The Wall Street Journal christened Cleveland a "house-flipping hotspot" this summer, but that wasn’t exactly news to Darren and Kate Mancuso. As the owners of Relief Properties and stars of the new HGTV show “Gut Job,” they’ve been in the local real estate game for over a decade.
“You look at other major cities and the entry price to even get into a home could be a half-million,” says Darren. “Real estate investors from all over the world are setting their sights on Cleveland because it’s so affordable.”
Indeed, as a 2020 study by Attom Data Solutions found that Cuyahoga was one of seven counties in the nation where buying a home is more affordable than renting one. The Mancusos know that firsthand, as they’ve been flipping between 10 and 15 houses every year since co-founding Relief Properties in 2012. Today their growing team handles everything from real estate and renovation to interior design, architecture, and construction.
“We’re the only real estate shop in Cleveland that has seven full-time real estate agents and a construction company all under one roof,” says Kate.
They’ve also set themselves apart as the stars of the new HGTV show “Gut Job,” which premiered on November 7. The show chronicles the Mancusos and their team at Relief Properties taking on “impossible projects no other flippers would touch in Cleveland,” with the first episode focusing on a fire-ravaged century-old Tudor in Lakewood.
The newly renovated interior of the Lakewood home featured on "Gut Job"“There have been a lot of house-flipping shows on HGTV over the years, so the bar was set pretty high for us,” says Darren. “The goal was to come up with something in really bad shape and turn it into an amazing home.”
Mission accomplished, as the Mars Avenue home recently sold for $472,000—netting the Mancusos an approximately $75,000 net profit after the sale price and renovation costs. Shot in 2019 over eight months, the pilot episode of “Gut Job” documents the extensive renovation process, which included mitigating the fire damage and converting the Tudor-style home from a two-family to a single-family home with four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths.
While the Mancusos await word on whether HGTV plans to order more episodes, they’re enjoying the ride. “It’s been really surreal," says Darren. "We never thought we'd be on TV; we've always just been doing our thing."
In the meantime, they continue to expand their work at Relief Properties—focusing primarily on the areas of Lakewood, Rocky River, Bay Village, and Avon Lake, though Darren says they are expanding into the east side with recent projects in Shaker Heights and Pepper Pike. Their focus has also broadened from house-flipping into more of a holistic approach.
"In 2019, our whole business model transitioned significantly," shares Darren. "Our original model was to buy a home, fix it, and sell it; now we can focus on helping people create their own custom home in a market where there's not a lot of inventory. We get a lot of inquiries for construction, so we're excited to transition into this new phase."