Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 | 2 a.m.
On A&E’s “Flipping Vegas,” abandoned homes across the Las Vegas Valley get a second chance in the hands of real estate investor Scott Yancey and his interior designer wife, Amie.
A motley array of houses and the Yanceys’ contrasting and often-volatile personalities have led the reality TV series to become one of A&E’s most popular shows over the course of its four seasons.
I visited the couple onsite during a flip in Summerlin, where they were filming their upcoming fifth season.
Despite a typically drama-filled day — on and off camera — Scott and Amie took a break to chat about the challenges and changes of flipping in Las Vegas’ evolving real estate market, as well as share a few home-flip horror stories.
Since you first started doing the show, when the housing market had just tanked, how has its recovery since then affected what you do?
Scott Yancey: We were originally in land development, and I would commute to Central California. In about 2007, when things officially tanked, we were going to move down to our house in Cabo and take a few years until the market came back. But what ended up happening is we sold our house and were about to leave, and I overheard someone say that you can buy a house in Vegas for $36,000 that would rent for $900 a month. So we ended up buying houses for $36,000 to $42,000, when no one else was doing it.
There was such a huge supply vs. demand, we were killing it. And then, years later, people got into it, and the supply and demand changed. And it got a little more difficult to go after houses. But we’ve been doing it enough and finding properties so many different ways that we still were able to get a good amount of volume. Now it’s changed again. Now there’s excess inventory, and the days on the market are taking longer.
But I think there are a lot of amateur-type flippers who have gotten in in the last little while, and they have short fuses because they’ve borrowed money to their properties. Buyers have a lot of options now, and I think those people who are in the business who don’t have staying power are probably going to start discounting their properties. So I see prices maybe going down in Vegas again for a little while. Especially the next quarter or two because you’re going to have the holidays when buying slows down and people are going to get desperate and need to fill their places. Things have definitely changed.
What do you do to compete now that the market is more crowded? Is it just a question of lowering prices?
Amie Yancey:: I believe “nice” sells, even though Scott fights me on it. I put extra finishes and touches on them that — I mean, nobody in this neighborhood, unless they were keeping the house or was a homeowner improving it, would have added a double-stacked cabinet (like I did to this house today). All those cabinets have been refinished, they’re getting seated glass in them, limestone floors. To me, I want the buyer to have an experience when they walk through that door and be like, “I could stay here for life. It’s perfect. Somebody put a lot of love and extra care into this house.”
I mean, I feel like I’m giving birth to each of them. I know Scott has timelines to turn them around fast, and we butt heads. He sees the bottom line, and I fall in love with the transformation. I can’t stop myself; I really need rehab for designers.
I think a lot of these floor plans the builders built are obsolete and outdated. They have little rooms. Now everyone wants a great big entertainment room and something a little more transitional, so it’s a little cleaner fit and finish on them. Not everyone wants tan and white now. They were built so fast, they all look the same on the inside. But now people don’t want a house that looks like everyone else’s.
S.Y.: Somehow, with her emotions and my black-and-white attitude, we get it done in the end. With her over-improved kitchens and master baths, we do get more money. But it is a yin-yang with the two of us during the project until it gets done.
How does flipping houses in Las Vegas compare to other cities?
S.Y.: Everybody loves Vegas, and there are a lot of pluses to being here, but the market has gotten tighter now for people to buy homes. Other cities, like Detroit or Atlanta, or places like Florida and Kansas, it could be said that they have better opportunities in those places. But do they have the entertainment, the dining, the weather that we have here? So you should pay a little more to be here.
But I think there are other places where there are better values for purchasing. Right now our market has shifted to where it’s ideal for buying and holding because the prices have gone up so much. We buy and hold more properties than we flip. We save our flips for the show. Flipping is a great way to generate capital, which allows you to invest in properties you hold and rent out.
Tell me about some of the worst houses you’ve flipped.
A.Y.: The one we’re doing today we call renters from hell. They had like 20 people living in the house. It had cockroaches. The cabinet doors were falling off, there was trash everywhere. You’ll see it unfold on the episode, but to go to double-stacked cabinets, a wall got cut down, and I made an island. They’re really very non-functional houses that were built.
S.Y.: The houses that are the worst to buy are the ones we save for TV because we know there’s a great storyline with it and the after will look that much more fun. So we typically pick the ones that are the most effed up.
A.Y.: Which is easy to find in this market because a lot of people got burned bad.
S.Y.: They get mad at the bank, and they trash it. It’s usually the former owners.
A.Y.: We had a house that everyone sold on Craigslist for two years. It didn’t have anything left in it; it looked like it had been in a war. No doors, no cabinets. They pulled out the fireplace. They jackhammered the flooring.
S.Y.: They sold everything — the light switches, the sinks, cabinets. We looked at it and thought, ‘This would be great for TV,’ because it was in Red Rock Country Club, on the golf course, but it had boards on the windows. That was a fun turnaround.
Was that the most challenging house you’ve done?
A.Y.: Oh, nooo (both laugh). We have an episode coming up with what we call the “Area 51” house. That’s a 3,000-square-foot house, and everyone wanted to kill me because I really took it over the top. The house was tan with green floors, and it was weird because they believed in Area 51. It had all this alien paraphernalia, like TVs and a map with all the sightings. Scott said he could leave it tan, clean the green carpets and flip it. And I’m like, “Are you serious?” This is what I have to work with.
What’s the biggest thing viewers might not understand about what you do — what are the misconceptions?
S.Y.: What the people see is us stressed in a house on an episode. What they don’t see is us doing five others at the same time.
A.Y.: The main thing is that in TV land, they speed everything up. They think, “Oh, wow, it’s a breeze. They come in, and it’s done.” It takes a long time to put them together, to pick out the fit and finish and work on the quality. They only see a glimpse of it.
S.Y.: The TV show usually edits in the drama. They don’t see that an hour from now, we’re gonna be holding hands walking our dog somewhere. They edit it in a way that’s obviously going to be most entertaining. They don’t ever show me say “thank you, good job” to somebody or show us going to a restaurant at night or in the summer on a beach.
But they’re doing their job good. They’re showing the process, and what’s exciting is what makes the cut. But we know that the show works, and people seem to like it. Our ratings are increasing every single week.