Fixer-uppers make for riveting reality TV, but what about building a house from the ground up in 100 days? That’s the specialty of Mika and Brian Kleinschmidt, stars of “100 Day Dream Home.”
Florida-based real estate agent Mika and husband Brian, a developer, are working hard on Season 3 of their HGTV show. But they’ve also recently clinched bragging rights as the winners of Season 2’s “Rock the Block.”
Curious to hear more about their rise to HGTV fame, we chatted with the pair about how they got their start, their biggest challenges with new construction, and why more people should consider building their dream home from scratch.
‘100 Day Dream Home’ is one of the few home shows that focus on new construction. How did this show come about?
Brian: We’ve been in business together even before we started doing real estate—we were actually in the gym business. We sold our first gym for a profit, and then we got into real estate.
So we were building homes and we happened to be doing it pretty quickly, and we noticed that on HGTV, they weren’t focusing on new-construction homes, and we saw that it was a niche that nobody was doing, so we said we might as well do it!
Mika: We like the idea of starting from a completely blank canvas versus renovation, where you kind of have something you’re already starting with.
Brian: That way you’re getting exactly what you want. A lot of these renovated homes are hundreds of years old, they have a ton of problems. So we like starting from scratch with everything brand-new, and giving the customer exactly what they want.
What is the one thing people forget during construction?
Brian: It’s almost like going to look at a car and the car looks beautiful; but when you turn the key, the engine’s not working. They spend all this money making it look good, but it all has to work well. That’s why, with each new construction, we let our clients pick pretty much what they want except HVAC. We have a partnership with American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning now, and that is the standard on all our builds.
You guys have never missed a deadline on your 100-day schedule. What’s your secret to building so fast?
Mika: It’s really preplanning and having the homeowners ready to make decisions in regard to those interior finishes, flooring, and cabinets. That’s the part that can get dragged along a lot with projects.
It’s not necessarily the builder side. Sometimes, it’s the decision-making on the client side. We are really side by side with them during those selections. So they feel confident, and we don’t drag it out two months to make countertop decisions.
Brian: Another thing we’ve streamlined and perfected is ordering materials. Sometimes that can take so long.
Do you have any tips for easy upgrades homeowners can do to update their existing home?
Mika: You’ve got to treat your house just like you would a well-oiled machine. I think maintaining those really critical systems like your HVAC, for example, is key. Obviously, making things energy-efficient, making sure you’re changing your filters frequently.
In the real estate world, if I’m going to a home inspection or walking through a property, I’m looking at the systems first before I look at the design—because you could have the prettiest room in the world, but if the things behind the walls aren’t really functioning right, you could have a huge problem.
Mika, do you have any secrets for helping people find their design style?
Mika: I would say 99% of clients have a hybrid style. They don’t have a true 100% aesthetic; it ends up being a combination of multiple styles.
I think the part I like to focus on is ‘let’s make it pretty, but let’s make it functional.’ So I don’t like creating something that’s pretty, but in a year you have to replace it, or it’s just not going to stand the test time.
Brian: The thing is, design is like art. There is no right or wrong answer. We just did a house with black lower cabinets and white upper ones. Some people may not like that, but the clients loved it.
Do you guys have any trends that you’re loving recently?
Mika: The trend I’m seeing in building is multigenerational homes, homes that are going to include a space for the main family and then a mother-in-law suite, things like that. Now the trend is all about family and being together. Especially after the last year we’ve had, I think that’s great.
And then in Florida we definitely see more of brighter tones than your dark, dramatic ones. People want to feel happy with their space, not necessarily dramatic and gloomy.
Brian: So many people are working from home, so it’s more than just looks. It’s how it functions, and that’s where we always focus. It has to work well, too.
You two won Season 2 of ‘Rock the Block’ but were criticized for your ‘safe’ style. Do you still stand by your design choices?
Mika: Safe is smart! I think our perspective was we worked backward. We tried to figure out who is going to live in this house, because then you make decisions not based on your personal opinion. It’s based on what’s going to function for a family that’s going to live here. And it really did help us stay focused and not worry about what the competitors were doing. We actually got to do a follow-up call after “Rock the Block” aired with the homeowners that bought our house.
Brian: Yeah, we surprised them! We had a blast talking to them. They loved every square inch of the house, which was awesome because we put a lot of time and effort into that house.
Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories or bloopers that didn’t make ‘Rock the Block’ or ‘100 Day Dream Home’?
Brian: One of the funniest things is I’m 6-foot-4 and she’s not quite 5-foot-4, so when they don’t have a box for her to stand on, I have to stand with my legs spread so I’m lower down. I have severe knee problems during all of our interviews because this one’s just short.
Mika: I’m not that short—you’re just tall!
Brian: We have a great time. If we’re not having fun doing this, what’s the point of doing it?
Do you guys have any tips for home renovators, or people looking to build their own house?
Mika: Before starting a project, if it’s a renovation, I think you really have to know your baseline, making sure that before you start knocking stuff down, all of the foundation things of the home are sound. It’s worth it to hire a home inspector to come in and walk the space so that you kind of know what problems you’re going to run into. They can say, ‘This over here isn’t working, you’re going to have to get that to code before you start.’ I think that it’ll make some of the stress come off, because you’ll be more prepared.