, and I see a crooked sign and it says, Wise Old Owl Real Estate School.

I swear man, it was a moment in my life I’ll never forget. I looked at the sign, I looked at the ATM. I looked at the sign, I looked at the ATM. You know what I thought man? I was like if I can sell these knives, I can sell houses. I took the rest of my money out of my bank account, walked across the road, signed up for real estate. That’s how I got my real estate license.

Ian: Dude, that is awesome. That is really awesome.

Tarek: It was cool. It was totally random dude. I knew nothing about real estate, I thought back then it was completely different than anything else. It was something I had never thought of. It just hit me in that moment, if I can sell something, I can sell anything. I figured houses were bigger than knives, I could probably make more money. So here we are.

Ian: When was that, 2002?

Tarek: That was in 2002.

Ian: We’re the same age, so man wow. What were the early years like? You got in obviously, you’re a guy who goes after stuff he likes and wants. You go after it and crush it. What were the early years like?

Tarek: My entire life, man I was always led to believe that I could be the best at anything I did, and I got that from my dad. I also got that I could be the best if I was willing to outwork my competition, if I was willing to work harder than anyone else in the space. I was always taught that I can be great if I was willing to outwork everyone else. I always took that mentality with everything I did and my first six months in real estate, I was motivated, I was hungry, I was excited and I was broke man. I didn’t get one deal.

Ian: What?

Tarek: I was like all this bull shit. My dad’s been preaching me my whole life. It doesn’t work. I’m grinding. I’m working and you know what? It turns out man you can be the most motivated person in the world but if you’re not working on the right things, you’re never going to get anywhere. For me back then it was sitting on up desks, waiting for the phone to ring buy newspaper ads. I’d sit there for hours every day, and it was just freaking miserable. I’m going to give you like the full, full story. You want the full story? You have a little time today?

Ian: Absolutely. We got as much time as you want to give us.

Tarek: All right so the full story. I was 20 years old, totally broke and I was sitting at the up desk one day, and I finally broke man. I was like screw this. I’m done. I’m going back to school. I’m going to get a degree. I’m going to make my parents happy. Real estate’s not meant for me. Blah, blah, blah. True story. At the time, the secretary her name was Carol. Short, black, curly hair. I looked over to Carol, we spent a lot of time together because I sat right next to her, waiting for that stupid phone to ring. I told Carol, I was like here’s the deal. I’m done. Real estate’s not for me. I went home. I was 28 years old.

About 20 minutes later after getting home, I get a call from Carol. She goes, “Well these people just walked in, and they want to go look at a house and put an offer on it.” I was like, “I just quit the business like a half-hour ago. What are you doing to me?” I was like, I’m going to give it one more shot. One more shot. I actually quit real estate. People don’t know that. I quit real estate for half an hour but I quit. Long story short, I meet with these people Dan and Tina, out of your Yorba Linda, California, and that night I listed their house for I think was 430,000 and I put together an offer on a house they wanted to buy that was listed at $750000.

Ian: Nice.

Tarek: Back then, it was 2003, there were like 20 offers in every house. I was like how do I get this deal done? I am broke. It was a big commission man. That was real money. I had never made real money before.

Ian: That was big money.

Tarek: The next day, I’m standing at the fax machine with my contracts that I’m about to put it in the stupid fax machine, and I was like you know what, screw this man. I’m going to the brokers office. I was like, I’m just going. I just didn’t care. I ended up driving to this office called Re/Max Excellence in Brea California, and I go to the front door, I get to the secretary. I’m like,” Hey I’m here to see John Batson.” She looked at me like I’m crazy. She’s like, ‘Do you have an appointment?” I was like, “No.” She’s like, “Well, he’s the owner of the company.” I’m like, “Oh, he’s the owner of the company?” I’m like, “No way.” I was like, ” You just got to give me two minutes. I have an offer for him. I promise, just ask him to see me. I beg you.” I was a 21-year-old kid. I was like, “Just let me in, please.” He decides to see me. It turns out he wasn’t only the owner of the real estate company, he wasn’t only the listing agent, he was also the owner of the house.

Ian: Oh, wow, man. You lucked out.

Tarek: Yes. Well, so, I sit down, I give him my pitch, how amazing my buyers, how amazing I am, and I can tell, he’s like, “Whatever.” At the end of it, he goes, “I’ll make a deal with you.” I was like, “What’s the deal?” “You quit working for Coldwell Banker right now and you start working for me, and you got a deal.” Half a second later, I said, “You have a deal.” I shook his hand, signed the paperwork, went back to my office, packed it up, and I was done and I was at a new company.

Ian: I love it.

Tarek: It gets really good. At that night, I put that deal together, and the commission was $30,000. It was a big commission. For me, it was life-changing money. I got that $30,000 commission and I was like, “I’m rich, man. I made it. I got all this money.” What happened was I didn’t get these random calls every single day, right? I found myself again struggling, and I was doing exactly what I was doing, the same thing, and getting no deals, and that commission that I had went down. At the time, there were these agents in my office. They were talking about how stupid real estate agents work for paying coaches to coach them and teach them how to sell more houses. For me, I was a young kid, I was like, “Wait a minute. I can pay somebody that can tell me what to do so I can make money.”

I was like, “Okay.” I was the idiot that signed up for coaching. I remember my coach– Here’s what happened, man. I was totally broke, and at that point, I had broken up with the girl I was living with. I was living at my mom’s house in her garage, dude. Her actual garage where I parked my car, where my dirt bike was, my jet ski was. There were spiders and cockroaches. I got infested with mice one time. A bunch of mice ran over the garage because she had gone through divorce my dad and rented out my bedroom, and I couldn’t afford rent. I was living in this garage, man, so I was motivated. I was motivated.

Ian: Damn, dude.

Tarek: What happened was I just had blind faith. I remember my coach told me this, he said, “Don’t worry about getting listings. Don’t worry about getting deals. Don’t worry about anything.” He said, “You have one job. If you do this job, the rest will come together.” He said, “Your job is to talk to people.” He’s like, “I don’t care if you get an appointment. I don’t care if you make money. Your job is to talk to people.” I set a goal in a 90-day period to bust my ass six days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day. I told myself, “If I can make it, I’m sticking with real estate. If not, I’m going back to school.” I was still going to school at the time.

My first-week pounding expired listings. When I say pounding, I was on the phone at least six hours a day, and on the streets three to four hours a day every single day. I’d start my calling in the morning 7:45 AM to 11:00, and at night from 5:00 to 8:30 every single day.

Ian: Wow.

Tarek: The first week, I picked up an expired listing for 1.6 million. I think it was my third-day making calls. [crosstalk]

Ian: It’ll keep you motivated.

Tarek: The first week, and I worked all day. I was going to [unintelligible 00:13:54] at the time, and I was sitting in this stadium classroom from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM at night. I remembered the teacher was teaching us about rocks and science and Canada, and I remember thinking like, “I do not care about rocks in Canada, I want to make money. I want to buy a Bentley. I don’t care about Canadian rocks. Give me a car, damn it.” Oh, I lost you. That night in that classroom, I remember I was sitting there and I started getting a little anxiety. I was like, “I need to make a decision right now. I can’t wait 90 days.”

The decision was, do I continue on the path I’m on of real estate and school or do I just quit school right now and give real estate 100,000%? I just sat there and sat there and sat there. I remember everyone talking, and the teacher talking, and the noises were drowning out. It was a weird moment in my life, and that was it. I looked at the girl next to me and I was like, “I’m out of here. It’s all yours.” I knew the girl. She said, “What do you mean?” Man, I talked about going all-in. I was committing to real estate. I left my backpack. I left my books. I left my calculator. I left every single thing that I had for school. The reason I left it was because there was no going back. It’s like you’re all in.

Ian: Burn the boats, man.

Tarek: Yes. You have to commit 1,000,000% to what you want to do, or you’re just not going to do it, so I left everything. Here’s what happened, man, 90 days later, from making that first expired listing call, I moved out of my mom’s garage, and I bought my first home for $1 million. I paid $800,000 at 21 years old. I made, in commissions, $120,000 in 90 days around my 21st birthday. My life changed really fast, man.

Ian: Hell, yeah.

Tarek: I went from no money to making $30,000, $40,000 a month overnight. People say, “How did you do it?” Here’s the thing, if you guys are listening, let me explain expired listings here. There’s no trick to an expired listing. You’re never going to convince someone to sell that doesn’t want to sell. Here’s the trick to expired listings. You need to call that expired listing. I would call each expired listing probably 50 to 70 times.

Ian: Wow.

Tarek: 50 to– I would stalk them until they answered the phone.

Ian: What time period?

Tarek: Here’s the truth about it, many times, people don’t know this because they don’t go after it, you’ll say, “Hi, my name is so and so.” They’ll say, “We’re actually interviewing agents.” I would land appointments like that, and I would also land appointments like closing people. Again, it is because of the high volume of contacts and the amount of effort I put in. That’s how I got my start in real estate.

Ian: Dude, that’s inspiring. I didn’t know that story. I know a lot about you from the TV shows, but I didn’t know that story. That’s freaking awesome. Bottom line, agents that are listening, it’s coming up. Right now, it’s the end of 2019, we’re coming up on 2020. This will probably be launched in 2020. What we’re talking about, regardless of when you hear this, is burn the boats. You got to go for it. If you’ve decided that this is your game, you got to go for it. Everything.

Tarek: You got to go from broke, man. I was telling you earlier, dude. I pitched a house flipping TV show before I ever flipped a house.

Ian: I love it. We’re going to get into that next.

Tarek: All-in, man. That’s it, just going all-in. With the real estate world, the problem is, if I told a real estate agent, if you talk to 50 people a day for the next month, I’ll give you $20,000,” they’d probably do it. The truth is, if they actually did it, they’d probably make $20,000.

Ian: Or more.

Tarek: The problem is they get defeated. They get discouraged. They think it doesn’t work. Guess what? It does work.

Ian: Yes.

Tarek: The problem is, they’ll talk to 5 people, 10 people, 20 people. That’s not enough. When I say something, anyone out there that’s watching this, if you want to go get an expired listing, I want you to talk to 1,000 expired listings. If you don’t have one deal after talking to 1,000 expired listings, just quit the business. Or I’ll quit the business, actually.

Ian: Right, right. [chuckles]

Tarek: It’s all it is. It’s a mathematical equation.

Ian: It’s a numbers game.

Tarek: That’s all it is. People overthink it, man. It’s nothing more than a numbers game. You talk to more people, the higher the odds of finding someone that wants to do business.

Ian: What about somebody that says, “I’m not Tarek. I don’t have that personality. I don’t have that type of go-getter attitude. What do I do? I’m just good at numbers and I’m good at being in the office, but being with people, I’m not that great at it.” What do you say to somebody like that?

Tarek: I wasn’t great at TV when I started. I wasn’t great at flipping houses when I started. I wasn’t great at baseball when I was a kid when I started. You’re never great at anything when you start. It takes hard work and it takes practice. I’m the guy that believes anything is possible. I believe anyone can accomplish anything if they really want it.

Ian: I’m giving you the self-imposed limitations because I’ve been in the business for a while as well- most agents give themselves, which is, “I’m not you, I’m not that guy, I can’t do it like that. I’ve got a family, I’ve got this, I’ve got money constraints.” They’ve got all these challenges which you just literally knocked them all down.

Tarek: No, I’m sorry, but that means they don’t want it. That’s it.

Ian: True. Yes, I know. [crosstalk]

Tarek: Listen, if I’m going to bitch and complain about being out of shape, I had a double bacon cheeseburger for lunch, guess what, I should shut up. I’m just saying. You’ve got to be realistic with yourself. [crosstalk] I look at people in fitness, I know how difficult it is to get in super shape. These people with the six-packs and all that crap. Listen, that is dedication, that is hard work. I don’t know, man, people something they want, they really want it. There’s so many excuses of why they can’t do it is because they don’t want to do it.

Ian: Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about another aspect that you literally went into blind with just faith in yourself and burn the boats. People don’t know this, and it’s funny. I told you I was talking to my mother-in-law about it, we’re going to get into that story later. Everybody thinks that I talk to you about you, asking these questions like, “Do you know the guy’s story?” They think that you were a huge international flipper and HDTV picked you up. Tell us what really happened. Everybody’s going to be shocked at this.

Tarek: I will tell you how I got the show real quick here. You’ll like the story. It was 2010, I was at a real estate sales convention in Las Vegas. It’s Vegas, man, I was out drinking, I was in my 20s and I was hungover. It was a Mike Ferry convention, there was 5,000 people in this big convention and I’d sit in the back. Dude, I was nobody, I was hungover, I was hurting.

My friend was a VP of Credential at the time. Two of the managers that were sitting in the front row had to leave. My buddy texts me, he’s like, “Hey, I’ve got two seats in the very front row of this event.” I was like, “The front row?” For me, I was intimidated. These were the ballers, those were the big dogs, the seven-figure, I was like, “You know what? Let’s do it.” Me and my ex-wife at the time, we go sit in the very front row. During the presentation, man, I just start sweating and I can feel myself getting dizzy. I was hurting. This guy runs across the stage and he runs over and he gives me water in front of the whole thing. He noticed that I wasn’t doing very well.

At the break, all these guys and girls that were sitting in the front row of this convention, the ones that go on stage and talk about their production, the ones that we dream of being, they all came up to me and my ex-wife. They were like, “Who are you? What are you doing up here? Tell us about you. Why don’t we know you?” We were dressed up sharp and we looked the part, we just didn’t have any money. Yet.

I was talking to him and it turned out he had a local TV show in Palm Springs, California. He was like, “Yes, I go to the grocery store, I go in the frozen food section and I’m hiding from people.” He’s like, “I get business from it.” I was like, “Man, that’s so cool.” The next day, we get home from Vegas, sitting on the couch about 10 o’clock at night and it hit me. “That guy said he makes money on TV. We need to get on TV. How can I get us on TV? What do we need to do?”

Then I had just bought my first flip a few days before, I hadn’t started yet. I’m like, “What if we flip houses on TV?” That exact moment, I start googling L.A production companies. The first one that came up, Pie Town Productions. I sent the pictures, the bio, and all that. They responded in the morning. “Hey, so exciting, you guys are great. I like your story. Do a home video.” We shot a home video and we sent it over to the production company. They loved it, dude. They loved it.

I’ll never forget, we had a real meeting with a real Hollywood production company. We were driving our little Honda Pilot at the time, it was in Hollywood. We get to this crazy production company parking lot. I’ll never forget that a piece of tape with two cones and a piece of paper with our names in the front flapping. I remember I was like, “Man, wow. Our name is on a piece of paper in the parking lot.” That was a big moment.

We ended up shooting a sizzle with that company, which was two-day professional shooting and they make a five-minute video. It’s a teaser video that they send to all the networks. What happened was they sent it to all the networks, nobody wanted it and I was like, “Shit, we didn’t make it, man.” Ten months away, I’m on the golf course in California and I get a call from the production company. I hadn’t talked to them in a while. They were like, “Hey, you’re not going to believe this but HDTV called, they want a pilot for a house-flipping show with you guys.” That was the start of it, man. I was super excited, I’m like, “Hell, yes, I’m going to do a pilot, we’re going to flip houses.”

We shot the pilot in summer of ’11. After the pilot was shot, they said, “It’ll probably be a year, maybe two before you got to series.” There’s a lot of stuff going on with TV. TV is slow. It is a slow world. Weeks after they got the pilot, we get a contract to do 13 episodes on HDTV in 10 months. [crosstalk] It gets even better.

Ian: You hadn’t flipped the house yet though, right?

Tarek: I had done three, in a year. This was a year later but I’d only done three. For a year, I only did three and now they want 13 in 10 months. I was like, “Well, I don’t have money, two, I don’t know how to find houses, three, I don’t have the construction contacts, four, I don’t know how to manage these projects.” What did I do? I looked at my ex-wife and I said, “Well, what’s the worst that could happen?” She goes, “Well, they could sue us.” I looked around, I said, “Do they take the credit card debt too?” She said, “Probably.” I said, “They could have it all.”

I signed the contract, man. I went from broke, again, I burned those goddamn boats, man. [crosstalk] I signed that contract and I told myself, “Anything is possible. I will make it happen.” It was a very very long sleepless year but guess what happened? I pulled it off. People don’t realize my– I looked back at my life, man, the shit I did was crazy. People don’t understand. To get those 13 houses in that first 10 months, man, I had to go buy at the auctions. I couldn’t buy properties that were occupied because the evictions would take too long and I didn’t have the money or the time because I needed to film a show. [crosstalk] I could only buy vacant houses.

Every single night, I would work all day, 8:00 AM until 9:00 PM, still selling, still flipping. Then, I had to find houses. Every night from 10:00 PM till 3:00 to 4:00 AM, I would leave my house and drive on the road overnight to all four surrounding counties looking at the properties that were going to auction the next day. The reason I drove by the properties overnight was to look for cars in the driveway, overgrown lawns, newspapers. What did I do? Every single night, man, I drove four to six hours, scouting properties, going to auction the next day. It was frustrating, talking about wanting to quit. I would do this for weeks at a time to go to the auction and get bid out on every single house. Talking about the most frustrating defeating thing in the world. Guess what? I kept going and I’m glad I did.

Ian: Dude, you’re full of freaking messages. We might have to go four or five hours in this interview. [laughs]

Tarek: Always got to keep going, man. Just never stop. Just never stop, that’s it.

Ian: I just want to point out some really great stuff for our audience and that’s the fact that you got an insatiable drive to win, which is amazing. And the fact that yes, you were in real estate sales. The beginning of the show, your original intro was about your downfall in sales, when the market crashed and this happened and that happened, this is what we had to start doing. Nobody knows this real story. This is really inspiring because this is a story of, “I’m going to get it and I’m going to do anything that I can and anything I have to to get it. I see it, I know it’s possible.”

Talk to me about your process. Was this just mental process, were you writing your vision out? How were you visioning what you were going to do? Did you write out what your steps were and then just take them?

Tarek: I’m such an obsessive guy, man. The way my mind works, I simplify everything I do. You can look at something that’s super complex and I’ll look at it and find the one key component that it takes to make it successful and that’s what I focus on. [crosstalk] For example, house flipping, I wasn’t worried about the contractors, you know what I was worried about? I knew this, if I can find a deal, the rest works out. Even if I get a contractor that’s too expensive, if I’ve got a good deal, it’s going to work out. My focus was always finding the asset. That was always my focus. Once I had the asset, I could figure the rest out later.

For real estate sales, I focused on the most important part, which was making contacts. Contacts turned into listings, listings turned into deals. Without contacts, no listings. Without listings, no deals.

Ian: Yes, completely. It’s interesting. All right, so you’re basically finding the pattern in these things that actually is like the linchpin. Without it, nothing works. Clearly, without an asset, you can have all the money in the world, the best contractor in the world, the best supplies, it doesn’t matter. You have nothing to do with those people. It’s so simple, yet people end up everything, and now I need to find a deal, and you’re like, “Yes, but those people are going to grow tired of you because they have nothing to do with you.”

Tarek: Yes, people, they just overthink, they overthink, they overthink. Stop thinking, start doing. Just go for broke. Go all-in. That’s it.

Ian: Let’s talk to a person listening.

Tarek: When I say go for broke, go all-in, I’m not talking about taking your life savings and blowy. I’m talking about going all-in with your mind, with your body, with your heart. Giving it everything you have.

Ian: Nice. Weekends, spare time. Doing whatever you got to do. I get that. Don’t cost your kids their frickin college funds. Don’t mortgage your house off, but do whatever you got to do within you. Totally get that.

Tarek: Exactly.

Ian: I totally got that.

Ian: There’s so many places I want to go with you, but right now, what does somebody do who’s listening to you and saying, “All right, this dude clearly is an expert. We’re going into the ninth season of Flip or Flop, and we’re going into some other shows we’re going to talk about just a second. I want to get started right now, tomorrow. What’s an action item that somebody can take who’s listening right now from your mouth to them to get rolling for 2020. We’re going. We got a week and a half left. 2020 is the year I start-

Tarek: Get started doing what?

Ian: Get started flipping houses.

Tarek: Oh, get started flipping houses. Obviously, it’s really important to get educated. I’m working on a lot of educational materials right now that I’m going to be launching in 2020, but the foundation is the understanding of real estate and learning real estate and reading books, and getting your real estate license. The most important part of flipping houses that any house flipper needs to master is how to find properties to flip. Once you can create a system that finds the properties, the rest will fall into place.

Ian: Just [crosstalk] properties.

Tarek: Yes.

Ian: Do you recommend people just get into it? Do you recommend people go to these real estate flipping schools and try and get all this book knowledge, or just get your first deal, find a mentor, and roll?

Tarek: Right there is going to create excuse. Most people are going to be like, “I don’t have a mentor.” Bam. They’re out. We just gave them an excuse why they can’t flip houses. By the way, everybody, a mentor is never going to find you. You’re not just going to get a mentor, but they don’t realize you have to work hard to get a mentor. People don’t understand, they don’t just show up out of the blue. You have to work your ass off prove to them that you’re someone of value, and then they’ll mentor you. I got sidetracked. What was our question?

Ian: [laughs] The question is, how does somebody get rolling get into action right now? Right away. 2020, they’ve been talking about it for a year. We have a big meetup here in Baltimore. I’ll give you the person that I want to help and inspire. The person that has been dreaming about flipping houses and investing in real estate for three years, and has not taken action because they’re just missing that one little element. What is that they can just go and just clear out of their world?

Tarek: For me, it just depends. Man, that’s a much longer conversation. I can’t really answer that question. That’s like a whole school. If you want to flip houses, I would say get educated, go online, figure out the top 10 best ways to find houses to flip. Of those 10 ways, I would pick three of those, and those three things that you pick, I would just focus on that each and every day. If you want to send handwritten yellow letters, I used to do it.

I wrote till my right hand fell off, my left hand fell off, my right foot fell off, and my left foot fell off. I wrote letters, I put signs on the freeway. I did everything. You have to do everything. Here’s the trick, when I say you’re going to do a handwritten letter, you’re not going to write 15, you’re not going to write a 100, you’re going to write 5,000. See, the numbers I put out there are so big, by the time people hit that number, they’re going to get deals. The problem is, people quit after a 100 and 200. If I told you right now if I would give you $100,000 to write 20,000 letters. Would you do it? Probably.

Ian: Yes.

Tarek: It’s a $100,000. That’s the reality when it comes to real estate most of the time. The problem is, there’s no guarantee, so then they quit.

Ian: You’re right, man. You’re absolutely right. Dude, you got this intensity, but on the show, you also have this really reserved side too. How do you keep everything balanced? How do you intensely in the drive balance?

Tarek: It’s tough, man. It’s tough, but every single day, man, I look at that mirror, and I and I just tell myself, “You can be better. You have more potential.” I would say my mindset is very strong, man. My self-belief is really high. I do believe I can accomplish anything, man. Like I said, the reason I have that because my dad just drilled

that into me my entire life, but the best part about it he never told me, “Oh, you’re the best. You’re good this and that.” It’s bullshit. Do you want to know how my dad was? When I was five years old, we played soccer and he was an amazing coach. I was a pretty good player. He got picked to coach the all-star soccer team. He didn’t pick me to be on the all-star team when he coached the team.

Ian: Wow.

Tarek: I will never forget being five years old brawling. I’ll never get it, he said, “Son,” he looked at me and he said, “You’re not good enough.” He could have put me on the team just like any other dad would have. What did he do? He didn’t put me on the team. I had to go watch him coach other kids my same age playing the all-stars. I will never forget that feeling. I remember being five years old and being like, “Screw this shit. I will never be in this position again.”

Ian: Motivated you.

Tarek: I want to be the best. I want to practice. I want to be better. I never want to be left out. I learned early on that with hard work, anything is possible.

Ian: How do you balance family, kids, all that stuff? How do you do that?

Tarek: It’s just tough, man, but you’ve got to just do it, family first. When it’s the days I have my kids, man, I’m home by six o’clock at night, 5:30 at night. When I don’t have my kids, man, it’s pretty brawl. I might have an 8:00 PM meeting, a 1:00 AM meeting, a 3:00 AM meeting, I don’t know, but when I have my kids, I’m home with my kids and that’s all that matters.

Ian: What do you like most about flipping?

Tarek: Man, I just love everything about flipping. You get to do what, I love gambling, but instead with of gambling in Vegas, I get to gamble with houses. It’s fun. You get to take something that looks like the world’s biggest piece of crap and turn it into this beautiful product and sell it to someone, and then you make money. It’s an amazing career. I love it.

Ian: Do you have any regrets? You’ve been doing this for what? 9, 10 years now. I mean, just with Flip or Flop, your ninth season so that’s like 10 years. Do you have any regrets? Anything that you would do differently if you could do it all over again?

Tarek: The one thing that I would do differently would be changing my mindset, certain aspects of my mindset, because in my 20s, man, while I was becoming successful and working hard and doing all this, I was miserable. I was angry a lot, I was frustrated a lot. I kept going but inside I was dying because it’s hard to fail over and over and over each and every day. The one thing I would change if I can go back and tell myself, and I want people that are going through the struggle and going through the process to understand that you’ve got to try to be happy and enjoy it too. It’s very frustrating trying to accomplish great things, it can take a large toll on you and that’s the only thing that I would change. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything, man. Everything happens for a reason. My cancer happened for a reason. My divorce happened for a reason. I ended up on TV for a reason. Everything’s for a reason.

Ian: Talk about that for a second because I don’t think a lot of people know that. I was telling people I was going to be interviewing you over the last weeks since you and I started talking a couple of weeks ago. Not many people know your story with that, so just tell the audience here who doesn’t know, there was a nurse who was watching the show and called HGTV to tell them that they saw something in you.

Tarek: Yes, it was one of the season one episodes. I got a nurse out of Texas was watching the show and she saw that my throat had an enlarged thyroid. Emailed the production company, they send me an email. I read the email and it was pretty much more like, “Hi, I’m a registered nurse. This is not a joke, you have an enlarged thyroid on your neck, I really think you need to go and get it checked out.” I already knew something was wrong because I went to my doctor twice before because it was bothering me and they told me it was nothing.

They didn’t do any testing or anything, but this time I took it very seriously. I went to a different doctor. Long story short, it turned out that I had thyroid cancer. They didn’t know I had cancer until I was actually in surgery because they couldn’t tell. I went down for an exploratory surgery, it was supposed to be like an hour, turned out I woke up four hours later and they removed my entire thyroid, they removed a bunch of my lymph nodes because the cancer had spread and I had stage three thyroid cancer. I was in shock waking up, going to sleep thinking you’re fine, waking up hearing that you have cancer.

The first thing I remember when I came to, I looked up and my ex-wife was looking down at me at the time crying. The first thing I said was, “I have cancer, don’t I?” She goes, “Yes.” That was pretty tough, man. Then I got the call from production saying like, “We understand. We’ll seize production.” I was like, “We’ll seize production? I’m not dead.” I was like, “I’ve got a little cancer. What’s wrong with you people?” No, I’m just kidding. Anyway, it was a hard time, but I told them that, “I’m going to film and I’m going to give this everything I have.” We continued to film, and then shortly after, through further testing, I found out that I also had testicular cancer.

Ian: Damn.

Tarek: Within a few months period, I had found out I had two completely different cancers. That year was rough, man. I went through the surgeries, the radioactive, the recovery. Man, it was a really tough time in my life, but the year that I went through the cancer I was sick, I was puking, I lost weight, I gained weight, I quadrupled the amount of flips we were doing. I built the shit out of my company while I was sick. I did the whole thing on TV, man. If you look at old seasons of me, you could see I’m very sick on TV.

Ian: Oh, yes.

Tarek: People say, “Oh, you look so healthy,” and like, “You look so much better divorced.” I’m like, “No, I’m not dying anymore. I’m healthy.” For three, four years on TV I was sick, man. I had thyroid cancer and then I got testicular cancer and then I hurt my back. It was just over and over and over, and life just kicked the shit out of me, man. I tell you, for five years of my life, I was just absolutely miserable, miserable. I had all the money in the world. I had fame, I had the fanciest cars and all the shit you could think of and I was miserable. I was miserable. It was tough.

Ian: Wow, man. Well, I didn’t know you had two cancers. That’s news to me too. Wow, that’s insane. True perseverance, man. I love that. How has flipping changed over the last couple of years? Are noticing differences in the market? What’s your take?

Tarek: It’s completely different than when I started in the business. When I first started in the business, we were able to flip a ton of houses just for the MOAS. Due to short sales, we were killing it. We’re doing great. Today’s short sales are drying up and if they’re out there, they’re just not negotiating like they used to. We used to buy in auctions, we don’t buy at auctions anymore. Today, my entire business model is based on buying off-market property, direct from the owner. I do that through leveraging my brand, leveraging my name, digital marketing campaigns, print campaigns, radio campaigns, podcasts, anything you can think of.

Ian: Got it, okay. Off-market, are you talking about– what somebody might deem as a wholesale property? You’re just picking it up from the owner directly?

Tarek: Yes.

Ian: You’re not turning it? You’re just keeping it yourself?

Tarek: Yes, or a wholesale sometimes.

Ian: Yes. Just something that you just don’t want, you just see a quick buck in it and you’re like, “Not worth taking the money into it and seeing the market shift?”

Tarek: Yes, it just depends on a case by case. At any given time, I’m probably flipping 30-something houses, so it just depends where my capital is at. The most flips I’ve ever had at one time was 74 and that was just a nightmare to manage and too many headaches. I find I make the same amount of money flipping in the 30s as I do in the 70s. I prefer the least amount of stress. Here’s something that you guys have got to remember too, I have 19 jobs at this point and I’m not only a house flipper anymore. If I was just flipping houses full-time, my business would be 10 times the size that it is, but I’m out there filming two different TV shows, I’m doing podcasts, I’m doing speaking events. A lot going on.

Ian: A lot going on. What’s your leverage look like? What’s your team look like? Do you have somebody that project manages and goes out and looks at properties for you and picks them up?

Tarek: Yes. In-house, my three acquisitions sales guys and they screen all the market calls, they schedule the contractors, they submit the offers, they run the transactions, they close the escrows and they get a cut.

Ian: That’s smart, that way you’re not involved in the middle of it. What about design-wise?

Tarek: Oh, yes. I’m not taking calls anymore, I’m not meeting appointments, I don’t do that anymore. I have boys that do that.

Ian: I love it, man. I love that. What do you think the future of real estate investment looks like, flipping looks like? I’m talking in terms of, Pat and I talk about this a lot on the show, the ibuyers stuff coming into play now. That disrupts the type of acquisition that you’re doing, does it?

Tarek: I don’t think so, I don’t think so. Man, there’s so many competitors in every single space, at the end of the day a lot of people, they’ll just want to sell you the house because they don’t want to deal with it. At the end of the day, a lot of people are inherently lazy. They don’t want to go do research. If they inherited a house and it has cockroaches and mold and the bathroom just burned down, they’re just going to deal with the person they’re dealing with. That’s what I’m saying based on my experience. There’s going to be competition in anything. You’ve got Coca Cola and you’ve got Pepsi.

Ian: Yes, of course.

Tarek: Look at how many people are on this planet. Another interesting thing about me is when I got into a venture, people always ask, “What about this other person, they’re doing it?” I never think about anybody else because I always think I’m different. I always think I can be better at doing what they’re doing. I never really see competition in

Tarek: do things that I do,

Ian: Has it ever backfired on you? Or bit you in the ass?

Tarek: No, it always motivates me.

Ian: I love that.

Tarek: I use it as just motivation. I’m not saying this in like a car I’m saying it in a motivational way. If Pepsi can do it, and Coca-Cola can do it, there’s always room for more. Uber, oh, Uber’s a monster. Well, all of a sudden, this company called Lyft comes out. It’s too late for Lyft, there’s just somebody called Uber there. Guess what Lyft and Uber, there’s going to be more. There’s room in every single space. There are billions of people around the world. There is room.

Ian: I love that, man. I want to go back to the show for a second what are some of your favorite moments from the show and what are some of your not so favorite moments in the show? I want to tell you and the audience one you and I talked about it. My mother-in-law and I are sitting there on the couch and you said to Christina, “Christina, it’s do or die,” I think it’s like season two, “We’ve got our last $72,000. We’re going to go all in and we’re going to borrow another 9,000 from my mom’s credit cards. We got to make this work or we’re on the streets.”

At that time. because I’ve gotten to know you over the last couple of weeks or months, we were talking, at that time, I’m like that is BS, that’s total show. There’s no way that happens like that, but it’s real, right?

Tarek: Yes.

Ian: Tell the audience about that.

Tarek: Yes, we’re all in, we’ve got everything against my credit cards. Dude, at one point, I have nice watches and crap. At one point, I had to sell my Rolex get the money, finish the project and got the money that bought the same watch back. I lost $2,000 on the watch transaction but I made a lot of money on the flip so it worked out. You see, there’s always ways to come up with money so I sold my watch for $5,000. I got the money and I came back and I bought it back for seven. Fine.

Ian: I love that, man. I’d love to know if that was really real. What are you some of your favorite moments on the show?

Tarek: Man, so many, so many good moments, it’s like–

Ian: A really good one, like a big one.

Tarek: Man, some good moments. Just like- I don’t know. Fun moments is the clip made design houses we’ve done. We did some really cool design in this house in Fullerton. I’m just trying to think, some of the best moments. I know some of the worst houses, like the cockroach house, that was actually one of my favorites. I didn’t tell my ex that the house had a cockroach infestation. She opened the door and there were like hundreds and thousands of cockroaches. They were falling from the ceiling landing on her head, it was like the only time you’ll ever see anyone curse on HGTV. It actually made air and they bleeped it out.

Ian: Oh, really?

Tarek: Yes, that was fun but I’ve learned so much over the years and filming is a part of my life now. It’s part of who I am.

Ian: How were you on camera when it first started? I know obviously, we talked about in the beginning, you’re like, “Dude, don’t worry about it, I screw up my takes all the time.” Did you have any experience on camera at all?

Tarek: No, none, none.

Ian: Was it tough? Did you practice? A guy like you, obviously, you’re going to get obsessed, did you practice? I know I did for my first podcast.

Tarek: You can’t really practice for that, man, so you just got to jump in the fire that’s it. You got to go for it. Stop thinking and start doing, man, that’s the motto.

Ian: That’s right, stop thinking start doing. I love that. Any of the drama on the show manufactured or was it all just like, “Oh, my God, really this happening.” Was it all real?

Tarek: Yes, let me see. Shit happens, it all happens. We’ve been robbed, cars stolen, everything’s happened on that show.

Ian: Damn. Oh, that’s right I forgot about that car got stolen. The car got stolen was like the Escalade and right out in front of the house.

Tarek: Yes, just a whole bunch of weird stuff oh man. We’ve done like 115 or 120 episodes, so we’re doing this a lot of time. The Flipping 101, my new show is going to be fun, it’s everything we talked about today. I’m going to be doing it on TV and I’m excited about it, man, because I’m actually teaching people how to flip houses. I’m walking them through and explaining why I make the decisions that I make. For someone that wants to flip houses, this show is going to be incredible.

Ian: That’s Flipping 101 on HGTV?

Tarek: On HGTV, it’s going to be premiering in 2020.

Ian: Got it, did you have to practice saying HGTV all the time because dude that is so tough to say.


Ian: HGTV. What amazing opportunities have shown up for you from the show?

Tarek: Opportunities, obviously, with notoriety and fame, you get credibility and I have a good reputation. I worked really hard to do the right thing over the years and it gives me the power to spread my message and share my message. If I wasn’t on TV, if I wasn’t doing what I was doing I wouldn’t be on this podcast with you and we wouldn’t be touching thousands of people that might be tuning in. I feel like TV has given me the power to really help change lives, and that’s one thing about me. I understand the struggles of success, I know what it feels like to feel good. I know what it feels like to feel bad. I’ve had cancer. I’ve been healthy. I’ve been broke, I’ve been rich, I’ve been all.

I feel like I now have a voice to spread my message with the world and I feel like I can really help people. I do.

Ian: I love that, man. Besides the bouts with cancer has there ever been other really define and the stuff we talked about in the beginning, but are there any other defining moments that shifted your entire world? [crosstalk]

Tarek: I love that you just talked about defining moments. I don’t know if you got that from listening to something else, I talked about but I always talk about defining moments. A defining moment is a moment in your life that changes the trajectory of your life. Example, the day I was at the ATM that was a defining moment. I walked across the street, signed up for real estate school. The day that I hired my ex-wife Christina to work for me, that was a defining moment, changed my life forever. I’m big on defining moments, man, we all have them.

Ian: I love that. The defining moments thing for me is just something I’m very interested in people, especially of success. What changed the trajectory of your life, is there one moment or they’re five, or they’re 25 that you can count over a lifetime?

Tarek: Each defining moment sends you to your next defining moment. They’re all in touch.

Ian: People realize that the transformation happens in a moment and it’s literally in that moment that choice that you make can take you this way or that way in that one choice, in that one moment.

Tarek: Completely change your life and what happens if you don’t start capitalizing on your defining moments, meaning you make no decision they’re gone, they stop coming because you don’t take action.

Ian: I don’t know how long we’ve been talking but it’s a while. Look, dude, I want to talk about the new show so Flipping 101 on HGTV, when is that coming out?

Tarek: It should be airing May of 2020, 14 episodes, season one. Man, it is going to be fun. I can’t wait.

Ian: Love that and then Flip or Flop ninth season, when does that air? You shooting that now?

Tarek: We just started shooting season nine of Flip or Flop, so it’s going to take a whole year to shoot this thing. It’ll probably be airing first quarter of 2021.

Ian: Oh, wow, and that’s still you and Cristina on that, right?

Tarek: Yes.

Ian: Is that different for you? Obviously, it’s different but is it strange, awkward, weird?

Tarek: Not anymore man, now it’s just normal but filming while you’re going through divorce, man, talking about a hard time. Holy crap, you have cameras on, when the cameras are off, wow.

Ian: Wow. What other shows you got going on? You’ve got the school, talk about that for a little bit?

Tarek: I’m working on a whole bunch of digital programs to teach people how to flip houses man, so that’s going to be launching in 2020, excited about that. Then I also have a digital series with HGTV called Tarek’s Flipside. I also just started doing things on YouTube, had a lot of fun with that so I put some videos up on YouTube. I’m on Instagram @therealtarekelmoussa. I’m just everywhere man, I’m just growing the brand and I’m not going to slow down for the next 30 years. That’s it.

Ian: That’s awesome, so you’re obviously a dude that strives after the best. The biggest, like go big or nothing, what are you for personal development, when you don’t have the 50 million things you’ve got going on happening and you have some actual downtime, what books are you reading, what seminars you go to or podcasts do you listen to besides this one? What are you doing to grow that inside piece?

Tarek: Man, I am always working but my favorite thing to do is just play with my kids man. The nights I have my kids, we just turned the living room into a wrestling ring. I set pillow walls. I’m a big kid, I don’t know if you notice about me, I’m a big kid. We do like WWF, I jump off the couch and body slam the kids. It is so much fun, so I do that. Then I love the adrenaline stuff man. I love racing things, so like tomorrow I’m going to race 90-mile-an-hour go-karts at the race track. A few weeks ago, I was racing McLaranes in Texas at the COTA race track.

Then a week before that, I was racing a superbikes, sport bikes at cal speed in Fontana. That was bad, I’ve not ridden a motorcycle in 10 years and I went straight to a racetrack, turn one, dude, I missed my turn, I go off the track into the grass. I’m flying everywhere I’m like, “Oh, crap, I’m going to die.” Anyways it was a lot of fun.

Ian: I love that man. That’s awesome. That’s really awesome. Dude, you’ve been a real inspiration and treat today man, really appreciate your time and all the information and just sharing your life with us and our audience. I know that everybody’s going to get a lot out of this interview.

Tarek: Right after I got through my cancers, I hurt my back really bad and that was just an awful experience for 10 months, 11 months I couldn’t walk barely, dude. I couldn’t put my clothing on, I lost 50 pounds. I was popping opiates like they were tic-tac’s because I was in so much pain. It was the demise of me and I had complications with my back surgery, I was stuck in a room downstairs in my house for six weeks. I was depressed, like real depressed, lonely, depressed in a really bad spot man, alone, quiet. I remember I was watching the show Intervention and I watched– it was a marathon.

I watched episode after episode after episode. Finally, man, I was like goddamn you need to get up. I hadn’t moved and I was like all right, you’re going to walk. I told myself you’re going to walk to the front door. I walked, I get up out of my bed, I walked to the front door. I got to my front door and I was like, okay, you can go further. I was like we’re going to walk to the end of the street. Walked to the end of the street. You know what I did man? I kept going, I ended up walking two miles. Took me forever, I left my phone, my whole family was looking for me. They were like where did you go? They found me walking a mile from the house, man, big, old smile from my face.

You know what I learned that day? You got to start moving, you got to warm up the body, you got to take action and start moving man. That’s just me, I don’t even know why I shared that with you but I was thinking about a very low point in my life and I fixed the problem by taking action and moving my body. If you ever feel like you’re in a bad spot, start moving. Do something new, do something different. Just change.

Ian: That’s a great way to wrap this thing up, which is take action. It’s perfect, take action, take action. I love that man.

Tarek: True story man. Here’s what happened, at the end of that walk I was standing straight up, the pain was gone because the blood flow increased. I loosened up my muscles and it worked.

Ian: I didn’t know all that stuff about you. I thought I did but I did not.

Tarek: There’s a whole bunch more, that’s like a four-hour podcast.

Ian: Jeez, well maybe we’ll do a follow-up because you got so much energy and so much information. Our audience is going to be just eating this up.

Tarek: I really hope so, motivation and inspire some people.

Ian: You definitely did on this one.

Tarek: I hope so man, and I know how difficult it is selling real estate. I know the mental struggle and the pain, I’m empathetic, dude. I was in that business and I understand how difficult it is. Honestly, successful real estate agents, they really inspire me, man, because I know the grind.

Ian: You got millions of variables, not like there’s not flipping but millions of variables. It’s a tough business, it’s definitely a tough business. Dude, it’s– [crosstalk]

Tarek: I had a great call, I had a great time with you. I hope your viewers have a good time.

Ian: Thank you. Yes, we will, and then I’m going to see you in California next month.

Tarek: What do we got next month?

Ian: We’re taking the kids to Legoland with Ricky.

Tarek: Oh yes, Legoland. That’s right with Ricky, I need to put that on the calendar.

Ian: You do, man.

Tarek: That’s what happens when you have a little ADD and your assistant is not here to babysit you.

Ian: I know, that’s why Ricky was like, “Hey, man, get a hold of this guy. Let’s get this done, man.” Honestly, getting to know you, getting the interview, it’s been a real pleasure. Like I said, it’s something I did with my wife and my mother-in-law, watching your show. You’ve had a part of my life I feel like for so long, and then once we got connected it was like wow. Just talking to you even over text was just so cool, so I really appreciate this man. I know our audience appreciates this and your information has been gold. Thank you very much for your time.

Tarek: I appreciate it, man. I really hope we helped change the lives today. I definitely did.

Ian: We definitely did, we definitely did. Well, to everybody the more you want– we’ll do another follow-up for more information but for anything you want to find on Tarek, obviously, go to our website hibandigital.com/Tarekelmoussa, M-O-U-S-S-A right?

Tarek: Yes.

Ian: Then obviously you can find Tarek El Moussa on HGTV.com I’m sure, and @therealtarekelmoussa.

Tarek: The best place to follow me is obviously on Instagram, my handle is @therealtarekelmoussa. I’m very active on Instagram, I communicate with the fans and it’s a real fan page, so I love you guys to check it out.

Ian: It’s awesome, man. Dude thanks again for your time, really appreciate it.

Tarek: Had a great time, thanks, buddy.


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