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Alabama entrepreneurs’ talent for turning dumps into dream homes focus of TV show

Surreal.

That’s the word Paul Mielke and Cody Cummings used to describe their feelings as they watched the nationwide premier earlier this month of “Flipping Down South,” the TV show on A&E network spotlighting their talent for turning dilapidated, unloved houses no one wants into warm, cozy havens. Through the efforts of these two young entrepreneurs, communities in metro Birmingham, particularly the East Lake area, are becoming revitalized and transformed.

“When that first episode aired, we watched it for the first time along with the nation,” said Mielke. “It was a breath of fresh air. We realized this is real and everything we worked for is happening. It was a wild experience.”

Cummings compared the experience to having a baby.

“It was like carrying a child,” he said. “I feel like we incubated it for a whole year. It was a big relief to have the show out there and have people watching it.”

‘Flipping Down South’ TV show highlights Birmingham housing market from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The premier on March 12 kicked off the five-part series, which follows Cummings and Mielke, who head Birmingham’s fastest-growing flipping business. The series is part of Home.Made.Nation, A&E’s new block of lifestyle shows.

During the series, Mielke, Cummings and their team at Flip Apollo buy old houses for a song, renovate them from the inside out, and sell them at affordable prices, while making a profit.

Flip Apollo President Mielke is the visionary who finds the houses and dreams up out-of-the-box designs, while Cummings, as CEO and executor, keeps the project on track financially, making sure it stays within the prescribed budget. While remodeling the houses, they contend with everything from rats to termites to missing floors to doors that open to “nowhere.” The episodes merely reflect the type of work the team faces day in and day out.

“Our goal is beautification,” said Cummings. “A lot of the houses that we are buying are vacant or abandoned, and a lot of times, they are a blight on the neighborhood. For us, it’s an obvious thing if we can take part of the earth and make it better. It makes the neighborhood better and the city better. We’re building the community that we want to live in, and we think that’s a worthwhile thing.”

It’s for real

Mielke said when he received an email in February 2021 from a talent scout from A&E proposing that the network feature Flip Apollo in a new series, he was “skeptical.” The scout was attracted by photos of the company’s house-flipping projects on Mielke’s Instagram site, @housesbypaul. After realizing the request was “real,” Mielke and Cummings were quickly on board.

“We did a lot of research and watched every house-flipping show we could, so I think we were more prepared than most,” Mielke said, adding A&E chose Flip Apollo from a field of 500 companies. “We also picked the houses for the show, just like we would normally do. We took them to the network, and they gave us the green light on all of them.”

“Camera crews followed me around every day for four months,” said Mielke. “We had to schedule our work around the camera crews, and it slowed us down from a project standpoint. It was a big sacrifice, but everybody at the company handled it really well.”

Brad Holcman, senior director of Unscripted Development and Production at A&E and executive producer of “Flipping Down South,” said the two entrepreneurs were the “perfect” choice for the show.

“Paul and Cody are the real deal when it comes to flipping homes,” Holcman said. “It takes a certain kind of vision to find the beauty in what most people see as dumps, and Paul and Cody have that talent. They also care deeply about their community and providing affordable housing, while building a very successful business.”

“The show is built around their philosophy and process, and as a result, you have a 100% authentic look into their world,” he added.

Shared vision turns to partnership

Cummings and Mielke partnered to form Flip Apollo and its sister real estate sales company, the Apollo Property Group, in 2019. Although their backgrounds were different, they were both basically on the same path. Cummings had been marketing and selling homes, and Mielke was buying and flipping them.

Mielke, who had tried his hand at everything from managing bars to running a food truck, said he had always known he was destined to become an entrepreneur. After receiving his real estate license and moving from Montgomery to Birmingham, he began making that dream a reality when he flipped his first house four years ago.

“I didn’t know anybody in Birmingham, and I was looking for an area that wasn’t being served,” Mielke said. “East Lake is 12 minutes from downtown on the interstate. The houses were fun and diverse. It felt like home and a place where I could grow my business.”

Meanwhile, Cummings, a 2013 Auburn University graduate with a double major in English and finance, first landed a job selling recreational vehicles but soon realized he “hated it.” It was when he switched to selling homes that he found his niche.

Together, Cummings and Mielke have flipped 60 to 70 homes, most of them located in East Lake. They buy many of the houses for less than $10,000 and resell them for up to $200,000.

“The big difference between us and most flippers is that they base their projects on a formula: The colors, flooring and countertops are similar to what was already in the house,” Cummings said. “Our houses are unique. There’s nothing better than taking a house that is not livable and making a home that people can have for decades to come.”

Mielke said the biggest challenge in flipping a house is keeping the project on time.

“There are so many moving parts with a house flip, and they have to be done in sequence and in order,” he said. “If one thing goes wrong, it messes up the whole timeline.”

Cummings added that any changes to the project can also be costly, affecting the bottom line. But those hiccups are definitely not standing in the way of their success.

“We’re selling houses as fast as we can finish them,” Cummings said, noting that the company received multiple offers on the five homes featured in the series.

Holcman said the TV audience has embraced the series in a big way.

“We are beyond thrilled with the response,” Holcman said. “Our audience is clearly seeing what we saw, a relatable and aspirational series that delivers some pretty extraordinary transformations.”

Mielke and Cummings said they are proud to have a part in making dreams come true.

“We’re giving people who work really hard for a living an incredible place to raise a family and make memories,” Mielke said. “We are making a nest for these families, which will become a catalyst for other things.”

The next episode in the series, “Spooky Basement, Scary Flip,” airs on A&E Saturday, March 26 at 11 a.m. Watch as Mielke, Cummings and their team jump into action when what at first seems to be an easy flip turns into a project that has to be “brought back from the dead.”

For a look at the projects Mielke and Cummings are taking on across Birmingham, visit their Instagram sites, @housesbypaul and @codyjcummings.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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