Claremont couple flips over reselling restored homes

Claremonters Jessie and Tina Rodriguez are flipping their way to the small screen with a new television show.

The Rodriguezes, who live and work in the City of Trees, are in the middle of filming the first season of their new reality show, Vintage Flip. Mr. and Ms. Rodriguez, who have been in the real estate business for years, are overjoyed with the new opportunity.

The couple found a passion for house-flipping during the infamous 2008 recession, when Mr. Rodriguez’s real estate company, Cal-American Homes, worked with the banks to turn over foreclosed homes. Conducting routine maintenance on the homes and selling them for the banks inspired Mr. Rodriguez to try it on his own, buying a house in Riverside on the cheap in 2009.

“We went in there, updated the carpet and put in new kitchen cabinets and paint, and put it back up for sale,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “We made a few thousand dollars out if it and we kind of got the bug at that point.”

Over time, the number of homes Mr. and Ms. Rodriguez bought and flipped steadily rose, from only two in 2009 to seven in 2010 to 23 in 2014. In 2015, Cal-American Homes is on track to flip 37 houses, according to Mr. Rodriguez.

This, of course, piqued the attention of HGTV, who gave Mr. and Ms. Rodriguez a guest spot in an episode of another house-flipping show, Flip or Flop.

“The production company liked us and said, ‘Do you want to do a spin-off?’ And here we are on our own show,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

Mr. and Ms. Rodriguez quickly filmed a pilot episode for the network. The episode, which focused on a sturdy Tudor home in Santa Ana, aired three times in different time slots this past May, which allowed producers to see how well the show performed. According to Mr. Rodriguez, the show averaged around 700,000 viewers per showing.

“About two weeks later, they called and said they were picking us up for an eight-episode season.” Mr. Rodriguez said.

Now, Mr. and Ms. Rodriguez are deep in the throes of filming. They are juggling five houses at the same time—residences in Downtown Upland, Long Beach, Echo Park, Monrovia and a cute craftsman bungalow right in the heart of the Claremont Village.

The house, located on Twelfth Street and built in 1912, epitomizes the concept of a “fixer-upper,” which has proven to be a challenge for Mr. and Ms. Rodriguez.

“When you walked inside the house, it smelled like everyone had potty-trained their child in that house,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “It just smelled like urine and smoke—it’s almost unbelievable that people had lived there. There was a rat that had been dead in the kitchen so long that it had become the color of the linoleum, we found a family of opossums that had been in the attic and had died there. So just the smell was disgusting.”

What’s more, the home was almost completely covered in shrubbery, blocking any view of the house from the street. Broken-down cars, motorcycles and even a boat were strewn about the back and side yards.

But making dilapidated old homes beautiful again is what the Rodriguezes do best. They shaved the front shrubbery, towed the cars away (Mr. Rodriguez decided to keep a couple of the motorcycles) and completely gutted the inside of the house. The couple must strike a balance, keeping the majesty of the home’s original era while updating the residence for today’s families, something the couple takes very seriously.

“The architecture of each home is so unique, and we’re trying to keep to the heritage of that,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “So we’re doing tons of research on whether it’s a Spanish colonial or a Craftsman and trying to make sure that we’re honoring the style of the home, while trying to make it a little bit modern as well.”

The house is an empty shell as of press time, but when it’s completed by November 15, it will be a beautiful Craftsman charmer, complete with an updated kitchen, a brand-new and roomier master suite and a gray-blue outside paint job that will perfectly complement the neighborhood.

Mr. Rodriguez estimates that the finished house could sell for somewhere in the high $800,000s. When one factors in the initial cost of the home (around the high $400,000s, according to Mr. Rodriguez) and roughly $150,000 in remodeling put into it, the couple is standing to make a hefty profit.

Although they’re flipping homes across southern California for the show, Mr. and Ms. Rodriguez have a deep love for Claremont. They hope to feature the city as often as they can during the first season and, hopefully, in subsequent seasons.

“The city is so important to us,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “We’re so in love with this crazy little community we live in, and I think it’s cool that if we can get two or three or four seasons out of this show, every episode will start out in Claremont, California.”

The City of Trees also holds a particularly sentimental place in the couple’s heart.

“We had our first date in the Village in 2000,” Ms. Rodriguez added. “We got Starbucks and we walked through all the pretty houses, and now we’re able to give back to the community where we fell in love and it’s really cool.”

Vintage Flip is set to air on HGTV in mid-April 2016.

—Matthew Bramlett



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