Rafterhouse: An Arcadia-Based HGTV Pilot and More
November 21, 2015
Editor, Arizona Journal of Real Estate & Business
The Phoenix metropolitan area has become quite an attraction for reality home shows over the past few years. In 2012 to 2013, the Discovery Channel aired Property Wars, giving America a peak into the competitive process of Arizona trustee sales and the after effect of the purchase. This year, there is a HGTV pilot with a much different view of Phoenix metro called Rafterhouse.
Rafterhouse is an Arcadia-based business that stands for a lot more than a pilot show, a renovated home or a newly built property. The people involved in this business pride themselves on integrity, caring about the lives of people involved with their homes, the neighborhood and the community.
Austin King is a Rafterhouse partner, a Realtor® and a resident in Arcadia. I talked to Austin about his recent HGTV pilot and the core purpose of his business.
Austin, can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I was a professional race cyclist after high school, and a member of the U.S. National Team during that time as well. Cycling took me to many places, including Europe for 5 years. I lived in Tucson during the off season which has a great cycling community, and that’s where I met my wife. The difficulty with cycling is that it wasn’t very lucrative and I lived out of a suitcase. So when I thought about settling down, I knew I had to make a change.
I always had an interest in real estate, so when I was thinking of life after cycling, it made sense to me. I decided to talk to my buddy, Greg Kilroy, who had his real estate license. Through Greg, I went to the Arizona School of Real Estate & Business, got my real estate license in 2007, exited out of cycling and started working with him.
How did your real estate career start out?
In 2008, Greg and I found a niche selling modern, loft condos in central Phoenix. I really enjoyed it, but it just wasn’t quite what I was looking for – something was missing.
At that time, I was working with some of my family who were interested in investing in real estate. They were weighing out rental property, so I took them to the southeast Valley to see some REOs. That’s when I started to think of working in the “fix-n-flip” market.
When we first started, it was all trustee sale purchases. Our business model was absolute “fix-n-flip” cosmetic remodels, turn and burn – we were in and out. My current business partner, Chris Liles, had a background in construction and I had the real estate license, so “fix-n-flip” made sense. We were always committed to the house and doing the right thing – we made sure people could rely on us. We took pride in the fact that I was a Realtor® and Chris was a residential contractor – our combined skills took out extra steps for the investor.
How did you transition to Rafterhouse?
In 2012, we were shooting fish in a barrel – it was clear the market was changing. Everybody at the time was XYZ Investment Group or XYZ Capital Advisors – a stigma had developed in the industry that those involved were vulture-like, bottom feeders chasing a dollar.
We wanted to create something a little friendlier, more neighborhood and community-based. Our goal was to let people know that our work is intentional. So, we left our former entity in “fix-n-flip” behind and hired a local group to brand our new entity. We went through pretty extensive branding exercises for about 3 months to find out what was important to us. At first, the name Rafterhouse sounded like a bar or senior citizen home, but it kept on circling back and finally stuck with us.
The description of your company is very simple and integrity-focused. Can you tell me about that?
We created Rafterhouse to be a name that people see as not only that a good house is coming, but the people behind it care. That said, we do a lot to care about our homeowners, we do a lot to stand by our work, and we do a lot to support the community. We live in the Arcadia neighborhood, we work in the neighborhood, our kids go to school in the neighborhood – we see our homeowners at Little League games. It’s very important to Chris and me that when we see our homeowners we can feel good about what we do and who we are.
What type of work is Rafterhouse doing right now?
We’re only building spec homes at the moment in one ZIP code in Arcadia. We’re considering expanding into contracting and other areas – but have no firm plans right now. We purchase the property, then Chris and I develop our remodel plan. We decide if we’re going to tear the house down or add on – we do everything in-house. We’re a general contractor, we create the design and at the end we sell the home. We also work on really cool pantry doors – it’s a little niche that we started a couple of years ago that we kept doing. We also sell flooring, cabinets and our pantry doors.
Tell me about your open houses.
We have a big neighborhood Open House with our whole family. We know construction is messy and loud – it can be annoying and frustrating to the neighborhood. So, we believe the least we can do for the people in the neighborhood is to open our doors – we hope they’re happy with the final outcome. We post our open houses on social media and draw a lot of traffic, not only from Arcadia, but from all parts of the Valley.
Most people have no interest in buying the house; they’re just curious about what we’ve done. They take pictures and get ideas from our homes – they ask questions and we’re there to help.
We added a charitable element to our open houses – we figured we have 200+ people attending and we should do something. We started holding drives: can foods, jackets and blankets. We want Rafterhouse to become a bigger platform in doing good.
How did the HGTV pilot happen for Rafterhouse?
My partner Chris’ home was featured in HGTV magazine. The publication caught on through word of mouth that Chris had a remodel, so HGTV magazine arranged a full photo shoot to take place at his home. It was a pretty elaborate process with a lot of HGTV people there.
As his photo shoot was happening, I was thinking that somewhere in New York there’s a building where one floor was the HGTV magazine and the next floor was the HGTV station – I was kind of joking around and asked Chris to get a contact name for the station. It just got the ball rolling. The question was “why” and I said, “I don’t know, why not – aren’t you curious if we could get a T.V. show?”
It was very innocent – curiosity killed the cat. We have a pretty large social media following, so we decided to connect with a person at HGTV through Instagram. We sent her a personal message with one of our photos, explained what we did, and asked her for feedback. She replied back telling us she loved it. The whole process started with a very basic, short conversation through social media. Everyone thinks it was this big drawn out deal, but I literally sent the HGTV contact a picture and a text.
She asked us for a quick video of the team; I put together something with iMovie – I had never used it before – but I just chose some music to complement the video and sent it off to HGTV. The contact there replied back that said she liked it and that she was looking for someone to come film us. I thought WOW, now it’s getting real.
HGTV got us connected with a local production company, who took over and came out last fall to shoot a 5-minute “sizzle reel.” It was 3 days of filming – fortunately they came on a weekend when we were finishing a house.
With so many fix up property shows on HGTV what was the attraction to Rafterhouse?
We’re in one of the larger metropolitan cities in the country and our home projects are very thorough. We don’t just come in and do a bathroom or kitchen – our strategy is that we only buy a house if we have the money to do everything. Our budgets are pretty substantial – we’re able to spend money on good lightening, flooring, etc. So there’s a pretty good before and after contrast, which was appealing to HGTV.
They also liked that we have two families involved in our business – 4 adults with 7 total kids combined. It’s fun because it’s one more thing we can share. We don’t always have the opportunity to take the kids to the job site, but we typically do involve both families in the process. My wife was involved in the recent filming, which was very special.
What is the pilot about?
HGTV filmed a one episode pilot in January through March of this year, at one of our homes on 40th and Indian School. They followed us through the acquisition of the property, the remodel and then the resale of the home.
Our kids and wives were involved in the entire process. They were there from the get go, in terms of the decision to buy the house, the design selection, staging and the functional parts. We like to have fun with these homes, so there’s a scene where we’re asking our kids, ages 5, 6 and 7 years old, for their ideas for this Rafterhouse – they said “build a tunnel.” So what we ended up building was a 3-foot tunnel with doors from one bedroom to the other. My little girl Hazel, who was a little over 1 year old at the time, actually took her very first steps as the older kids were going through the tunnel – it actually happened in the pilot.
How did you feel about filming the pilot?
We joke about – if it doesn’t go anywhere, we have a commemorative DVD that documents a brief time in our families’ lives – we’re incredibly blessed just to have that element. We had a little under 1 million viewers for the pilot; for that many people to see our brand, we’re pretty happy. If it does go somewhere and becomes a series, that’ll be cool.
What are the next steps for the pilot and a T.V. series?
Since March, the pilot has been in the world of editing for 5 to 6 months. The first pilot aired October 10th – and there is a second air date for the pilot re-run in mid-November. The network is still doing their due diligence and evaluating the metrics. We should hear back if they will be doing a series by the end of November.
Our pilot is not online, cannot be streamed and it’s not archived. HGTV films a pilot and they throw it out there to see how it rates. It’s not advertised, but you can find it listed on their website with a short description. They invest a lot of time and money into their pilots.
The next step will be a series – the number of shows has not been specified. Social media will be the first place we’ll announce the outcome of the pilot and if there will be series. Anyone interested can check on our Instagram or Facebook sites.