Investor, Opportunist, Entertainer An Interview with Russell Hantz: The Bad Boy of Reality TV Turns to Real Estate

by 27 Aug 2012

(TheNicheReport) -- Editors Note: Real Estate is made up of all kinds of people.  Those who are licensed real estate and mortgage professionals make up the institutional ‘players’ in the business, while others are investors looking to take advantage of cheap credit, depressed home values and the ability to turn properties for a profit (sound familiar?).  These types of opportunities attract a lot of investors who have some money to put into real estate.  Quite frankly the market today owes itself to this segment of buyer.  Due to tightened credit-qualifying criteria, so few consumers can qualify for a mortgage that the main buyers today are individuals or a group of investors, or foreign buyers and other consumers buying homes for second properties, retirement purposes or for family members.  Approximately 30% of all purchases in today’s market are all-cash transactions – these are the buyers we love to hate and need to have.  So, in many respects, we are seeing more and more people like Russell Hantz, who may not have won $1,000,000 as the villain of the hit TV show, Survivor, but has applied his cutthroat approach to business in real estate on the new A&E reality show, Flipped Off.  It is for this that he is known as an investor, opportunist and probably one of the more colorful real estate players visible in today’s market.    

Hantz is the star of Flipped Off, a reality show focused on the ups, downs and drama of the real estate business.  In the end, it is clear that that there is little glamour in real estate and more sweat equity than anything else. The show reflects the trials of real estate on his family, his relationship with his kids, dealing with contractors, stolen inventory – everything that reflects the many hurdles real estate professionals are confronted with every day as they attempt to buy and sell properties in today’s real estate market. 

Hantz stages this show in one of the hardest-hit markets in the United States, Houston, Texas.  “There are tons of reality TV stars sitting on their couches and twiddling their thumbs because they haven’t created anything else,” Hantz says. “I expect to be one of the biggest house flippers in Houston and I am here to bring Houston’s economy back on its feet.” Ever since the subprime mortgage crisis, flipping homes has been more difficult, since the demand for homes remains very high but qualifying consumers to purchase homes is the main obstacle.  Therefore, unless borrowers are interested in renting and investors are in it for the long haul, flipping isn’t for everyone.  Hantz’s life as a real estate investor is outrageous, genuine and entrepreneurial and fits into the broader market trends that are seen in today’s market.

 

Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up?

Russell Hantz - I grew up in Vinton, Louisiana. My father prepared me before I ever worked outside the family.  He had me do all of his entrepreneur ventures, shrimping, oystering, working in his sawmill, and much more.

 

Most people know you from Survivor.  How did you get on the show?

Russell Hantz - By sending my video in just for fun, not thinking I would make it, and got a call two years later.

 

Why real estate?  Why this time, and why this project coming off Survivor and Heroes vs. Villains?

Russell Hantz - First, my playing on Survivor had nothing to do with getting into real estate. Second, the man I respect the most is Mr. Trump and he's in real estate. I figure, if he can do it I can do it.

 

Did you have a history in real estate?  And what attracted you to Houston for this next project?

Russell Hantz - I have no history in real estate, and what attracted me to Houston is that it's the fourth biggest city in the U.S. and still growing.

 

What do you think has made you stand out in reality TV as compared to the thousands of other ‘reality’ TV personalities that no one ever remembers?

Russell Hantz - Good question. I am truly driven for success whether it is reality TV or not. Most people just want to be famous; all I want to do is win, and succeed. I think that separates me from the rest.

 

Are you really that rough around the edges or is this part of your TV persona?  What makes you tough?

Russell Hantz - My father made me tough, but to be successful you have to be aggressive, focused, and driven. Sometimes it takes a little hollering to get that done.

 

You are working with your brother Shawn, - while many siblings could never work together, how do you make it work?  Do you guys fight?

Russell Hantz - We do fight, but I believe in Shawn and that's why I gave him this opportunity [working on their current reality TV show Flipped Off], not because he's my brother but because I believe in him.

 

You seem to have a kinder or softer side when it comes to your kids - how does your home life mix in with your reality TV ventures?

Russell Hantz - That's easy; my hat comes off when I come home. I do not let the two, reality shows and home life, intertwine with each other.

 

Your current TV show (Flipped Off) is pretty open with your issues in your marriage - how can you bare all for the cameras?  Does this add to or alleviate the stress on family or marriage?

Russell Hantz - Reality TV always adds stress to a marriage. You have to be strong enough to overcome it.

 

Survivor was the launch of your career – do you see it this way?  Who benefited more – you from the show, or the show from you?

Russell Hantz - The show benefitted way more by having me, obviously. They already had my nephew Brandon Hantz and my brother Willie Hantz on Big Brother (also on CBS). So you tell me, who benefitted more, me or CBS?

 

Define Success in how you view it?

Russell Hantz - I truly think that success is happiness. Many view it with dollar signs, but it's not so bad to be rich and famous.

 

What kind of negotiator are you? 

Russell Hantz - I am an aggressive negotiator when I have to be, also a submissive negotiator when I have to be. I am everything I have to be at that point to make the deal happen.

 

How do you negotiate? – lay out your key principles to keep in mind when negotiating.   

Russell Hantz - First, it depends on who I'm dealing with. But my key principle would be to make that person extremely comfortable and excited about what they're about to buy.

 

What are the five things you look for in flipping a property?  

  Russell Hantz - (1) Big city, because there's no property to buy outside worth the risk.

      (2) Comps on the neighborhood you are about to buy from within.

      (3) How much it would take to flip the house and make a solid profit.

      (4) Getting it off the books.  Make sure you can do it in a timely manner.

      (5) Making sure you have the best Realtor around to sell it.

 

You are an oil tycoon?  So what can we do to lower the price of our gas in the U.S.?!

Russell Hantz - Stop driving, I guess.  I can’t help you there. Oil will always go up, and will forever go up, sorry, but it's true.

 

What is the key to success for Realtors, as they “survive” and thrive in today’s market?  Are there principles of success applicable from your show that could be applied to private business?

Russell Hantz - I think the ones that succeed in real estate these days are few and far between. If you’re trying to get in this business and you’re a newbie, I would suggest talking to a professional, because it is easy to lose money. It's not as easy as I make it look.

 

How many siblings do you have?  Being the ‘younger’ brother to Shawn, does he ever try to pull older brother tricks or put you in your place?

Russell Hantz - I have two sisters and three brothers, my brother Shawn being the oldest. Shawn knows his place, so he never puts me in my place. I am the boss.

 

Your Mom was in the first episode (of Flipped Off) – what role has your Mom played in your life and what influence has she had in your ‘survivor’ skills?

Russell Hantz - My mother and my mother's father had a huge influence in my life. To be driven and happy. My mother had nothing to do with my lying, cheating, and stealing in a game to win a million dollars on Survivor.

 

So who is the real Russell – the one from Survivor or the show Flipped Off?   You were so polarizing in Survivor – people either loved you or hated you.  Is Flipped Off a way for people to see the real you?

Russell Hantz - You'll never know the real Russell. I'm aggressive, I'm happy, I'm sad, I'm lonely. I'm everything that a person is expected to be, I am me.

 

Do you still watch Survivor?

Russell Hantz - No, I do not.

 

Why not?

Russell Hantz - It makes me sick to my stomach when I see a deserving winner lose, and unfortunately the reason that happens is because of weak, bitter people. The game has a serious flaw.
 

 

Do you have more future real estate projects in mind?

Russell Hantz - I have three houses as we speak, and you’ll see much more from me.

 

How did you choose your real estate agent, Kristen?

Russell Hantz - I did my research, found the top three realtors in Houston and interviewed them all. If you’ve seen Kristen, it was easy to see who the best pick was.  Pretty people sell.

 

How do you deal with sellers who simply aren’t realistic about the value of their property?  Tough love, or do you work with them, show them it won’t sell at that price and then hope they’ll listen to you on round two?

Russell Hantz - Right now, I deal in Houston. The city of Houston is too big to deal with people who are ignorant and wait for that person who needs the money. And trust me, cash is always king.

 

Do you support any charities?

Russell Hantz - My main charity is "Give Kids the World." It's kind of like a sister company to "Make a Wish Foundation," but it means a lot to me, and no matter what, I will always be there for the kids. I may pause on saving the animals, but I will always make sure I spend my time saving the children.

 

What are your passions or hobbies, outside of Survivor or your current reality TV show?

Russell Hantz - I like to fight so I'm training for MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), so besides business, that consumes my time.

 

Excellent, Russell, thank you for your time.  You’ve been great and I hope our readers take into account what you’ve said. I’ve always said, confidence is everything, and this is something you definitely have!

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