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A Discussion with Patrick Bieleny About Finding Potential Where Others Don’t

Patrick Bieleny is a successful real estate investor in Calgary, Alberta, that specializes in flipping houses. Bieleny was born in Eastern Europe in the eighties, before he and his parents immigrated to Toronto, in the interest of affording him a better education. He was quickly accepted to one of the most prominent universities in the […]

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Patrick Bieleny
Patrick Bieleny

Patrick Bieleny is a successful real estate investor in Calgary, Alberta, that specializes in flipping houses. Bieleny was born in Eastern Europe in the eighties, before he and his parents immigrated to Toronto, in the interest of affording him a better education. He was quickly accepted to one of the most prominent universities in the world, the University of Toronto. While he was there, he studied business management and discovered his passion for real estate investment. Adapting to life in another country was difficult for Bieleny, accompanied by the fact that he was working two jobs to help pay for his degree, including his own handyman business. He learned his handyman skills from his father, an experienced construction worker, who taught him that “if something’s broken, fix it.”

After graduating from UofT, Bieleny purchased his first fixer-upper, a condo-townhouse just outside of Calgary. With the help of a few friends, he renovated the home and was able to rent it out for a modest profit. Bieleny has come a long way since his first house-flip. Currently, he is the founder of PB & Co. Houses, a company that focuses on finding, flipping, and selling choice properties. As a seasoned investor, Bieleny has rehabbed hundreds of properties and has learned to evolve with the market. He has also helped mentor several novice investors looking to break into the real estate business. Today, Bieleny answers some pressing questions regarding both his personal and professional life.

What do you love most about the industry you are in?

“While the mechanics of each house flip is the same (generate leads, crunch numbers, make an offer, fund the deal, rehab the property, and sell it), each prospective homebuyer and property is different. You can’t have a “copy, paste” attitude in this business. If you want to make money and be successful, then you need to tailor each property to a specific homebuyer by making it functional and adding value. At the same time, I love taking some creative liberty in every house we complete. Every rehab is unique, and that is refreshing when you’ve been in the industry for a long time.”

What keeps you motivated?

“While most people would assume profit is the greatest motivating factor, it isn’t. Money is merely a scorecard that shows me how effective I am at doing my job. My true motivation comes from being able to see potential where others can’t and supply clients with their dream home. Every house that we complete generates the same level of satisfaction that my first flip did. Being able to hand over the house keys to a deserving couple or family, especially those who didn’t think they’d be able to own their own home, is what makes my job so rewarding.”

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

“In my early years of house flipping, I worked with a mentor who helped me get my footing in the industry. He told me to ‘pick a house-flipping strategy and stick with it.’ By choosing one strategy, namely single-family homes, I have been able to gain years of experience and become an expert at flipping this style of property. Over time, I have had to evolve with the market and deviate from my strategy, but this was the best piece of advice I could have received as a novice investor.”

Where do you get your inspiration from?

“When I am going through a creative dry spell, I like to check out the app, Houzz. Houzz is very similar to Pinterest in that it is image-based and provides loads of inspiration for users. While there is user-generated content, the app features finished homes by professional contractors and homebuilders. The app allows you to view entire rooms, down to the smallest of features, including individual light fixtures. Overall, Houzz is a great way for my team and I to spot new trends, such as the most popular wall colours and finishes.”

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

“I have always stood by my motto, and that is to “work smarter, not harder.” As such, I have put together a great team of people that I can trust to get projects done. My experienced team includes real estate agents, title attorneys, general contractors, lending partners, marketers, and licensed tradespeople. I have worked hard to build a quality team that I can rely on, without having to micromanage them. Consequently, I can take vacation time with family and friends without having to worry about everything falling apart at the office or our worksites.”

What traits do you possess that make you a successful leader?

“I believe establishing clear goals and macro-managing employees has helped me become a more successful leader. For each rehab, I provide my employees with clear direction and 3-D models to ensure team members are on the same page. I also like to highlight the top priorities, so workers aren’t wasting time on insignificant tasks. Once everyone is on-board with the vision, I like to take a step back and let employees do their jobs. No one likes a boss that is constantly looking over their shoulder or second-guessing their every move. However, I’m available for daily meetings and phone calls to gauge progress, answer questions, and solve issues.” 

Who has been a role model to you and why?

“My father has always been an inspiration to me. He moved us to Canada and made many sacrifices so that I would be able to follow my dreams. Some days, he worked 12-hour shifts to be able to provide for my mother and me. I feel that I owe it to him to try my best and be successful.”

What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?

“Know what you are getting into because house-flipping isn’t as easy as it looks on television. Rehabs are usually portrayed as fast, fun, and profitable, but they don’t disclose information about the risks involved. Throughout my career, I’ve run into unanticipated construction issues, dealt with difficult contractors, managed losses, and had run-ins with burglars and squatters—not including the amount of money that is at stake with each flip. While I don’t mean to discourage anyone, I think the first step into real estate investment is a clear understanding of the industry.”

Outside of work, what defines you as a person?

“I’ve always been creative and loved do-it-yourself projects, so if I’m not at work fixing things, I am at home doing it. I’m also very family-oriented, so I try to spend the majority of my free time making memories with my loved ones.” 

What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?

“We all make mistakes. Mistakes are a big part of what makes us human. The key is to learn lessons from those errors so that we don’t repeat them. When a member of your team makes an honest mistake, try not to penalize them, but inspire them to try again.”

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