Within the world of music, he’s often labeled a one-hit wonder. But beyond his famed break-dancing and parachute pants, Rob Van Winkle has made a new name for himself — in real estate. And it all started, coincidentally, with his chart-topping success in the ’90s rap scene.
“When I was 16 years old, I bought a lot of houses [because] that’s what guys would normally do when they come into a lot of money,” Winkle told Celebuzz. “I bought homes in Laurel Canyon in L.A. because I thought I’d be working there. I brought on Bleecker Street [in New York], in Miami and Dallas and all these places. I went on tour for four years and never saw these homes. I came back and was like…that was stupid. I wasted all that money. There’s cobwebs in the corners of the…home.”
Then a light bulb went off: “Let’s sell them,” he recalled thinking. “So I sold them and literally made millions of dollars. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? It’s that easy?'”
Though his didn’t “get the bug” for design until about 15 years ago, Winkle delved right into real estate, snapping up properties to turn them for a profit. “I’ve had my hands on a lot of real estate deals, but a lot of them are small homes because I worked my way up,” he explained. “It’s not all mansions. Some of them, you just turn and flip as a piece of paper. Literally, I buy below the appraised value, turn around and put it on MLS (Multiple Listing Service) the next second.”
Eventually, he found his flipping niche in the world of Palm Beach, Fla., real estate. “There’s a lot of money there, there’s a lot of mansions there and there’s a lot of people who buy them so it’s a great market,” he explained. “I really know my area and it’s worked out very well.”
After building his portfolio for over a decade, Winkle got a phone call from producer Matt Levine, with whom he had filmed for Biography Channel program. “Two years after the show has already aired, he called me up out of the blue and…[asked], ‘Are you still doing real estate?'” he recalled. “And I said, ‘Yeah. In fact, tomorrow I’m about to close on…a mansion in Pam Beach.’ So Matt Levine flies in the next day and says, ‘Can I come in and film the house?’ I said, ‘Sure,’ but didn’t think much of it…. [But] by the time he got on a plane to go home, they had the deal wrapped up. So, I never pitched it. I never had an idea to do a TV show about this. It just fell in place.”
Now his house-flipping DIY Network reality show, The Vanilla Ice Project, is about to start its third season, which will focus on one 10,000 square foot home that had sat untouched for seven years. “The pool was black, fish [were] swimming in it, frogs, snakes [and] everything. Mother nature took over you know,” he explained. “I just kind of look through the weeds and said, ‘This is awesome. This is awesome.'”
To remake the residence, Winkle turned to a travel magazine for inspiration. “I saw this tiki hut over the water that said, ‘Come to Tahiti and spend a nice vacation at a five-star resort,’ he recalled. “And I go, ‘I’m going to recreate this in Palm Beach…. Sp I turned it into a Tahitian retreat, with bamboo lattice [on] the ceiling. I recreated the whole beach, put in a lot of palm trees, brought in [white sugar] sand from Key West, turned the water turquoise [and] put a tiki hut over the dock. It looks just like the magazine. It’s incredible.”
And it’s in bringing to life such lavish themes that Winkle feels he leaves his mark. “What I do to these houses is completely different than if someone just come in and says, ‘Oh, let me just fix up this house put some paint and carpet and just turn it into what it was,'” he said. “I gut them. I completely tear every wall down and I recreate it. I leave my signature there and that’s kinda like one of my things that I’m just honored that people really appreciate.”
The Vanilla Ice Project on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the DIY Network and on his new special, Ice My House. Check local listings for times.
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