When the housing market crashed in 2007 and demand for rental housing grew, Drew Levin, Florida ’05, and Danny Perkins, Florida ’05, saw the investment opportunity. The entrepreneurial duo knew it was the time to buy.
Levin and Perkins, who met at freshman orientation and joined SigEp together, recently wrapped up the first season of their new show on HGTV, Renovate to Rent. The show follows their latest business venture, D&D Real Estate Holdings, LLC. They buy houses in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, fix them up, and rent them out.
“All of a sudden in 2007, everything crashed, light bulbs went off, and we decided it was a good time to buy,” said Levin. Rather than trying to turn a quick profit by selling, they believe the long-term investment of renting these properties will give them a much greater return. The rental market in the area is driven by college students and young professionals – segments the two know very well.
“Our strategy has always been a long term one,” said Perkins. “We make sure every property stands alone and has cash flow. We felt there was a real opportunity to acquire properties and have cash flow for years to come.”
This is not the first business Levin and Perkins have operated. Their first venture was a social networking site, YFly.com. YFly had a celebrity focus and included content from Rihanna, the Jonas Brothers, Paris Hilton and others. Unfortunately, the site’s usage outgrew the technology to keep the site running.
“Drew and I are not tech guys,” said Perkins. “[We] didn’t actually build the site and relied on someone else, which was a great lesson. You have to know every aspect of your business.” He added that your career should be your passion. “Success will follow if you enjoy what you do,” he explained.
Levin believes success is all about finding your niche. “Anyone can get into real estate in so many ways,” he said. “Find your niche, keep your blinders on and stick with it until it doesn’t work for you anymore.”
And that’s exactly what they did. The two had worked for carpenters, and their family members were involved in real estate. They bought their first property in 2007, and shortly purchased two more. Then Levin got his real estate license in 2008. With the help of a private investor, Levin and Perkins acquired more properties, and their business exploded. They now own over 50 rental properties in the Twin Cities.
“We didn’t have deep pockets,” said Levin. “We got bank financing before that cut off. We didn’t have money to buy 50 properties, but we developed a model that works and found someone with deep pockets willing to invest. We showed him it could work. You have to do it one property at a time and make good by your investors. As long as they’re happy, they’ll do more business with you.”
Their investor helped them to expand their business and got them connected with Magnetic Productions. They filmed a “sizzle reel” and began showing it to networks. HGTV bought a pilot episode in 2011, and one month later, the network purchased seven more episodes to complete an entire season. Filming for Renovate to Rent began in late 2012 and lasted six months. They filmed five to six days a week, and about eight hours of footage represented five minutes of actual show time.
The cameras took some getting used to, but it sets their rental properties apart from anything else in the area.
“When I’m showing tenants a place and cameras are there, it increases the appeal,” said Levin. “It makes it easier to advertise and rent these places. People see it’s an HGTV home and think it’s awesome.”
When asked what the SigEp experience did for them, Levin and Perkins noted how it created lasting bonds and strengthened their relationship.
“Danny and I might not have been able to cultivate our relationship as much without the experience of living together and being SigEp brothers,” said Levin. “I’m sure it helped in our business relationship down the road.”
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