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When you’ve been doing this a long time, and people all see all the fancy things that you’ve had over the years, and they see you on the beach and they see all these great things. To me, the most important thing, that stuff’s all awesome, I love it.

But the things that I think are most important are the things that you get to contribute back, the way that you get to change people’s lives. And so I just want to share with you a brief story about my favorite real estate project I ever got to do. And soI remember I was actually living in Las Vegas at the time and doing a lot of foreclosures there back in the day. And I was sitting at the Wynn Hotel at the bar and I was waiting for a friend of mine to show up.

And a few seats down, there was this woman there and she was sitting there alone by herself, waiting for her friend to show up. And I’m shy so I would never start the conversation but she came over to me and goes, “Hi, I’m Judy and I’m from New Orleans. Who are you?” And I said, “Oh, I’m Mike. I’m from Canada but I live in Vegas now.” She goes, “Oh, you’re living in Vegas. What are you doing?” “Well, I’m a real estate investor. We’re flipping homes and so I decided I’m going to hang out here for a while while I flip these homes.” And she goes, “Oh, you’re in real estate? I’m in real estate too.” I go, “Really? You’re in real estate? What do you do?” And she goes, “Well, I’m a realtor.”

I go, “So you’re a realtor in New Orleans? Okay. That’s interesting. How’s the market?” And she goes, “Well, to be honest, when Hurricane Katrina was approaching, I evacuated like I do for every other storm. And when I came back, unlike the other times I’ve evacuated, my home was under 20 feet of water and all my belongings were gone, everything that I owned was gone except for the clothing on my back. And I had found this one neighborhood, and every single one of my clients is either missing, dead, or their home was gone.” And I said, “What did you do?”

She goes, “Well, I was actually one of the lucky ones. My insurance company actually gave me the money for my belongings. Most people didn’t get that but I did.” And she said, “Even though I got the money and we fixed it up, to be honest, I got really depressed. And all my clients were gone, I had to start over from scratch.” And then I said, “Well, what next? You’re here, you’re in Vegas, you seem happy. What happened next?” And she said, “Well, I met this one investor who happened to be traveling to New Orleans from Austin, Texas and he said, ‘Well, what if we started to rebuild these homes, you think people would come back?’ ” And she goes, “I don’t know, we could try.”

So they bought one, they fixed it up, and they resold it and actually somebody bought it. And they did it again, and they did it again. And of course my real estate investor mind is going a million miles an hour, and I said to her, “Well, I don’t want to step on your toes. I certainly don’t want to take any business away from you. But I would love to come and help rebuild your neighborhood. I would love to go and take the skills that I’ve learned over the years and build a team and we’ll buy a bunch of homes and we’ll do it as a give back project. We’ll bring a bunch of people back to the city.” And she said, “Yeah. Not only are you not stepping on my toes, there’s so many homes and so many people were affected by this.” And a lot of people got taken. When the storm was approaching, they couldn’t afford to evacuate. And also all the flights were booked.

It was very hard to get out of the city. And so the citytook a lot of people by bus to Houston Texas. And after the storm, they never brought them back. And there’s several conspiracy theories, I’m not going to go into all the details. But many people think that the particular areas where they decided to take people from tended to be the poorest parts of town. And so a lot of people thought they’d get rid of the poor people, bring them to Houston, leave them there.

And then some of the areas, one of the areas that was really close to the French Quarter… If you’ve ever been to New Orleans and if you hung out on Bourbon Street, that’s the French Quarter of course. So there was an area very close to it called the Lower Ninth Ward that was very poor. And a lot of people suspect that they brought those people to Houston so that they could take that land. And instead of rebuilding the shacks that were on there, they would put stuff in there, luxury properties, and reinvent that part of the city. So Brad Pitt who happens to have a home in the French Quarter heard about this and so he was disgusted by it when he heard that. And so he bought up the whole Lower Ninth Ward and fixed up the homes and brought a bunch of people back which was awesome.

And I thought, “Well, I’m going to model what he’s doing,” and so I actually, back then I was speaking across Canada, and I offered training for people who wanted to learn how to flip homes if they would donate so that we could afford to buy more homes in New Orleans to fix up. And that was the start of this really cool project that to this day is still my favorite project I’ve ever done. I’ve done plenty of projects where I made a lot of money and worked a lot less hard than we did on this one. But when you go back and you meet the people whose lives you’ve changed, you can’t puta value on it. So, I just want to show you some pictures because it makes me happy, it makes me sad and happy at the same time. But I just want to show you what’s possible. When you figure this stuff out, it’s not just about the next paycheck. You can change, you can absolutely change people’s lives with this.

So this is the area next to the Lower Ninth Ward. Like I said, that’s where Brad Pitt was working. My realtor friend was a couple of areas over called St. Bernard Parish, and this is what it looked like during the storm. These homes were under water for several weeks. This is some of the stuff that we saw on the inside when we got in there, tons of mold. It was horrible, you can’t even imagine some of the stuff that we saw. We saw dead animals in attics, we saw people’s pictures, wedding dresses, irreplaceable stuff just lying there, it was horrible. Homes actually taken off their foundations and bashed into other homes. It looked like a war zone, only worse. And people were living off on their roofs.

When I did my trainings, one of the things that I like to do, as I mentioned, I brought a bunch of people down there and we were raising awareness and funds and I would do some teaching and I’d always bring some locals on the tour and talk about their experience and what happened. And I remember we brought this one elderly lady, she was probably in her seventies or eighties to the tour. And I remember she said she was up on her rooftop because that was the only safe place to be, you can see how high the water is. She was on a rooftop for about two days with her husband waiting for somebody to come by with a boat.

And finally, after two days, somebody did come by and I think the boat maybe held five or six people. And while they were on the boat, they were finally safe on this boat, and he died of a heart attack, right in front of the group of people. And so when you hear about these stories, you can’t even imagine some of the stuff that… You see these things, you can’t imagine what it’s like unless you’ve actually been there and spoken to the people there. Anyway, we saw a lot of craziness during this time period. And I can go on, I have a lot of pictures. These are the FEMA trailers, these trailers that the Federal Emergency, anyway, the government agency in the US is responsible for when disasters break out. They brought all these trailers and they had quite often two or three or four families living in these RVs for months and months and months on end because every hotel, if it was still standing, it was booked. You couldn’t find a room, it was just nonsense. And so a lot of people are stuck in these FEMA trailers. Anyway,so they put these Xs on the windows, and in the X, in each of the four triangles that it makes, they put the date that they went inside the home, how many people they found that were dead in there, how many people used to live there, and how many people are missing, things like that. So anyway, that was the before, and here’s the X that I was talking about with the different numbers in thetriangles. Anyway, so we would buy these homes and we would take them down pretty much to the studs. They were mold from top to bottom. First thing we do is we brought in a team to do mold remediation and we kept the outside structure because that was fine but we rebuilt the entire insides. This is a monument they still have in New Orleans and it represents the height of the water. So it shows you how high the water was at its pea and how it went down every couple of weeks. But it was a lot of water obviously.This is the Lower Ninth Ward where Brad Pitt was working and actually had I continued doing my trainings and raising awareness, I was actually going to try to get ahold of Brad Pitt’s team to see if he would come on our bus tours so he could attract more women and try just attract more people in all honesty to what we’re doing. And so we were going to try to reach out, see if he would come on our bus tour, we were going to raise funds for what he was doing too and team up with him. But after certain amounts of time, the city started to rip down all the properties because they were just dangerous, kids wanted to climb in there, there was broken glass and mold. And so eventually they ripped them all down so we didn’t get that far unfortunately. But we did manage to save probably around 15 properties. But this is what the homes look like in the Lower Ninth Ward, very, very poor part of town. These are the ones Brad Pitt was fixing up and so I’m going to show you the after here.

This is one of the FEMA trailers and this is Brad Pitt’s project. Coming soon, make it right. And had nine for the Lowest Ninth Ward. And theY had a lot of funding, a lot more than I did, and they were building homes like that instead of the shacks that were there before. And they were bringing people back. As long as they were working, they were allowed to have their home back. If they were looking for handouts, no, he wasn’t doing that. And so he was building really unique looking homes, ours were a little bit more traditional. But this is what he did. And this is the area I was working in and as you can see, a lot of the homes just weren’t there anymore. But we took homes like this that were still standing and took something like this, like it was covered in mold inside and we took it down basically down to the beams and started over with it. We made them really open and really kind of funky layouts. Here’s some before pictures and this is the after picture, and this is what we did inside.

So we turned these homes into something beautiful again and it brought people back to the city. So I just wanted to show you that because when you think about all the… People always see the car or the beach, they all see all this material stuff. This is the stuff to me that keeps me going after all these years and doing what I do and wanting to teach people, not just how to make more money, there’s a million ways to make money. The money’s going to come, money’s going to go. Changing lives doesn’t go away. So anyway, here’s some more pictures. And we took, not all the homes [inaudible 00:11:36], we took home like this. Here are some people at one of my trainings, and this is what it looked like inside, here with a free shopping cart. And this is what it eventually turned out to look like.

So number one lesson that I already gave you, it’s not all about money. Number two lesson is you can take a home that looks like absolute crap and it can be transformed. So don’t think, “Oh, that home is ugly,” or that home needs a lot of work. Factor in the cost ofdoing it and anything is possible in this business if you have the right teams and the right know-how. So I just wanted to show that before we moved on and I don’t know, it brings back great memories. But I hope it inspires you guys to do some really awesome things. As you fill up your bank accounts and you have more freedom yourselves, don’t forget about other people that need a hand up. All right. Back to you Julie before I cry.

Julie:Oh, I love that Mike. You’re amazing. We love you. It’s okay to cry.Yeah.

QUOTES TO CONSIDER

  • How I Used My Real Estate Skills to Help Rebuild Destroyed Homes
  • How I Used My Real Estate Skills to Help Rebuild Destroyed Homes

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Eva Werthmann

Eva Werthmann

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