The Untold Truth Of Desert Flippers

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Desert Flippers premiered on HGTV in 2016 and has since become one of the network's most popular shows. Thank its stars, real-life couple Eric and Lindsey Bennett, for that. The Wisconsin transplants have been living and flipping in Palm Springs, Calif. for over 12 years. It's an area that's in the middle of a massive real estate boom, so the projects the couple chooses are high risk — which, for audiences, means high drama.

In speaking about their house choices, Eric explained to HGTV, "We have to take the ones that other professional flippers won't take on." For Lindsey, the process is basically akin to taking a leap of faith, saying, "We're jumping in with both feet and we're going to struggle through it together with a smile on our faces and hope to get through it to a rainbow at the end."  

The Bennetts renovate 20 properties a year, which is... a lot, especially when lost-cause makeovers aren't the only things on their plate. Kids, competition, and triple-digit heat are only the beginning of Desert Flippers. Here's everything there is to know about the hit HGTV show.

They flipped their first house two months into dating

When Eric and Lindsey first met over a decade ago, they were both in their late 20s and were both working on basement renovation projects in Wisconsin. They first spoke at a bar, where, according to an interview with Palm Springs Life, Eric flagged Lindsey down as she was on her way out. That night, they talked for hours about renovation and real estate, and the two realized they had a lot in common. Lindsey said of their connection, "One of the things that was so appealing about Eric to me was his ambition and our alignment of opportunities in life and what direction we wanted to go."

According to Locale Magazine, it only took two months of dating and co-working before the couple completed their first investment flip. With the money they made, the Bennetts packed up and moved across the country to Palm Springs, Calif. — a place where Lindsey and her brother, "Uncle Mike" as he's known on the show, had vacationed as kids.

Eric tried to get on TV for years

Reality TV has been on the Bennetts' minds for some time. According to The Desert Sun, Eric started down the television route two years before landing Desert Flippers, when, encouraged by his family, he auditioned for Family Feud and The Amazing Race. While he and Lindsey were in the process of applying to be on HGTV, Eric got called to appear on Wheel of Fortune. He wound up winning $8,000.

But it wasn't just Eric in front of the camera. He spoke with Palm Springs Life about his and Lindsey's appearance in Hydroxycut's before-and-after ads, following their completion of the company's weight loss program. "We were on a couple of commercials for that and in a couple magazine ads, but had no real history of doing anything else," he said.

The two were naturals though. When Eric saw that HGTV was looking for house-flipping families, he knew it was the right fit for them. He told The Desert Sun, "I was like 'that's what I do.' And sure enough I got a call the next day." 

Lindsey isn't always behind Eric's house choices

The Bennetts have been successfully buying and flipping properties for over a decade now, and the transformations you see on Desert Flippers are just a small portion of their work. On TV, the pair have an easy sort of balance between them — Eric scouts the properties, while Lindsey takes charge of the design. Everything else is 50/50. But the truth is that Lindsey doesn't always share in Eric's vision for a property — at least, not at first.

In speaking with People about the work it sometimes takes to convince Lindsey to go along with a purchase, Eric said, "I usually have to swindle or trick Lindsey to get into the car with me, and she thinks we're going to a romantic lunch or something and then boom! We're outside an ugly house." It generally works out though. The couple told Agent Magazine that their most challenging flip — a five-bedroom, 1930s Spanish estate that required them to beg and borrow from everyone they knew — actually wound up being their most successful.

They were both inspired to flip houses by a book

When the Bennetts were first starting out, they may have been novice house flippers themselves, but they certainly weren't new to the industry. In an interview with Agent Magazine, Eric explained that both he and Lindsey had longstanding family ties to real estate sales and investing. But while house flipping may have been in their blood, their real inspiration for getting into the business came from a more surprising source.

"At the time we met, we had both been inspired by reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and I had a flip partially negotiated," Eric said. "It took meeting Lindsey, the initiator, and we jumped into our first flip together." The book by Robert Kiyosaki focuses on the idea of having money work for you through real estate investments, among other things. It led to Eric's first scouting mission, according to The Desert Sun, which involved him being pulled through a Palm Springs neighborhood on rollerblades by his yellow lab. Lindsey agreed to do the flip with him immediately, and, a couple of months later, they were on their way to building their own wealth.

They're deeply religious

The Bennetts certainly love what they do. In their interview with People, Lindsey said, "It's all we do, we live and breathe it." But for as much time as they spend on real estate, their number one focus has always been on their family and their faith. Speaking with the magazine, Lindsey admitted that, when they first started out, she struggled with the question of how to remain true to herself. She noted that she and her family are "very grounded in God." In the end, they decided that continuing the way they always had was their best course of action.

That true-to-self philosophy is certainly part of what's made the Bennetts so successful. And while you might not think they'd have the time for anything other than house flips and remodels, the couple makes it a point to create it. They're active with their church, and they've even participated in fun outings during their offseason. Lindsey told The Desert Sun that she and Eric went on a marriage cruise with their church between two seasons of the show.

Flipping houses is just a side gig for the couple

The thing about HGTV and its stars is that the people on camera aren't actors playing a role. Everyone with a show on the network has prior experience in the home improvement or real estate industry. Eric and Lindsey are no different, and, for them, Desert Flippers — and flipping houses in general — is just a thing they happen to do on the side. 

Eric told The Desert Sun, "Hey, we have our main occupation. I still do mortgages. Lindsey's had a slew of different jobs." The couple looks at house flipping as an additional source of income, which makes the competitive process a little easier to handle. They explained to Agent Magazine that flipping houses as a secondary job is a smart business strategy because flips can be done as opportunities present themselves. This is especially true if you're just starting out. Eric added that "low hanging fruit will keep you safe until you have a larger war chest and more experience."

The show doesn't get any financial help from the network

Speaking of occupations, though... Both the Bennetts and HGTV are adamant that everything you see on Desert Flippers is the real deal. John Feld, senior vice president of programming for HGTV and DIY Network, told Palm Springs Life, "We follow their real business," adding, "So even though we are aware ahead of time which houses will be featured, we don't interfere in the process."

In fact, everything Eric and Lindsey do on camera is exactly what they would be doing off camera. Eric told The Desert Sun, "What's important to note is we're going to be flipping houses regardless of whether or not there's a TV show." The fact that the couple just happens to be exactly what HGTV audiences are looking for — an attractive, goofy, loving, and knowledgable pair with a great eye for home potential — is a marketable bonus. But for all intents and purposes, HGTV is just there to document the process.

They're adamant that they aren't over-inflating the market

Watching people flip houses on TV has been trending for well over a decade, beginning with shows like 2005's Flip This House. HGTV got their big house-flipping hit with 2013's Flip or Flop, and, if we're to judge by the current success of Desert Flippers, the trend isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But there's been a real-life backlash to the popularity of TV house flipping. 

In an interview with The Desert Sun, the Bennetts addressed accusations that buying properties with the sole purpose of turning a profit is pricing people out of the housing market. According to Eric, the way he and Lindsey approach their projects isn't like that. "That's not really the case," he said. "We take a home that's not financeable, in this case not even livable, and bring it back to life." He went on to talk about the lack of affordable housing in the Coachella Valley, explaining that "when we come into a house like this and bring it back to life — selling it for under $250,000 —  it creates a potential home for people to buy that otherwise wouldn't exist."

They hate being compared to Chip and Joanna Gaines

When Desert Flippers first aired, Eric and Lindsey Bennett were being touted as the next Chip and Joanna Gaines, and the comparison makes sense. On the surface, they have a lot in common with each other, as the couples are both made up of designer wives and lovable husbands who seemingly have a boundless supply of dad jokes. Their home transformations are equally stunning, and, with Chip and Joanna Gaines announcing their departure from HGTV in 2017, having an easy replacement seemed pretty lucky for the network.

But in spite of once telling People that they aspired to be like the Gaineses, the Bennetts are actually less enthused about the comparison these days. In January 2019, Radar Online reported on an appearance the couple made at the Las Vegas Market Home and Gift trade show. When asked a question regarding Joanna Gaines, Eric apparently quipped, "I don't know who that is," and said the renovation work she and Chip do in Waco is "easy" compared to his and Lindsey's projects.

But their flipping focus is totally different

While Fixer Upper was a show about transforming a client's actual house into something incredible and unique, the focus of Desert Flippers is on the transformation of a home before a buyer ever even steps foot into it. Buying and flipping yourself requires upfront capital, which is much riskier. According to Radar Online, Eric separated Lindsey and himself from the Fixer Upper couple, saying, "They don't put up any of their own cash. When we flip a house, it's our money on the line."

More than that though, the Bennetts aren't just showcasing home interiors with their flips. Because they live and work in Palm Springs, an area known to be a desert retreat, the exterior of a home is just as important for them, if not more. Lindsey told HGTV, "There's a huge amount of value [in] bringing the outdoors in and having the outdoors feeling like you have an outdoor living room. ... It's really like your [outdoor space] is an extension of your home." It's why on Desert Flippers you're likely to see more fire pits and poolside lounging areas than on any other HGTV series.

It isn't as entertaining as HGTV makes it appear to be

Watching a show like Desert Flippers, which has a half-hour runtime, is an incredibly different experience from actually living it. Lindsey told The Desert Sun, "It's such a short show. So we have 21 to 22 minutes to get a lot of content in." What that means for viewers is that a lot of the actual renovation details get cut down to about 30 seconds, when they could have taken weeks or months to complete. 

The Las Vegas Review-Journal spoke with the Bennetts during their appearance at the Las Vegas Market expo, where Eric elaborated on the positive spin a network like HGTV will put on house flipping. He noted that "for them, the business is entertainment." He continued, "It's getting eyeballs to sit and watch a program," adding that the real-life delays (which can sometimes be up to six months) that he and Lindsey face on a project are typically cut because they'd "make for boring television."

It isn't as easy, either

The popularity of house-flipping shows like Desert Flippers has certainly contributed to the appeal of real-life flipping. The unfortunate part is that these days turning a profit is something of a crapshoot. According to a 2016 report by RealtyTrac for Money, 2015 marked a high for people buying and selling cheap properties, but 12 percent of those properties came out at a loss or just broke even. Worse still, only 28 percent of flips manage to make even 20 percent of the price paid for the homes, which basically covers the costs to do it.

In Palm Springs specifically, the housing market isn't what it used to be. Eric told The Desert Sun, "Four or five years ago you could trip on the sidewalk and find a distressed property. But property values are pretty high right now and there's a lot of people trying to get a piece of Palm Springs and the desert in general." 

Then, of course, there's the amount of time a finished flip sits on the market. The longer a house stays empty, the more money is lost on the project. So it comes down to efficiency... and luck.

"Uncle Mike" is still around

Twelve years ago, when Eric and Lindsey first headed west to sunny Palm Springs, they brought along Lindsey's brother, Mike Schneider. Schneider is their general contractor and known on the series as "Uncle Mike." Along with pitching in on the labor side of things, he lived with the Bennetts and helped take care of their kids. As Lindsey told The Desert Sun, he was a "come-in-and-help-us-as-we-need" kind of guy. But as filming on the series went on, Uncle Mike seemed to have less camera time.

That's because the number and general scope of projects the Bennetts were taking on required more than just one guy. According to Lindsey, as they began to take on bigger projects, they needed to bring in more licensed contractors for help. "Uncle Mike is still around," she said. "He's helping me more on the back end." So maybe he'll pop up again in an upcoming season. That is, if there is an upcoming season.

They don't know if there will be a fourth season

In early 2018, Discovery acquired Scripps Networks Interactive, HGTV's parent company. As a result of the merger, the fates of many of HGTV's series, including Desert Flippers, came under question. Then, in November 2018, Chip and Joanna Gaines announced their return to TV with a new network under the company's umbrella, which begs the question as to whether or not TV audiences really need more than one wholesome home improvement couple.

According to The Desert Sun, the Bennetts are just as curious about the return of their show as their audience is. By January 2019, there was still no formal decision one way or another. The Desert Sun noted that HGTV had previously announced the series renewal the prior December. "So we don't know," Lindsey said. But the couple is taking the lack of news in stride. "The direction that we're going it's kind of ever-changing and it's kind of nice to take a breather and assess," she added.