Patrick Bieleny is a prominent real estate investor in Calgary, Alberta. While many believe that investors are successful due to generational wealth or inheritance, Patrick Bieleny came from a family of humble means. Bieleny was born in Eastern Europe in the eighties before immigrating to Toronto in pursuit of higher education. He attended the University of Toronto and graduated with a degree in business management. He helped finance his way through college by completing handyman jobs for neighbours and working part-time. Though juggling two jobs and studying after hours wasn’t easy, Bieleny was determined to “make something of himself.” After graduating from UofT, he purchased his first investment property, a condo townhouse just outside of Calgary, which he renovated and rented out for a modest profit. Over the years, Bieleny has become a house-flipping guru by finding ways to stretch his clients’ budgets and make more-informed renovation decisions. He takes pride in attending numerous networking events, including real state and property management conferences, where he has been able to grow his list of professional contacts. As of today, Bieleny has flipped and sold hundreds of choice properties through his company, PB & Co. Houses. Since it’s inception, PB & Co. has grown drastically in both size and profits. While Bieleny has a knack for making house-flipping look easy, he admits that success in the industry does not come without time, patience, and struggle.
Where did the idea for PB & Co. Houses come from?
My father worked in construction his entire life, so I was no stranger to do-it-yourself projects and hard work from a young age. I believe my father influenced my passion for fixing things and giving them value. However, it wasn’t until I started studying entrepreneurship at university that I realized I could make a career out of real estate investing. Compensation aside, the purpose of PB & Co. Houses is to create lifelong homes for couples and families by uncovering each property’s hidden potential.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up early to meet with general contractors and check the progress of current rehabs. Once I’m in the office, I’ll respond to emails, take phone calls, and review financials to ensure we are on budget with each project. I typically have anywhere from 5-10 houses at a time, so number crunching is critical to the firm’s success. Throughout the day, my team will inform me of potential on and off-market deals they have found via auctions, wholesalers, foreclosures, short sale negotiators, or real estate contacts. I will also communicate with my network of real estate agents and brokers to start discussing marketing efforts on near-completed homes.
How do you bring ideas to life?
At PB & Co., we use 2-D floor plans and 3-D models that you can move and rotate to breathe life into each vision. Seeing a room in 3-D will give us a better idea of how everything will fit into the space and can help highlight issues in the design phase that we may not have noticed using a traditional floor plan. For example, we may uncover undesirable relationships between rooms and traffic patterns. Once I am satisfied with a layout, I will send a copy to my contractor so that they have a clear picture of what I expect the finished product to look like.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Recently, I have been using smart features in renovated homes to increase profit margins. According to research, utilizing smart devices like next-generation appliances, alarm systems with cameras and motion detectors, smart entertainment features, or lighting and energy-saving features can improve home value by 11 percent. The key is understanding which features will appeal most to your target buyer.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
In university, my business professors spoke a lot about the 80/20 rule. This rule states that only 20% of what you do in a day produces 80% of your results. With this in mind, I try to eliminate redundant and ineffective tasks that won’t have a profound impact on the company’s bottom line. I start by breaking down each project into steps and systematically removing tasks until I’m left with the primary responsibilities that generate the bulk of our profits. I also delegate administrative and specialized tasks to qualified employees to be able to get the most out of my workday.
What advice would you give your younger self?
A lot of novice house flippers get so caught up in the excitement of buying their first or second home that they dive in without doing their research. Most property flips fail because investors have overpaid for a home or overlooked important aspects, like a home’s location. With time, seasoned investors will have an easier time identifying good investments from endless money pits, but it all starts with careful consideration and research.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Whenever I’m speaking with someone who isn’t familiar with the industry, they often look at me in disbelief when I tell them I never want to create the best home on the block. So many renovators outdo themselves by over-improving properties. If you think about it logically, the highest-priced home in the neighbourhood raises the market value of the other homes, while the other homes drag down the market value of the nicest property in the area. While it’s tempting to go all-out on each renovation, every penny that is spent irresponsibly will eat away at your profits.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend that everyone take more risks in life and business. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, ‘with great risk, comes great reward.’ Well, as an entrepreneur and professional house-flipper, I am no stranger to making bold moves. I have rehabbed homes in every market and have been able to find lucrative deals across the province, even when the odds were stacked against me.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Being able to spot attractive deals before anyone else has helped me grow my business to greater heights. I purchase most of my properties through off-market deals—homes that aren’t listed on the open market—before renovating and reselling them. Off-market properties or ‘pocket-listings’ may be owned by a couple going through divorce, or individuals that must sell quickly due to financial hardship. Regardless, these listings aren’t sold through traditional channels. I like to call off-market properties ‘diamonds in the rough.’ Since a home must be sold fast, I can usually acquire them for below market value. Building a strong network of contacts, including creditors and estate attorneys, has allowed me to profit from off-market deals.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I was new to the house flipping business, I hired a contractor without completing my due diligence. The contractor ended up missing every deadline and completed the work with multiple mistakes. The project was delayed for several months, and the longer it sat on the market unfinished, the longer I was stuck making payments on the mortgage, utilities, property taxes, and insurance. While I still made a small profit, it was not worth the headache that was caused by months of arguing with my contractor.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As an entrepreneur, I am going to remain tight-lipped on original business ideas. However, individuals that are looking for a profitable side-hustle may benefit from furniture flipping. Start with pieces you already own or visit antique shops, garage sales, auctions, and online marketplaces to find good deals. Individuals don’t need to be artistic, but must be willing to put in the effort to learn best-practice techniques. Those that discover they have a knack for it might even be able to make a career out of it.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently purchased the Wyze Lock for one of the homes we were renovating. It’s a smart technology that knows when you arrive home and automatically unlocks as you approach the door. Once you’re inside, the lock detects when the door is closed and automatically locks behind you. The homeowners will never have to worry about whether or not they locked their door.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Realeflow has become an integral part of our business. By using this software, we have been able to shortcut each step of the investment process, from generating leads to analyzing deals and selling properties. They have made it easy to manage direct-mail marketing campaigns, build websites for our listings, and match customers with their dream homes.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend that all aspiring entrepreneurs read The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss and Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki, if they want to avoid the typical nine-to-five and work smarter not harder.
What is your favorite quote?
When we are going through a difficult rehab, I try to remind myself of this quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
● 20% of what you do in a day produces 80% of your results, so focus on completing the tasks that really matter
● Most property flips fail because investors are caught up in the excitement of their next project that they forget to do their due diligence—don’t make this rookie mistake!
● “Work smarter, not harder” by reading books that can help you advance in your career and networking with other professionals in your field
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.