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Frank McKinney, Real Estate Rock Star, Fear, And Personal Branding

You're going to meet Frank McKinney, a real estate rock star, a real estate artist, a six-time bestselling author and a philanthro-capitalist. In addition to that, Frank is a larger than life character, an ultra-marathoner, an actor and an aspirational speaker. He has the uncanny gift, the ability to see opportunities and create markets where none existed before.

Frank is a fascinating individual who has an amazing story. He turned his life completely around, got into real estate and does the speculative home building. That means he will build a house not having a buyer in place and sell it. It’s not a crazy thing if you're selling $250,000, $200,000 homes. When you sell houses for up to $50 million on speculation not knowing who that buyer is going to be, you have got to have some cojones.
I appreciate Frank for his unwavering path in being who he is. If you see him, look up his picture online. He looks like a rock star and he's a real estate investor and that's who he is and he stays true to that. He’s an amazing inspiration.

In this episode, you’re going to hear how Frank deals with fear. If you want to talk about fear and anxiety and self-doubt, how about building a house, getting funding from it from banks and putting your own money on the line in the tune of tens of millions of dollars just knowing and having a resolute belief that it's going to happen? It doesn't mean he doesn't feel fear and he talks about, “How do I overcome that fear? How do I overcome that self-doubt?” You may not be a real estate investor, you may not even be an investor but in some form or fashion in your life, you are feeling fear when you step outside that comfort zone. You want to have a strategy for overcoming that, and a great person to learn from is Frank and we talk about that.

We also talk about personal branding and Frank's belief in personal branding. If you want to talk about a guy that has branded himself in his community, in his niche, in his world, this is a guy that doesn't follow convention. He’s created his own brand and has paved the way for many others to be who they are. We talk about that in the show.

Notice I'm not talking a lot about real estate, but we talk about that. We also talk about healthy ego. Oftentimes, ego is seen as a bad thing. In this show, I ask him about that like, “How can you be so out there and outlandish without people thinking like, ‘This guy's an egomaniac?’He talks about the difference between healthy ego and unhealthy ego and how to pave the way for yourself and how to use that to your advantage. Whether or not you are a real estate investor, you will appreciate the journey, the story and the actual tactics that you can apply in any area of your life in this episode.

He talks about the upcoming Real Estate Ignite Conference in Las Vegas. It's one of the largest annual real estate investor events in the country. There are going to be over 4,000 folks there. Frank also mentions Than and Paul who are the principals there at Fortune Builders throughout the show because they know we have a relationship with them. I will be there in attendance. I would love to meet you if you're going to the Real Estate Ignite Conference. As you read this blog, you're going to see Frank talk about that. It's an incredible event if you haven't been to it. It’s very inspirational and Frank is going to be the keynote speaker at the show. Be sure to pay attention to that and understand why he’s sharing that in this episode.

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Frank, you're the neighborhood troublemaker, juvenile detention center, four different high schools. Eventually, you get shipped on a plane from Carmel, Indiana down to Palm Beach with $50 in your pocket. How did you even get to this point in your life?
Let me redefine the elevator speech. We all know the elevator pitch. It's how long does it take the elevator to go from the ground to floor twenty? That's all the amount of time you have to tell your story. In this world, we've all got AD, attention deficit. We may not have ADD. Some of us do. That elevator pitch, you start on the twentieth floor. You get into where the cab should be, but it's not. How long does it take you to fall to the first floor? That's how quick you get to get your message out now. That's the new elevator pitch. I’ll try to keep my answers short so we can get a bunch of content in. Specifically to your question, I had a troubled upbringing. $50 in your pocket when you're eighteen, who has more than that? I don't think that's impressive but that's all I had at eighteen, big deal. Most kids don't have more than $50. It was the sequence of events, the domino effect leading up to me stepping onto that plane and leaving Indiana that had me certainly least likely to succeed when I got to Florida. With the 1.8-grade point average, no connections, no money, no education beyond that 1.8-grade point average coming out of high school. No community college would take me. I landed and I smelled that salty, balmy South Florida weather air coming off the ocean. I left the freezing January in Carmel, Indiana.
Back in the day, there was a television show called Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous. For those of you reading, I bet you’ll remember the English accent that Robin Leach had. I would watch that program at night when I landed in Florida. My first night in Florida, I was homeless. I slept underneath a pier instead of a bridge because when you sleep underneath the pier, you can at least sleep on the sand instead of on the concrete. When I finally got an apartment with three other maintenance workers, I remember watching Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous. I was a maintenance worker on a golf course where every day I went to work at 4:00 AM, getting the golf course ready for the wealthy to play golf.
I dug sand traps by hand with a shovel. I got to see the lifestyles of the rich and famous for real. In three dimension, people living it on that golf course. I knew somehow, some way I was going to live it. I was going to find it. I was young. I was driven. I was impressionable. I was consumeristic. I was materialistic. Everything an eighteen or nineteen-year-old is. I sat back and I observed on television how the Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous lived. For those younger people reading, think MTV’s Cribs. It’s similar to Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous.
I became a tennis instructor after I was a maintenance worker on that golf course. The same people who play golf all day play tennis in the afternoon. As I started earning some money as a tennis instructor, I'd made pretty good money. I was making $100,000 a year by the time I was twenty. Most of the people I taught tennis to drove up to their tennis lessons in Ferraris, Bentleys and Mercedes. They lived in the $2 million houses with the yacht out back and the Beyoncé lookalike wife or the Richard Gere lookalike husband. They had it all. They had the lifestyles of the rich and famous. How did you get here, Mr. Tennis Student? Mrs. Tennis Student? For a couple of years, I went to school on these people I was teaching tennis to. I'm teaching them to hit a better forehand and a backhand, but after 45 minutes of an hour-long tennis lesson, I made sure they were too tired to finish. I sat them down and for a couple of years, I picked the brains of the ultra-wealthy in Boca Raton, Florida where I was teaching tennis.
The answer I got that rang loud, true and clear was, “Frank, I was a successful trial lawyer. I won a lot of money in court. At the settlement table when I won my first case, I invested my winnings, after paying taxes and feeding my family, into real estate.”You hear that story once it's nothing more than entertaining. The end of that story was, “Frank, I bought a unit when I was your age, 19, 20, 21. I bought a duplex and I rented it out for $300 a month.” I was unimpressed. With $300 a month, I'm making more than that per day teaching tennis. “No, Frank. I now have 50,000 rental units that pay me $600 a month.”If you do the math on that, it’s $30 million a month this guy was making from rental income. You hear that story once, it's entertaining. It's all it is. It's fascinating. When you hear that story over and over with a real estate anecdote that led to their lifestyle of the rich and famous that led to their living in this $2 million house with the yacht, the beautiful wife and the kids. I finally bought my first rehab, my first fix her up or my first crack house, my first flip in 1987 for $36,000. I flipped it and I made $7,000.
Thinking back to your first deal, everyone remembers the first. How did you come across this deal? What's the story of this deal?
Extremely naïve. There was no Real Estate Ignite. There was no Than Merrill or Paul. There was no learning. I sat on the courthouse steps and I watched auctions take place. There might have been a guy named Dave Del Dotto way back then. There was another one, Tommy Vu, which is this Asian guy who used to have all these hot women on his boat and he’d drive them around. There was no substance to any of this so I sat on the courthouse steps for six months because I had saved my money. I’d saved my money teaching, I was making $100,000 for teaching tennis. This was before the IRS existed. This was cash money and the statute of limitations runs. If anybody's listening from the IRS,I didn't know anything. I was nineteen, twenty. I was naïve. I took my money. I bought this crack house but it was after several months of watching other people bid on these properties when they were literally sold. Foreclosures were sold. Now they’re sold online, you bid online. They were sold on the courthouse steps. I'd sit there and it was almost like playing Monopoly. I had the money. I had raised $64,000 from investors and I had $36,000 of my own. I had raised $100,000 but I was terrified to pull the trigger.
If I had any regret looking back, is that I waited several months and I watch and I observed and I pretend like I’d buy a property. If I were to bid on that then I'd go drive and see it. I would imagine what I would do to it and what I would sell it for. It was all role playing. No mentors, no nothing. Eventually, in ‘87, I bid on a property. My hands were trembling as I'm turning over the $1,000 deposit and I have to go get the rest by 2:00. To show you how stupid I was, to get inside to look at the house, in my mind, I needed to be the owner. To be the owner, I needed to be the successful bidder. Once I was the owner, I get the key, I could look inside. Little did I know I could have seen that house prior to. I drove by it. I drove by to see it was there and I bid on it and I was successful. I got it but I hadn't gone inside. What a big mistake that was. When I finally put the key in the door, the door wouldn’t open. The lock would turn but the door wouldn’t open. The door was structural, it was holding up the house.
Picture a guy running back and banging it, almost like a fireman banging through a door. I bang through the door and on the right is a mattress used by prostitutes by the hour. On the left is drug paraphernalia. It smells horrible. Used needles and used condoms all over the place. In the ‘80s I had big hair. I remember busting that door down and cockroach feces, rat feces and termite feces went down my hair and down my back. I'm thinking, “The day before I had a woman who looked like Beyoncé on the tennis court, holding her tightly around the waist as I'm teaching her how to better forehand or a backhand. Did I give that up for this crack house? My own money too, I used my own money first.”That sensation lasted only about ten minutes. I went and bought a surgical mask. I had a yellow pad of paper. At that very moment in early ‘87, I became the real estate artist that I am today.
You've always had this crazy marketing ability. What some people might call crazy, to you it's just you being you. This artist, where does this come from? How did you understand that you're more than just a flipper, a real estate investor? You are truly an artist.
I can't wait to get into this at Real Estate Ignite. I'm many years into this. I'm now doing my final masterpiece, my final oceanfront project. I’ve done 44 spec homes on the ocean since 1992 with an average selling price of $14 million. I did a bunch of these little houses, hundreds of them between 1987 and 1992. Since ‘92, I haven't gone back to the first-time homebuyer house. I’ve solely focused on creating this oceanfront artistry created on the three-dimensional canvas of the Atlantic Ocean. Here's what everybody needs to pay attention to. It doesn’t matter if you are a flipper, if you're a wholesaler, if you're a retailer if you're a buy and holder, if you're going to bank REOs. There are many ways to make money in real estate. I made a conscious decision to take an artist approach to my craft. I'm not a buy and hold person. I buy, add value and sell. Like Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, on my canvas is the Atlantic Ocean. My canvas is three-dimensional and I choose to create these one-of-a-kind pieces of art that people can live in. If you're reading this you say, “That's fine for you, Frank,” my last house was a$20 million house. I took that approach to $50,000 crack houses and it got me two things fairly quickly.
My margins were a little bit less than what they could have been had I been watching the bottom line. In other words, put one coat of paint on instead of three, using grass sod instead of grass seed, putting a new roof on instead of patching it, putting $15-yard carpet in instead of $10. These are little decisions I made that might have been a little bit more expensive, but I built two things. I was always able to sell for 103% of retail. While I might have spent 5% more, sometimes 10% more of what the average flipper would sell, I got some of that back and the fact that I was always able to ask a little bit more for the house and I could prove to an appraiser that it was worth what I was asking. That was the first thing I got.
By the time I exited the first-time homebuyer price point, which again was a few years and hundreds of houses, we were making $25,000 on a $100,000 flip. That wasn’t bad. It’s a substantial margin. Creating the artist at that price point meant that I became an expert at my craft. It also meant that I was building a reputation. As this real estate artist, it was the Wall Street Journal or Fortune that gave it to me many years ago. He looks like he's a singer or he plays an instrument. I can't draw. I can't sculpt. I built three-dimensional art and I impress. I implore people that are in this business. Think about an artist, not a starving artist. We are not starving artists. There are plenty of those in the world and it makes me sick that there are people that are proud of it, “I'm a starving artist. I’ve got all this talent but I'm not making any money.”
I'm a businessman first and an artist a distant second. If I went into an art supply store, I am not going to buy the cheapest paintbrush. I'm not going to buy the cheapest watered-down paint. I'm not going to buy the cheapest pallet or the cheapest canvas. I'm going to buy something that will allow me to express my art in a beautiful way because I'm talented. This is back when I was doing$100,000 houses. That's the approach I suggest people take to real estate. You can be a flash in the pan variety of success if you choose to cut your corners. Your margins will be a little bit heftier for a little while but eventually, you'll die on the vine of a ruined reputation. I'm still at it many years later. I have it known I'm going to get paid since 1987, meaning I speculate. I don't have cashflow. I know cashflow is king and there will be other people to teach you how to do that. I don't do that. I buy, add value and sell as a real estate artist.
I want people to have a frame of reference. The homes that you build, if you haven't gotten it yet,$20 million,$50 million in one of the deals that you've done on speculation. Do you ever get antsy?
Do I ever get afraid? Everybody reading this needs to focus in on this answer. Frank McKinney is afraid every day of his life. I have fear coursing through my veins every day of my life. Let me quantify that sensation called fear. If you're the wife or husband of somebody who's into real estate, you have nothing to do with it. You sell Tupperware. It doesn't matter what you do but you need to focus in on this answer. It's not specific to real estate. It's not specific to the stock market and oil and gas futures or commodities. It’s specific to life. When we think about taking a risk, financial, relational, spiritual, dietary, physical, the thought of taking a risk induces the other four-letter word, fear. It's the thought of taking the risk.
A simple example would be if you've ever gone skydiving. You're crawling out of your skin being antsy and fearful, but once you jump it’s pretty exciting. Most people haven’t done skydiving, how about going on a rollercoaster? When that rollercoaster is going up to the top of the first drop, your heart's in your throat. The thought of what’s going to happen, but once it drops and the ride starts, it’s pretty exciting. What I’ve learned and what I’m quantifying is that I am afraid every day of my life. That fear is always associated with risk and risk is always associated with a big change or a big challenge in your life. Dietary, going on a diet, losing weight, relational, get married, start to date somebody. Financial, we're talking about financial risk. There are many risks that we contemplate while we're thinking about making a big change or a big challenge in our life.
When I become fearful, the MIT professor who was famously quoted in USA Today saying, “That man,” referring to me, “Is going to be dumpster diving in a year because there's no market for a $30 million house.”I’m afraid like, “This guy’s smart. He's freaking from MIT and he's telling me I'm going to be eating out of a dumpster in a year. What if he's right?”You better believe I'm afraid. That fear is associated with Frank taking the risk to build the $30 million spec home based upon the fact that I'm building in a market where people buy houses in the South of France, Italian Riviera, Malibu, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Hawaii and now they want to move to Florida. I’ve done the demographics. I know these people want to live on this beautiful beach called the Atlantic Ocean in Palm Beach County. There are buyers out there. My bank had always taken the position that, “Frank, there are few people that can afford what you do for a living,” and there is. There are about 50,000 people in the world that have a net worth that can afford a $20 million house. Do you know how many people are qualified to provide that house for them in the world? There aren’t very many Frank McKinneys out there that can do it, so I love my chances.
I’m friends with most of my competitors. We bounce ideas off each other. We're different in our styles. I don't want people to think, especially if they come to the event that I’ll be at in December, I don't want that fear to stop you. They’re hearing from me that still, I'm afraid every day. I’ve come very close to crashing and burning. I have been flown so close to the sun that the skin was blistering on my face and peeling off because I had risked too much, and the economy took a downturn especially many years ago it was awful. When I recognized the sensation of being afraid as being associated with the thought of taking the risk, once the risk is taken in pursuit of a big change or a big challenge in my life, I'm okay with it. For the most part, it will pay off. I have been wrong. I have lost money. I’ve lost tens of millions of dollars before. In the end, you're going to have regrets in life and I'd rather regret what I did, not what I didn’t do.
You recognized it's the thought of fear. Let's say you're in the middle of a build. You're in the middle of doing something and that fear creeps in. You recognize it. What is your strategy, your ritual, your tactic for now getting yourself out of that jam? The market turns on you. You can't sell the house. A fire consumes the house. Fear creeps in. You're like, “I'm screwed.” What's Frank McKinney's way once he realizes, “This is just a thought.” What do you do?
Proactively yet gravely persist day in and day out. We all know the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I'm ruthless with my persistence. I’ve been caught in the middle of a market turning like what happened in 2010. We lost 35% of our values on our oceanfront. Do the math. If I had a $10 million house, I’ve lost $3 million. At that point, it's identical to the feeling like I’m dating myself Evil Knievel. He’s one of the superhero guys I admired since I was a little boy. Once you hit the ramp on the motorcycle or you're in the air and you realize, “Maybe I’m going to come up a little short,” there's no turning back. You give it the gas and you go. I will sit there and I’ll come up with different marketing strategies besides lowering the price. Price is usually what it takes to move a property in a rough market. Like Knievel has done, I’ve crashed. I’ve lost money on the property before, but I dust myself off and I unequivocally adjust. I’ll adjust the carburetor. I’ll adjust the throttle and I’ll get back on the seat of that motorcycle again.
There's a healthy ego. A healthy ego is nothing more than the combination of unbridled passion and the belief that you do what you do a little better than most. Not better than everybody because then you're an egotist. A healthy ego says, “I believe Frank McKinney. I do believe that I have a tremendous amount of passion for what I do. I love the artistry, the creation, and the marketing of everything that I do. I do believe I'm a little bit better than most.”That healthy ego carries me through the dark days. It carries me through the days I turn on the television and watch the Dow Jones plunge 1,000 points knowing that my buyers are now holed up in their offices saying, “I'm not going to make a $20 million purchase until I see what happens with this economy.”
You're known as a guy that does some awesome marketing, including taking a motorcycle and jumping over a house. Why do you feel the need to do something so fun, so attention-grabbing to sell the house?
A lot of people think that it's my ego run amok, that I’ve got to be doing these things. I have an addiction to the excitement. There are two ways. I do a lot of talks with people who graduate from substance abuse centers, not that I’ve ever been to one but I know what it's like to be addicted to exciting things. You can have a destructive outlet for your addictive tendencies. I know people reading this right now, you know that you have an addictive tendency. You might be addicted to alcohol, drugs, whatever. I happen to have that DNA, that synapse wiring. When I was a young kid, it got me into trouble because it was misguided. I found destructive outlets for my addictive tendencies, like the need for excitement. In watching some of the people I looked up to when I got down here, I didn’t go to school. I was watching and observing people, I call it footprinting. If you're on the beach and you admire somebody, you walk in their footsteps. I was footprinting people. I realized, “I can find a constructive outlet for my, “Need for speed.”
At my age, it’s like an adrenaline drip. It's not a rush. I'm not hooked up to the main line and jamming it into my veins like I was twenty years ago, but I still need it. I’m an artist, so my grand unveilings are theatrical. They belong in Vegas or Broadway, maybe on the back backstage, not the front stage because they’re a little cheesy. My mom asked me the same question she said, “Mickey, why don't you put up an open house sign? Why do you have to do these things?”It feeds that need for excitement, artistry, expressionism and all that. The events that I host are sought-after tickets. People want to come to experience a Frank McKinney unveiling. They're all themed.
One time I did jump a motorcycle over a house. You can go to my website and see a bunch of the themes that we've done, There is a method to the madness. Who shows up at these events? Who's invited to these events? First of all, they're big fundraisers for my Caring House Project. You don't come without making at least a $100 donation. Last time, I had 600 people, we raised$60,000 for our Caring House. I have million-dollar real estate producers, million-dollar listing type real estate producers and brokers. I have VIPs. I have government officials. I have media. They come. I'm primarily focusing on the brokerage community. They watch the show. They pick up the Apple iPhone XS. They make the call to the buyer that goes something like, “Mr. Big Bucks, this is Dustin. I am here at Frank McKinney's grand unveiling. This show is pretty interesting. It's a little corny. I don't know if it would be on a backstage in Vegas. It's exciting. I'm drinking a martini that has eighteen karat gold in it. The food's great. He's entertaining but I tell you, you’ve got to get on your private Gulfstream jet and get down here and see this house. This is the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen.”
I’ve always said, “I don't come with a house. The hair, the clothes, all the ridiculous show stuff is left behind.” I'm the warm-up act. What they're coming for who steals the show ultimately is the house. That's why we average less than 60 days on market. Deeper into real estate, DOM, days on market is a critical statistic. It's a metric that you've got to watch especially if you're a speculator. If you go to the national website that keeps statistics for days on market, they stop keeping track at $5 million. It’s typically around fourteen months or maybe thirteen months now. We're 60 days. I may go over-budget. I may go over the time like my last project is a few months late, but I can make up for a lot of sins by the way we market. People will want to get there and the right people are there and the exposure to the property is invaluable to me.
Do you think people need to step it up with their marketing if you do a little Frank McKinney style?
There's a chapter in my real estate book. I’ve written a few books but my Burst This! is dedicated. It's the longest chapter in the book, it's 52 pages long. It's a 300-page book and there are eighteen chapters in there. People, especially with the advent to social media, it's inexpensive. My grand unveilings are costly because we get it with the big production. I'm already starting to promote my final masterpiece, 3492 South Ocean. For the new listing, go to Look at my still images. You'll see where the house is built. I produced and directed a coming attractions movie trailer for the house. This is the stuff people can be doing. It's not one of those cheap little VR, virtual reality, 360-degree walkthroughs. Go there, go to the bottom of the page and watch that video. You can do that. It costs me next to nothing out of a videographer. I wrote all my copy. I put the stills in there. That gets people excited.
There are people who have the other two nailed. They're probably a little bit better on their budget. They might get a little bit better on their timing, in other words getting it done on time but they fall short of the marketing. This business that we're in, the business that Than and Paul are going to teach people about at Real Estate Ignite is overcrowded. Thanks to the people, Paul and Dan and all the other guys out there that are teaching people, it's super crowded. How are you going to set yourself apart? Personal branding is a whole other discussion. Personal branding in real estate is a must. It's not set aside for the Donald Trumps of the world, who's a master at personal branding. Forget his political views. I'm talking about him as a real estate investor. Personal branding is the art of amplifying your essence to the point of your customer or client becoming subliminally intoxicated with you before your product or service. That's building a personal brand.
This relates to what I’ve read about you and what I’ve seen about you. When you bring your personal branding to a house and someone walks into that house, I’ve heard you say you key in on five senses to heighten that experience, to get people excited about what you're doing. Can you speak a little bit to what you’re doing at that moment?
That topic alone, I call it the grade school compass approach to marketing, promotion and sales. It’s 165 initiatives that I touch on a weekly basis when I’m marketing. These initiatives and this grade school compass approach are designed to heighten the experience your buyer or your renter has with sight, sound, smell, touch and taste to that same sense of subliminal euphoria. You're in a sales situation or you're trying to sell somebody on a rental or one of your properties. You have a limited amount of time to make the sale. What you're doing by assaulting the five senses, sight, sound, smell, touch and taste in that relatively short period of time, you are opening what I refer to as the impulse window. You're trying to get your buyer to act on the impulse. Impulse at a first-time homebuyer level says, “I need a house. I need a roof over my head but I desire yours.” The impulse hasn't hit yet, “I need a house. I'm out shopping for a house. I find your flip. Because of what you've done with your assault to my five senses, you’ve turned that need to desire.”
In my case, at the higher level let's say, not just my case but anybody who’s dealing in more expensive properties, this is not a needs-driven purchase. This is a desire-driven purchase. Let’s say it’s a Tuesday. What I have to do is I have to make them in a short period of time desire my property to the point when they get in the car, they've been so intoxicated with the experience of their five senses while they're seeing my house. These showings will take well-over an hour. In my book, Burst This!, I talk about how I touch those five senses subliminally as they're walking through the house. This is something you can do in a 1,200 square foot flip. Most the time, honestly the last house I sold, I negotiated on the couch with the buyer. The brokers were there. I love the brokerage community and I feed them. I don't try to do this on my own. The brokers bring me the buyers and I tell them to get out of the way and to let me do my thing.
We sat on the couch. We made the deal. The deal closes three days later. No inspections. No nothing. I got full price from my last house because I hit a man with the five senses. If they walk out the door and I can't close them during the time that impulse window is open, the impose window will shut. It will slam shut and my buyer will say to the wife, “Honey, let's just stay at the Presidential Suite at the Ritz. I don't think we need to buy a house. Do we need another house? We already got three around the world,” then I’ve lost the sale. When you're in that situation working on making them intoxicated with that experience of the five senses, you've increased your chances of making a sale.
The biggest deal that you've done, take us through that.
I bought a piece of property on the ocean 300 feet, 28,000 square feet in a town called Manalapan. It's in Palm Beach County town. All the properties are on a body of water. Every single property in that town is on either the ocean or near the coastal. I bought a piece of property from the National Enquirer founder who had passed away. The wife was living there in this massive house by herself. I put $3 million into it. Public record shows we paid $18 million for it. I put $3 million into it. I sold it for $30 million. The guy got tired of it. He's what I call a house hobbyist. I bought it back from him for $20 million and sold it again for $50 million. The guy sold it too for $50 million, he lost it in foreclosure. I almost bought it back a third time. I end up losing to the Patrón Tequila CEO who outbid me at the auction. That was the biggest deal. I ended up adding 3,000 square feet. It was almost 32,000 square feet. It had fourteen bedrooms, twenty bathrooms and a 22-car garage on 300 feet of direct Atlantic to intercostal property in Palm Beach.
What would you say the biggest thing you learned in doing a deal that size? Anything different?
What I learned was there is a limit. This was many years ago. I was the first to attempt a nine-figure spec house. That's a house worth over $100 million. At the time and even to this day, there are a couple of them out there. Very few of them have closed. There’s one in England that closed, it was a townhouse or an apartment. Trump said he sold one for $100 million but it wasn’t quite $100 million. It was more for land value. There's a bunch of them in Beverly Hills. There's a $500 million house in Beverly Hills. There’s a $250 million house in Beverly Hills. It's still on the market. You start getting over $50 million, even if you've got $5 billion. With$5 billion, $50 million is 10% of your net worth. If you're worth $100,000 and you go and buy a $10,000 used Prius, it's not a big deal. It's all relative. I learned that and I also have gone to school on the ultra-wealthy. I psychologically observed them for many years. I know how quickly they make decisions.
I know that you need to pay attention to the finishes, in the air conditioning mechanical room as much as you do the kitchen countertops. I was told that again by my buyer. I’m trying to pioneer micromanaging concepts. This was only a $3 million house that I sold. I went out to lunch with him afterward, “Why did you buy it? Why did you pay full price?” He said, “Frank, I noticed the attention to the switches that you used and the connectors that you used for your low voltage system, your home automation system. I know you didn't use cheap connectors. I went into the closet and I did the white glove on the top of the hot water heater and I saw no dust there. The wife loved the sea glass countertops,” which I collected not personally but I had sea glass harvested from the beaches around the world, melted down, put to a mold and I made my countertops out of the sea glass.
“She loved all that. There's a beautiful aquarium. That was obvious but the littlest stuff. I go ape over the finishes and the detail in those rooms.”People who are worth a billion dollars didn't get there by not paying attention to those things. I was laying out the shower in my final masterpiece. I take the average height of a woman and the average height of a man and how far their reach is inside the shower. You don't want to have a walk inside the shower and turn the water on because the first couple of seconds it's cold enough you have instant hot on. It’s going to make the difference between a good reputation and a stellar one.
When did the philanthropy start coming about? Was that something that you always had early on?
I had reached what I thought was the pinnacle of success many years ago and I was depressed. I had sold the most expensive spec house in the history of Palm Beach County. The newspaper, The Palm Beach Post, did an article. I was keen on how my hair looked and my clothes, the background. The article comes out. I grabbed the article. I’d already been feeling depressed for a while. I was all focused on putting cars in my garage, clothes in my closet, food in my pantry, “Is this all there is? Why do I feel like I finally made it and I don't feel right?” I'm a Christian. I’ve always been a Christian. I'm a Catholic and I had no soul in my heart anymore. When that article came out, I went to the newsstand. I put a quarter in. I took ten copies because nobody's watching because I knew I'd give them away to my friends. That's back when we read newspapers that way.
I opened the paper and there on the right side of the page was me. I was looking to make sure my hair was right and my quotes were right. On the left side of the page was a homeless man that looked just like me. I got long hair and if I don't put a blow dryer to it, a flat iron and don't get out and go to the salon every month, I can look homeless really easy. This guy looked just like me only he was living under a bridge. He was being fed a hot meal by this Caring Kitchen, which was a soup kitchen in Delray. I didn't want to read it. I want to focus on me. I don't have time to read this. The Holy Spirit said, “Frank, read this thing.” I read it and I went and I started to volunteer at this Caring Kitchen serving meals to the homeless many years ago. I realized I had the ability to relate to them easily. I could leave Donald Trump's office at Mar-a-Lago in the afternoon, be serving meals to the homeless and have a similar conversation or at least a conversation where I could connect.
At that moment I realized you all are going to Real Estate Ignite to seek or to enhance your professional highest calling. Professional highest calling is something you do a little bit better than most. Let’s say it’s real estate, we've all got real estate. That's your professional highest calling. What's your spiritual highest calling you ever thought about that? I hadn't. It's why I was in the state I was in, until I realized, “Everyone can pursue that spiritual highest calling,” and for me at 1.8-grade point average graduate out of high school, I should be providing housing to homeless people. I'm providing to the world's most wealthy, shouldn't I be providing it to the world's most desperately poor and homeless? I'm linear. It's simple. I’m a simpleton. It was easy.
I started in 1998 our Caring House Project. I got the name from the Caring Kitchen. They were Caring Kitchen, they fed people. I'm going to be Caring House. I'm going to house people. Since then we have built 27 self-sufficient villages in 24 Haitian cities in the last years. Many years ago, I went to Haiti providing a self-sufficient, self-sustaining existence to 12,000 children and their families. That whole premise of dovetailing your professional and your spiritual highest calling has allowed me to stay in my career for many years longer. I was burnt. I hated the feeling. I was making money but I was hollow.
Now every sale that we have, it's another village in Haiti. The reason I'm coming to Real Estate Ignite is that Paul and Than have made a nice donation to my Caring House so I could come and speak to everybody there. They get it. They understand, “To whom much is entrusted, much is expected,” it's biblical. It's Luke 12:48. It’s my favorite Bible passage. If you're not into the Bible, if you're not even into religion, “To whom much is entrusted, much is expected,” is a great life mantra. Don't let the religion scare you from a fantastic way to live your life.
I provide a self-sustaining existence to the most desperately poor and homeless people on the planet in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere in Haiti. It’s what I live for. I do have a professional highest calling. These mansions, the way I design them, market them and everything we talked about, that's a gift. I’ll be damned if I'm going to waste that gift. That would be a sin. That would be the eighth deadly sin if I wasted that gift. When you're gifted with the ability to succeed at some level, those blessings aren’t meant for your sole benefit. They're meant to share with others who will likely not ever succeed at your level. I learned that many years ago and now look at what we're doing over in Haiti and domestically here. We do a lot with domestic homes as well.
You've talked about the house you’re working on as your last project. Are you going to delve into doing more charitable stuff? What’s next for Frank McKinney?
I’m doing plenty on the charitable side. 30% of my time is already taken up with all my Caring House stuff. Twenty-seven villages in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the logistics, the corruption over there, it’s tough. There are a lot of logistics you’ve got to get through, a lot of hurdles. There are a lot of gauntlets I’ve got to run through. I'm not going to do any more than I'm doing now. I don’t want to do anymore and what we're doing is great. If I was Ambassador of Haiti, I would take that on. I am going to leave the game on top without any plan after that house is sold. It’s completely untethered. You could have some ideas but I'm not going to let that influence me. I'm mono-maniacally focused on that project and some of the finishes in there.
If you want to follow me on Instagram, which I’m using a lot more with these pictures, these beautiful houses, it's simply @TheFrankMcKinney. On Facebook, just put my name in. I put up a picture. We're putting in 11,000-year-old azure blue polished lava countertops in this final project. Nowhere else in the world will you have seen these. I’m still digging it. I love that part of it and to see if my buyers will appreciate what I'm putting in there. I'm putting a jellyfish sphere of five-feet in diameter. There’s only one other one in the world and it's in a public aquarium in San Diego. I'm putting that right when you walk in the front door as you look out to the ocean. I don't know. I don't want to know until that last one is done.
Talk to us about the book. I'm curious as to the drive for sharing your knowledge in books and why you feel the need to.
First of all, when we were a kid we were taught to read. I love reading. What about writing? Everybody reading this has a book inside of them. If you say, “I journal,” that's a book. Keep journaling because eventually, it will turn into a book. I’ve written six books in five different genres: philosophy, real estate, spirituality, young reader fantasy and my book, The Other Thief, is Christian romance. In this world, it’s election time. Turn on your TV. Watch some of those ads. We are addicted to conflict. We're addicted to hate. It's vile. I am a big fan of the Bible. I was reading a passage from the Gospel of Luke 23:33-43. That is the scene when Christ was crucified. Don't tune me out if you're not into religion. Christ was crucified. There’s a thief on his left and a thief on his right. The thief on his left mocks him, “If you're the savior of the world, get us down from here.”The thief on the right said, “Do you realize who you're talking to? This is the son of God.”There was silence. Jesus doesn't say anything. The other thief, the thief on the right, turns to Christ and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In other words, “Forgive me for what I’ve done. Forgive me for what put me on this cross.” We don't know what the other thief did to be crucified. It was something pretty bad. Christ was in silence for a bit. Christ turns and says, “I assure you, you will be with me in paradise.” In other words, he's forgiven.
I’ve read that before but I read that in May 2017. I said, “There’s my next book. It’s going to be called The Other Thief. It's going to be a modern-day version of the main character protagonist who is a Christian singer who started singing to twenty people, now he's singing to 20,000. He's climbed the ladder of success. The devil covets those closest to God and one by one the seven deadly sins start attacking him. As a good Christian, he's able to put on what we call the Book of Ephesians, the full armor of God. The helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, and the feet ready with the gospel piece, ready to run. If you look at a suit of armor, the flaming arrows of the devil or the flaming arrows of the enemy could get through because there are chinks in the armor.”In my story, one of the seven deadly sins gets through and there's this graphic fall from grace.
I'm a big fan of happy endings, so suffice it to say, this protagonist hangs himself on that metaphorical cross. He's done himself in. He's the other thief. He's hanging there, “Father, remember me when I come to your kingdom. Forgive me.” I took that message of grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and redemption to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, juvenile detention centers, boys and girls clubs, abused women's facilities and veterans’ facilities in 25 cities to deliver the message. I'm not pounding on the pulpit. I'm not shoving scripture down your throat. I'm trying to make some of this addiction, hate, conflict and violence go away with my book. It's definitely not a real estate book, it's a novel. I pour my heart and soul into that. I never worked harder on a book that I have with The Other Thief. If you go to, it’s the only book that I know of that has a movie trailer, not for a movie but for the book. It has its own title track and its own music video in addition to all the other beautiful stuff you'll see at the website. You buy one, it's 200 meals at one of my orphanages. I make no money from the books. One $20 book equals 200 meals at one of my orphanages.
Where can folks find out more about what you’re up to?
The best thing to do is to get on your most comfortable pajamas, get your slippers on. Pop some popcorn, pull up Go to the website where you can take tours of these beautiful houses that I have built or am building with 3492 South Ocean. You can see the 27 Villages that we've built over in Haiti, where they're located, how many houses, what the community centers look like. For the books,, you can go there but all six of my books there are sample chapters that you can read.
Most importantly, spend a few minutes on the Caring House page where you can make a donation to our Caring House Project. Donations as small as $4.75 buys one chicken, so give up a latte or give up a Starbucks for a day. Donate for one chicken all the way on up to what we'll be doing at Ignite. Hopefully, we'll be building a whole village when we're done at Ignite for $250,000, anywhere in between there. When you’re on the home page, on the left-hand side of the bottom of the home page there's a Tour Schedule. It will tell you where I'm going to be. You'll see a reference to being at Real Estate Ignite on December 14th. I’m kicking off the thing out there in the morning. If you're not out in Vegas, I'm on the East Coast and I do a lot of stuff here in Florida, so I'd love to see you.
Frank, thanks for being on the show.

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