A Foundation Formed From Friendship
In the words of Author Alice Walker, “Helped are those who create anything at all, for they shall relive the thrill of their own conception and realize a partnership in the creation of the Universe that keeps them responsible and cheerful.” For two entrepreneurs in the universe of Atlanta, the forging of a friendship has resulted in the realization of a partnership that has not only fostered increasing career responsibilities from those thrilled with their conceptions in building, design and renovation, but has also created cheerful opportunities serving all in the real estate industry.
Superior quality, craftsmanship and enticing, if not inviting, aesthetic allure, such are hallmarks of the handiwork of Foundations Design. This Georgia-based enterprise has amassed expertise in everything from interior, exterior and architectural design solutions to general contracting of building and renovation services. Foundations’ capabilities are complemented by its unwavering commitment to integrity, a collaborative and communicative approach to customer service, and well-honed, genuine know-how when it comes to navigating among the bureaucratic permitting processes and building code requirements that can frustratingly vary from district to district in Atlanta, a bustling, hustling hub of hospitality distinguished as The New York of the South. Foundations’ achievements have prompted certain fame for the company’s co-founders, but don’t expect to find Peter Pasternack or Brian Trow reveling in any referral to their celebrity status. Though both men have become fixtures in the last six years of broadcasting affiliated with A&E Network’s Flip This House, Pasternack resists reference to his star appeal, saying, “We’re just two down-to-Earth guys who are running a business and using television as a marketing tool to promote more awareness of what we do.” Similar sentiments are shared by Trow, who says, “At the end of day, we’re business partners who love construction and design. Television is not who we are. Fame may come, but it will also go … it will always end sooner or later, but if you have a good business set firmly in place, then you’ll be able to take whatever comes your way, and hopefully roll it into a better opportunity.”
Ironically, it was the want of a better opportunity which figured in the early formation of Foundations. Long before audiences started tuning-in to watch Pasternack and Trow’s talents in transforming homes in recourses that resonate with home sellers and purchasers, they were busy fulfilling other professional obligations which had little to do with real estate, building or design. Pasternack is a Certified Public Accountant who formerly worked for Price Waterhouse Coopers and Piedmont Bank of Georgia. He was already managing several companies of his own when he befriended Brian Trow in 2002. As the son of an industrial arts and woodworking teacher, Trow grew up surrounded by carpentry, finishing and all manner of tradecraft, but ultimately pursued a degree in Fitness Management from Wartburg College in Iowa. After moving to Atlanta in 2002, Trow worked as a personal fitness trainer and staff director. Trow and Pasternack became close friends and over the course of a conversation one afternoon, Trow shared that his professional goals didn’t involve being a 40 year-old personal trainer. As both men had interests in home renovation and real estate development, the two determined to create their own company. As Pasternack explains, “We said that the foundation of our company was going to be based on the same aspects of our personal friendship… that includes trust, mutual respect and doing the next right thing.” And though they are friends, Pasternack says both remain mindful that they’re running a professional business. The partnership has proven to perfectly blend the respective skill sets of both men, combining one’s knowledge of construction and tradecraft with the other’s skills in number crunching and business management. Both men will affirm that they’ve learned valuable lessons from one another, and have learned a lot about the industry itself over the years.
In the beginning, Foundations Design’s first projects involved basic home renovations involving kitchens or bathrooms, but they have since transitioned into larger, full scale projects. One of the drawbacks from their participation in the television show, which routinely depicts their work in transforming properties to make them more conducive for real estate purchase, as Trow explains, “People sometimes get the idea that’s all we do.” As principals in Foundations Design, LLC, Trow and Pasternack do specialize in “flipping,” but to be sure, through the auspices of Foundations, their services encompass everything from interior and exterior design, architectural design and the full gambit of new home construction or renovation services. Both collaborate closely with their customer, gleaning exactly what the homeowner wants or needs, and then they commit themselves to delivering on those expectations. In full expression of his profession prudence, Pasternack says, “And we put everything in writing so there is a clear document of what the expectations are, which helps ensure that everyone is on the same page.”
In terms of their renovation projects, Pasternack says Foundations has been typically drawn to projects in the $75,000 to $300,000 price range; projects which enable them to demonstrate the full visual dynamic of change, preferably in spaces that don’t include a basement. To explain, Pasternack says he deploys a formula that meticulously accounts for jobs costs and market-specific pricing trends which are weighed against the profit margins desired by the company. He says basements too often come with water damage issues which result in plumbing repairs and wall repairs which are both costly and time consuming. He prefers to avoid these types of projects, but for the record, both assert that their firm can assist in any project regardless of size or complexity. Trow asserts that it is much easier to manage a project from concept to completion, as opposed to taking on a renovation which involves repairing mistakes made by others, but over the years Foundations Design has taken on all manner of challenges.
The greatest challenge was opening a company at the height of the economic downturn which came with impact to the real estate market, which included weeding-out enterprises that lacked the nimbleness or know-how of Foundations Design. While impact was felt by firms who only provided design services, or only new construction services, Pasternack and Trow were able to flourish because of the range of services they provide under one roof. As Trow says, “In the beginning, it felt like we were riding the wave down, but we took on a lot of different projects that helped us weather the storm… and now we’re riding the wave back up.”
“Not many flippers are successful,” says Pasternack. “This is a business, but some treat it as a hobby. Before the economy turned, you didn’t have to be very good, but it is different today. You have to approach it as a business, and truly understand the market, understand the maximum amount you’re going to pay to achieve the profitability you want, and assess each transaction which is what we do after each project. We review what went well, and what didn’t, so we can constantly make improvements which carry over to the next project.”
Success has enabled the company to be more selective as to what jobs they want to take on versus those that they might refer to other firms. And when it comes to referrals, both Pasternack and Trow have provided crucial support to real estate professionals in their market.
Real Estate Connections ATL
Pasternack and Trow are also sponsors of a monthly event designed to facilitate a positive atmosphere where real estate professionals as well as real estate related industries can join forces together to network, share ideas and strategies for success. Though Atlanta had events which specifically catered to members of the area real estate association, there was nothing which gathered realtors with the mortgage brokers, investors, insurance experts and other service providers under one roof. Trow says that when a purchaser is preparing to move into a new home in a new neighborhood, more often than not, will turn to the realtor for recommendations on service providers. The fact of that prompted Trow and Pasternack to create a forum that would allow industry professionals to become more acquainted with each other as well as their respect services. Harking back to realities resulting from the economic downturn, Pasternack says turnovers and turnarounds have seen some firms disappear from the community while others have moved in. Through Real Estate Connections, industry professionals are kept more up-to-date and informed of exactly who is doing what, as well as all that is going on, within Atlanta’s real estate market and the industries which fuel that market. As Trow says, “We’re taking all the spheres of influence and bringing them together under one roof.” Real Estate Connections has since become one of Atlanta’s largest and most prestigious of trade gatherings, with hundreds participating in these monthly networking events.
Pasternack also works closely with a variety of real estate firms, conducting workshops and seminars, advising on what can be done to help existing inventory sell faster. To some degree, Pasternack and Trow’s television appearances serve to provide more than awareness of their own talents, but awareness of the home opportunities and lifestyle elements unique to Atlanta. The A&E network attracts millions of viewers throughout the world, enabling a kind of commercial for the company and the community that would prove costly to purchase outright.
Pasternack and Trow affirm their appreciation for the program and its help in providing awareness of their services as well as the market they love serving. Both express confidence in the future growth of their company and the future, larger scale projects they’re preparing to tackle. Neither views himself as a celebrity, but rather as simple business men who love their work, their customers, and the people who work in their industry. Pasternack says he has viewed the television broadcasts as an opportunity to communicate about services and techniques which help improve real estate trade, and in this regard, Pasternack says both see themselves as providers of information as opposed to entertainers – “We’re very clear on who we are, what we do best and all that we can offer.”
For more details about the range of building, renovation and design services provided by Brian Trow and Peter Pasternack, or information on networking opportunities accommodated by Real Estate Connections of Atlanta, visit Foundations’ website at http://foundationsllc.com/home.html
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