Rod Womack has worn many hats. Restaurant owner, author, Director of Food and Nutrition for the Baltimore City Schools. But one of his favorite jobs – and the one he’s concentrating on these days – is in real estate development and entrepreneurship.
Womack is the founder of the Coalition of United Real Estate Entrepreneurs and one of the minds behind the rehab company Dream Builders and the commercial development company WBDC Development.
Here, we talk with him about his background, what he loves about real estate and why Baltimore is a great place to be in the industry right now:
How did you end up in real estate?
My first book, Redwood, was about my real-life experience owning the Redwood Grill. We sold that in early 1999 and went on to start a development company.
But then, in 2008, the economy crashed and we folded and I got out of real estate altogether. I became the business liaison for Baltimore City Schools and then was appointed as Director of Food and Nutrition.
I left the school system and decided to go back to real estate in 2013. Now, I have two companies – Dream Builders, which is my company to rehab properties, and I’m a partner in WBDC Development. We have a couple large parcels in downtown Baltimore that we’re developing.
For Dream Builders, we buy properties and rehab houses for sale and also do some rentals. We’re all over the city and going into the counties. Right now, we have two houses on the market and two coming on the market. We’ve already done six houses this year and will have done 12 by the end of the year.
I also cofounded a real estate entrepreneur organization called CURE – the Coalition of United Real Estate Entrepreneurs. We come together to network and figure out ways to help move construction development along more efficiently, especially in neighborhoods that really need it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It’s always changing! I am sometimes in the office doing office work and other days, I’ve got to get in and get a little more hands on to make sure projects are moving. There are days when I get a little dirty!
What’s most intriguing to you about what you do now? Why do you love it?
I love to take things that are broken and fix them – I’ve been that way ever since I was a kid. The passion I have around this business is the fact that we get to take things that people might otherwise see as junk – things they don’t see as very desirable – and we can infuse it with the things that make it desirable.
That’s true from an internal standpoint – we take a property and turn it around with new cabinets, appliances, painting, hardwood floors. And sometimes this is happening in neighborhoods that are transitional, or on the fringe. So we’re bringing people back into neighborhoods that were kind of dead.
Revitalization has a real-life impact – we’ve been able to demonstrate it and see neighborhoods that are dying until a few investors come together to help.
There’s nothing better than being able to ride through a neighborhood where five or six houses were vacant, then two years later, those houses have people who live in them and own them – where there are flowers and plants. That’s just a beautiful thing.
What’s unique about what you do with Dream Builders?
We try to pay attention to detail and include things that not all rehabbed houses have. Each house is different – it’s not a cookie cutter approach. They’re all unique and all get what we call “our touch.” The final product is very well put together and we focus on the details.
What do you love about working in Baltimore?
Baltimore is a top rehab city in this country. There are vacant houses and a lot of good stock that, historically, wasn’t being invested in.
Recently, there’s been an onslaught of investors from all over – not just locals but from DC, Virginia, Philadelphia – pouring money into Baltimore. They’ve changed the market – it’s changed dramatically over the past two or three years. I think there might be ten times as many people doing it compared to two years ago.
(In addition to rehabbing houses himself, Womack acts as a consultant for those interested in entering the business in the Baltimore market.)
What’s next for you personally?
I’m working to get our commercial developments off the ground and moving and bringing more houses to market with Dream Builders – and personally, I just love to write. I’m working on my second book now. It’s called Central Office and has a lot of zing!
For more information about Dream Builders, call 410-881-9011 or visit the website at http://www.dreamofhome.net/