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Flipping homes in prime time

Maui man builds a new life in Paradise . . . California that is

Chenoa and David Rivera are shown in an opening screen grab from their HGTV series “Rustic Rehab.” David was born and raised on Maui. He’s a 2001 graduate of St. Anthony High School.

David Rivera leads a crazy life.

As if the 2001 St. Anthony High School graduate and his wife, Chenoa, weren’t busy enough buying rustic homes in Paradise, Calif. — as many as 13 at any given time — and remodeling them for resale while tending to their family of six, they had to take it one step further.

The couple hosts “Rustic Rehab,” a home-flipping series televised Thursday nights on HGTV. The experience came with a production crew of six that followed them around to document their home-flipping work and their life in Northern California.

So how did a Maui boy end up in Paradise?

“It is so ironic that the town I live in is called Paradise,” said Rivera.

A full-ride football scholarship brought the St. Anthony kicker to Butte Community College in California in 2001. After two years there, and one at Missouri Western State University, an injury sidelined his football career. Rivera remembered all the fun he had in California, so he decided to finish his degree in special events and tourism at Chico State University before heading home to Maui.

But, as often happens, fate intervened. At Chico State, he met his wife-to-be, Chenoa. She lived in the area and already had two children and an established family base, so they decided to settle in Paradise.

Over the next several years, they each worked in their fields of study: David planned events for a nearby casino and Chenoa, a business and marketing major, took a job in medical sales. But for David, something just wasn’t right. “I didn’t feel complete,” he said.

Rivera started reading books like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and seeking out mentors in banking and finance. With his father in construction on Maui and Chenoa’s father a local plumbing contractor, soon the pair felt confident enough to buy foreclosures, fix them up and then maintain them as rentals. Flipping homes just seemed the logical next step.

“When your dad’s in construction and built our first home,” said Rivera, remodeling was kind of second nature.

“My mom was always having him change things in our house,” he said. “On Maui, we would constantly go out and look at houses,” he adds. Then, his father would get to work making changes to their own home.

About five years ago, the couple took the leap. They quit their day jobs and became full-time flippers. Now, they keep six contractors and a group of investors busy. David finds properties and tends to the infrastructure — like septic systems and open floor plans — while Chenoa is the interior designer and real estate agent, working to remake and then sell their finished projects.

Then, in 2016, Chenoa sent a Christmas card to HGTV when the network asked to hear from flippers. About six months later, representatives from Pie Town Productions, makers of the “House Hunters” and “Flip or Flop” franchises for HGTV, contacted the Riveras. After some phone and Skype interviews, they were on a plane to Hollywood.

“Things were going in one ear and out the other,” said Rivera. They were set up to film a pilot in Paradise, and subsequently HGTV would screen it to see if the show could capture an audience.

“It is hard work,” he said. When filming with one camera, a task is filmed, then stopped, and done from two different angles, each time repeating the same unscripted things that were said previously.

The pilot was televised on HGTV in February 2017 — and then, nothing.

“Aw shucks,” David said he thought during the months of silence. “We didn’t get a series.”

Then, in May of 2017, they got the call. Almost instantly, from June to December of last year, they worked to create the first season with the six-member production crew moving to Paradise.

“It is one thing to remodel eight houses in six months,” said Rivera, but the couple also was managing a business and a growing family. The series launched on TV last month.

“We don’t get to see any of the episodes before they air,” he said. And the fate of a second season will depend on the ratings. If it happens, Rivera’s been warned that the schedule will increase to as many as 13 houses over six to seven months.

But while they wait, they continue to flip homes and learn as they work together. In Episode 2 of “Rustic Rehab,” the couple is shown buying a house at auction, then learning there is a $40,000 lien against the property.

“You have to do your homework,” said Rivera, who learned an expensive lesson on that one. Still, they ended up with a small profit.

“I once bought a house that had a 10-foot sinkhole in the master bathroom,” said Rivera. It was so bad they weren’t allowed inside the house without special permission.

“We had to hire a civil engineer to do a dirt test on the soil underneath,” he added. Digging deeper and deeper, they found old tires and a refrigerator. Turns out the location was an old burn pit for an orchid farm, he said.

They got everything out of there, had inspectors and the civil engineer sign off and filled the hole with concrete.

“We remodeled the rest of the house and sold it.” Another lesson learned.

Episode 6 of “Rustic Rehab” will be televised at 8 p.m. Thursday on Spectrum Channels 59, 323 and 1323. Check local listings for reruns of previous episodes. The Riveras can be followed on Facebook by searching for their page, Chenoa and David Rivera.

* Terrie Eliker can be reached at teliker@mauinews.com.

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