Jeff Lewis and Jenni Pulos of Bravoís ĎFlipping OutĒ interview: Insider tips revealed
By April MacIntyre Jun 18, 2008, 2:12 GMT
04/26/2008 - Jeff Lewis - 19th Annual GLAAD Media Awards - Red Carpet - Kodak Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA © Glenn Harris / PR Photos
Bravoís "Flipping Out" star Jeff Lewis has come full circle in two seasons of the show that chronicles the life of the type A OCD perfectionist, and his entourage who comprise his professional and personal home life team.
Jeff Lewis is not a cakewalk boss.
Tonight begins season two on Bravo, where the hyper-verbal entrepreneur who had made micromanaging an art form is eating a tiny bit of humble pie and realizing that working for other people is hard.
Season two of ďFlipping OutĒ has Lewis working with clients who dictate the order of the day, and that has been an adjustment.
Lewis' business is akin to a recon surveillance mission: He watches, stalks, tracks and goes in for the kill, in hopes to hammer the best transactional real estate deal and take a home that has potential, and make it great. Lewis then has his investment ready to sell for a decent profit.
This all sounds great, but timing is everything and currently the country is in a terrible recession, where real estate tops the list of the hardest hit vectors of the American economy.
Season two of "Flipping Out" captures this problem for Jeff, and shows his thinking around the issue and surviving the bad turn of events.
Lewis spoke to Monsters and Critics today with his CEA (chief executive assistant) Jenni, the two effusive about their new season on Bravo, bowing tonight at 10 PM/9 C, and is analytical about where they made mistakes last season, especially for Jeff who shares his personal growth he experienced that came out of auditing his ďrealityĒ - warts and all.
He is learning from his mistakes.
I know that you make light of the obsessive compulsive disorder and itís the hook in your show, But itís a serious thing and it can really kind of deplete your energy. And I was wondering what coping skills you might have incorporated into your life for Season Two that we can look forward to?
Jeff Lewis: Well first of all, I never knew - I mean, whatís ironic is that it did become the hook. Youíre absolutely correct in that. And I never thought it would be. But I think that, you know, after they had three months of footage and they started putting it together, it just ended up becoming a major plotline and thatís not something that we ever even discussed in the beginning.
But actually I think itís helped a lot of people. Now for me personally, I have been in therapy for the last several months and we have talked about medication but I really didnít want to start or try any sort of medication because I guess Iím really fearful of any sort of effects.
So for me, Iíve just been trying to eliminate the stress in my life because that - what I realized, and I just said it before in a recent interview, is that I have trouble with coping skills.
And I think if the stress is too much, then what happens is that thatís when I find that I act out or my OCD becomes even more exaggerated.
And Jenni will - sheíll tell you that she feels like the OCD is becoming worse. But...
Jenni Pulos: Yeah, April.
Jeff Lewis: I think it does - I think it has become worse as I got older. Whatís interesting is I think it was very exaggerated as a child and then I think that it mellowed, but then now for some reason itís getting a little more exaggerated as an adult.
Jenni Pulos: I think a lot of people relate to Jeff, though. Weíve had many people come up to us and say Iím just like that. I totally relate.
Everything in my refrigerator faces the same way. I straighten my trash cans. So thereís definitely a lot of people out there that can relate to it.
Jenni, how do you keep from taking things personally when he gets a little frantic and frenetic with you, and maybe borderline - I donít want to say insulting, but you know, pushes your buttons to the point where youíre like Hey, Iím your friend here and Iím working with you?
Jeff Lewis: We just installed a punching bag and I give her permission.
Jenni Pulos: Did you want to let me answer or you want to keep going? know, bloom where youíre planted, April and I have a lot of respect for Jeffís work. Iíve learned so much. But I definitely give it to, you know, I definitely give it to him. I mean, I think we have a good rapport because I will stand up to him when I think itís inappropriate.
I do think that he has (plucked) himself in the first season. Heís definitely responding differently to - he doesnít explode right away. He takes things now, he thinks about it and heís responding, you know, much more effectively.
And it is a high pressure job and situation, like many jobs. But this is adult babysitting and heís constantly having to micromanage these people.
So itís a lot of stress and a lot of pressure on him.
Jeff, what do you like best about Jenni? What qualities of her do you love?
Jeff Lewis: I mean, honestly the first thing that comes to my mind is her work ethic. I think that Jenni and I have a similar work ethic. I mean, sheís pursuing her career. She puts 150% pursuing her career which is acting.
Thatís ultimately what sheíd like to be doing. But then it doesnít really affect her work here. I mean, sheís basically working two jobs, which I have a lot of respect for someone like that.
I respect her drive and her ambition, her passion for her career but also her work ethic. And I think thatís why we get along so well.
Are you more comfortable with the cameras kind of being around you all the time?
Jenni Pulos: I donít think thereís anything ever about reality TV that will be comfortable, to be honest. I mean, you canít even really go to the bathroom, Jim.
Half the time Iím like oh no, the mikeís not off. Iím in the bathroom. But...
Jeff Lewis: But youíre not allowed to go before.
Jenni Pulos: Right, but Jeff doesnít really let me go to the bathroom anyway. Work, work, work. But I think that it became easier for us this year. I think youíre going to see weíre even more ourselves. Thereís even more of a comfortable sense between all of us.
I think itís like your first child. The first year for us we were tentative. This year itís like okay, weíre used to it more so - as much as you can be.
Jeff Lewis: Well also another thing I wanted to - that Iíd like to add is that, you know, in Season One the producers, they had some control, meaning what they would do is they would stop me in the middle of the workday and ask me questions.
They call those OTFís - on-the-fly, which I learned about last year. And so now that Iím more comfortable with the way the show came about, the way the show turned out is that now I donít allow those things.
I mean, Iím literally now completely in control. Nobody stops me in the middle of my workday. If anything, theyíre rushing to keep up with me. I donít really have the distractions that I did last season.
As a result, Iím more comfortable in my element. I donít have people in front of me, putting a boom or a microphone and asking me questions.
I know that the production company was trying to figure it out, but now I feel confident enough to now say look, no more interruptions during the day. You show up at 8:30, you mike me, you follow me. Weíre done at 6:00, thatís it.
Jenni Pulos: This show is fast-paced this year, even more so because of that. They are - you are riding with us. You are really - youíre in it every moment.
Are there any moments from last season that you wish hadnít been put in?
Jeff Lewis: Well how much time do you have? The worst, by far - I mean, I donít even have to think about it was when Monkey got acupuncture.
Jenni Pulos: Yeah.
Jeff Lewis: That was horrible to watch. itís I probably shouldíve taken him myself. But thatís not something I would have allowed if I was there.
And itís just so painful to watch it over and over, and over again, especially like when Talk Soup was playing it and a lot of other - there was different - there was pictures all over the Internet. It was just - it was horrible to watch.
Jenni Pulos: It was on You Tube, yeah.
Jeff Lewis: It was horrible to watch your cat being tortured over and over again. Thatís something that I absolutely wish if we could turn back the clock, I couldíve done differently.
I think thereís probably more regrets. There was some behavior that I wasnít really proud of and thatís something that Iíve been working on changing in my life.
But also, what I realized too, is talking about what we had talked about before - was trying to create less stress in my life. And I think that thatís helped me stay in control of my emotions and my anger.
And, a lot of these relationships -- personal and professional -- Iíve cut out at least eight people out of my life in the last year because these people that are continually getting - the funny thing is that how off - sometimes Iíve been painted in a very negative way.
And the fact is that because Iím a nice guy, thatís why I give people seven, eight, nine chances. I donít know many employers that do that. But I canít do that anymore because it causes me way too much stress and anxiety to have the same mistakes happen over and over again.
Iím now letting these people go for good, but in a very professional, civil manner - not like what happens before where I wait until itís too late and then I explode after the eleventh time theyíve made the mistake.
Iíve kind of re-strategized and it changed the way that Iím running my business and also running my personal life. These toxic people are also being replaced with people that are more productive and effective and professional.
And as a result, weíre finding that my life - I have more personal time now because Iím not having to micromanage every single person in my life. And that has caused - thatís basically eliminated a lot of stress for me.
So you could actually - in Season Two, you can look forward to some staff changes.
Any surprises you can reveal?
Jeff Lewis: Well, I - hopefully, Iím allowed to reveal this but I was suspicious right around midway through the season. I was suspicious that there was work that was not getting done and I installed a nanny cam.
I did it to protect my home and my business. And itís pretty shocking what I found.
Jeff, who intimidates you, or someone you may have respect for, or draw professional wisdom from?
Jeff Lewis: Thereís a few people that I find a little scary. I think that I probably - yeah, there probably would be quite a showdown. But, that said, I do take a look at people like Martha Stewart and Donald Trump, and - that might be a little intimidating, but also I respect what theyíve built.
Iím the first one to be buying their books and listening every time they speak, and following their shows. So, itís funny because I think that thereís a lot of difficult personalities out there, but itís - I also find them interesting at the same time and you canít help but not to listen to them because these are people that have proven success.
I look at people like Gordon Ramsay from 'Hellís Kitchen' and sometimes his reactions are a little over the edge, as are mine.
But at the end of the day, he really knows what heís talking about. So I canít help but watch and listen.
What are your smallscreen guilty pleasures?
Jenni Pulos: I love Curb Your Enthusiasm. And I have to admit I have watched A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. That is a guilty pleasure.
Jeff Lewis: I watch Lost. I watch Weeds.
Jenni Pulos: Yeah, Weeds is great.
Jeff Lewis: I watch Gossip Girl.
What is the biggest mistake that youíve come across that flippers make?
Jeff Lewis: I think the first mistake is not buying the property well and I think that we have mentioned it before where people rely on their real estate agent and they donít do their own research. And I think thatís the biggest mistake.
I think that also it - we talk about really getting to know all the houses in the neighborhood. A lot of times Iíve walked into a house and if people donít know who I am and a real estate agent will say to me, oh well the house across the street sold for 650 and weíre asking 450 - this is a bargain.
Well what they donít tell you is that the house across the street is 1000 square feet bigger. It has a pool and itís been recently redone, and thatís why it sold for 650, and thatís why itís itís worth that.
So I think thatís the biggest mistake. Also people - sometimes they donít really know really what the important improvements to make are. And they put the money in the wrong places.
Iím going to give you a couple different mistakes. And then also when people donít stick to the budget. I see people commonly put all the money in one room which is a huge mistake.
Iíll walk in and Iíll see a $40,000 kitchen, but nobodyís touched the master bath. Well guess what, your house is still a fixer.
Where do you focus your business on in LA?
Jeff Lewis: Weíve been focusing on the same cities: Hancock Park, West Hollywood, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz. We just started looking in Studio City. I think that is a great area where I think thereís money to be made.
Thereís about, what would you say, Jenni, seven to eight cities we focus on?
Jenni Pulos: Yeah, seven to eight. I think Los Feliz has been really big for Jeff. But branching out into the Valley and heís done stuff in Beverly Hills - West (at even), too, right?
Jeff Lewis: No, West Hollywood is the farthest west Iíve been.
Jenni Pulos: Oh, okay. West Hollywood.
Jenni, last season you were Jeffís favorite assistant. Have you kept that position?
Jenni Pulos: I did promote myself to CEA, which is Chief Executive Assistant. Now the promotion doesnít go hand-in-hand with a raise. Itís just a title change.
Jeff Lewis: Or benefits.
Jenni Pulos: I think Jeff and I work well together. I think that when Iím here Iím very dedicated to him and so I think that he then is respectful of that. I want his business - I give 100% when Iím here, And try to manage another career. So itís a lot, but I really have learned a lot about another profession. So Iím very fortunate to be able to apply this in my own career and heís really the best at what he does.
I am still sassy this year, though, probably even sassier.
Jeff Lewis: But also in addition to CEA, I would say youíre also my therapist, my life coach, my teacher, my mommy, my wife.
Jenni Pulos: Iím still standing so there has to be something said for that.
Jeff Lewis: Though she has aged - she has aged a lot.
Jenni Pulos: I look about 35 years older. But besides that, itís all good. No, but Jeff youíre - itís going to be a really interesting year. I think that he has improved. He - thereís different reasons for the flip outs this year. But as far as his anger, I think it has gotten a lot better.
Jeff Lewis: I still have people, going out and getting me exactly what I want and the way that I want it. And I think actually, Jenni, is it the first episode?
Jenni Pulos: Yeah, tonight.
Jeff Lewis: The first episode, one of my orders is caught on camera which, if I was smart I probably would just keep those orders to myself because then they haunt me for the next, you know, 24 months like the lemonade order has.
But I think this new one - did it top it, Jenni? I think itís pretty close.
Jenni Pulos: Itís close, definitely. It was funny, I went home and (road such) from last season saying you guys should just install your own soda machine. It would be so much easier and then you could do the exact balance at his home.
Are you feeling the crunch with the current market?
Jeff Lewis: I felt the crunch in 2007 and the first half of 2008. Now really what slowed the Los Angeles economy was the lender crisis because the restrictions were so ridiculous that people with money and great credit and income couldnít get loans.
So the problem was, is that I had qualified buyers that couldnít get a loan to buy my properties so that was a problem. And then not only that, I couldnít get a refi to take the cash out to go buy something else.
My business halted. It just stopped for about ten months. But now Iím finding that the government has infused billions of dollars into the lending industry.
Iím starting to now see those benefits. Weíre starting to see the benefits being passed to the consumers. So Iím seeing more loan programs show up. The restrictions are loosening up.
And Iím seeing the Los Angeles market - a little bit of a surge. People are out again. People are buying and properties - my properties are moving.
I was depressed for a little while, depressed for a couple months. But I kind of sat back and re-strategized, and figured out alternative ways to make money.
And then that kind of held me over until - to right now where we are and Iím just finding it easier to get funding.
A lot of people watching your show are going to be living in markets other than Los Angeles and thereís more duress and obviously the real estate market changes from city to city. Whatís the best advice you can give people in these depressed markets?
Jeff Lewis: Well if they have a limited amount of money to deal with and they wanted to spruce up their house to hopefully sell it in this market, I would suggest always paint, carpeting or refinishing hardwood floors, curb appeal - so landscaping at least in the front.
Ways to save money Iíve done in the past is I put in that - just rolled out the sod, put in a sprinkler system and rolled out the sod. Itís much cheaper than plants.
So I might have almost my entire backyard as a path of sod because itís a dollar a square foot versus spending the money on all the all the flower beds.
I think thatís a mistake when people landscape. They do all these flower beds. They donít do enough lawn and then they end up spending all their money in plants.
Itís certainly a way to save money when sprucing up the exterior of your house. Iíve seen people just paint the front of the house. I mean, granted itís a little - itís not something I would do but Iíve seen people just paint the front of their house like the same color, give it a fresh new coat.
Iíve seen people just paint the trim. And I think in regards to the - the kitchen is the most important room in the house. We all know that. Master bath is next and then what Iíve noticed is that closet space...Master closet. and any time, unfortunately, people donít necessarily - they donít look at the systems in the roof as adding value, but it certainly does.
I think itís important to price your house right even if it means - people keep focusing on what their house used to be worth a year and a half ago.
So they see themselves as losing money by pricing it any less. But I think if you donít price your house really well - youíre going to have to price it probably lower than most of the houses in the neighborhood so yours goes first because you have all this inventory and not as many buyers anymore.
You want your house to move first. So even if itís the nicest house on the street, it should also be the best price because people think that they can go in and do what youíve done.
So for example, if your house is 350 and the house next door is 300 but you just spent 100 redoing it, people donít realize that. Theyíre going to go buy the one next door thinking that they can do what youíve done for $17,000. And itís simply not true.
The one thing I do want to mention is - which I found out recently, which I was shocked about is that, people keep pushing these short sales where, the situation is if you owe 250 but your house is worth 200 right now in todayís market, you go back to the bank and you negotiate.
And you have the bank take a $50,000 loss. But what I realized is that is a huge mistake. Youíre better off letting it go in foreclosure because it still will take as much time -- I think itís about seven years -- to repair your credit with a short pay that it would do - that it would take with a foreclosure.
But hereís the catch - the bank will issue - they look at that $50,000 loss - so if you would negotiate a short pay with the bank, they look at it as income and what happens is youíre going to have to pay taxes on that $50,000 that youíve negotiated with the bank versus letting it go in foreclosure then, and just letting the whole house go back to the bank. Then you will not have to pay income.
Itís really, really important. I think most people donít know that. They think theyíre doing the right thing by doing a short pay and negotiating with the bank. They think theyíre saving their credit and theyíre not.
And then whatís happened is they turn around and they get a 1099 from the lender for $50,000.
Wow, interesting to know. Going back to a few previous questions, Iím in Calabasas and I know that you focus on all the ritzy parts of LA: Hancock Park and Beverly Hills. But thereís so many cool LA neighborhoods like Silver Lake and Atwater Village. What are some of the unsung neighborhood heroes of Los Angeles for the people in Southern California for you to mention?
Jeff Lewis: You know, Iíve been looking more and more in Encino and Sherman Oaks. I think you get more for your money there. I - like I mentioned before, I love Studio City. Thereís some interesting little celebrity enclaves that I donít think most people know about. And I also - I do like Silver Lake. I notice more people are going into Eagle Rock.
I actually really love Calabasas. I was there this weekend.
Jenni Pulos: Yeah, we were just talking about Calabasas. Thatís so funny.
Jeff Lewis: But we - like Jenni had mentioned, we are now going over the hill to the Valley where I just see thereís - you get a lot for your money. I think thereís a lot of value and there are a lot of homes that need to be redone where you can add value.
But that said, if a real estate agent calls me from Pasadena and says I have a great deal, Iím in the car looking.
How are you adjusting to working for someone else who is difficult?
Jeff Lewis: I find the whole thing humorous because, you know, thereís no coincidences in life. I mean, I do believe I was to work for this woman for a reason and she makes me look like a kitten.
I mean, she is - she was real rough, real abusive. She - like I said I mean, itís just very funny that I end up working for this woman and I absolutely take a look at the way that Iíve treated people in the past after Iíve been through this experience.