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Welcome to the Gold Coast. Palm Beach County simmers with culture and shimmers with luxury. It’s where the ultra rich seek shelter. Here we find Frank McKinney, the real estate artist who builds their dreams. He designs the lavish homes, and his wife, Nilsa, decorates them. Together they create a world of opulence right at the ocean’s edge.
We drove down Ocean Boulevard in Delray Beach -- a stretch of sand and sea that’s lined with a luxurious display of his original creations and renovations.
Frank whisked me off to one of his multi-million dollar designs and rolled out the red carpet. So, what makes a Frank McKinney home different from any other luxury home?
Frank says, “Are we in a home, a house? To me, we’re in a piece of art. That’s the way we approach what we do for a living -- creating artistry on a sun-drenched canvas called the Atlantic Ocean. This isn’t a home. This is a place where my wife and I put all of our passions, everything that we’ve worked 20 years to develop."
“We work well together,” Nilsa says. “We respect each other’s strengths, and through that is the product that we produce, which are the wonderful homes.”
He’s been dubbed the “Real Estate Rock Czar” and the “Daredevil Developer” and for good reason. He’s into some pretty risky business known as speculative, ultra high-end real estate.
“We build houses, very large houses on speculation,” he explains. “We don’t have a buyer in mind when we’re building them. So they’re ready-made. Put a key in the door, you’ve got linens on the beds. You’ve got towels in the bathrooms, and you’ve got a gold plated toothbrush in the bathroom. There’s only about 50,000 people in the world who can afford what I do for a living. So you take 50,000, you divide it into 6.5 billion. That’s a .0000004 percent chance of success.”
The odds may be stacked against him, but he’s breaking records at every turn. Frank recently sold the most expensive home ever built on speculation for a cool 50 million dollars.
Where does he come up with these grand ideas? Inside his oceanfront tree house just beyond his front door. There he brainstorms on how to attract potential buyers. He takes the kind of risks some people would run from.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a businessman. It doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home mom,” he tells The 700 Club. “We have to embrace fear. I am afraid every day of my life. But I don’t let it stop me. My faith has a lot to do with that, and the stronger your faith is, the greater risk you will be able to take.”
Frank didn’t always enjoy a life of luxury. When he first moved to Florida, he scraped by on $180 a week, digging sand traps for a golf course.
Life had taken a sharp turn far from what Frank was accustomed to. His father had achieved success in business and as an Olympic gold medalist. His mother brought strength to the family through her faith. But by the time Frank was 13, he’d developed a wild streak.
“I was an altar boy,” he recalls, “a very good little mommy’s boy altar boy. That foundation I believe was very important to me because I strayed. There was no doubt I strayed away. Like the prodigal son, I was gone. I was gone longer than the prodigal was gone."
As a teen Frank was kicked out of three high schools including a Catholic boarding school. He eventually graduated from a fourth.
“I had an infatuation with speed,” he confesses. “I loved to go fast. I stole cars and raced them around. Back then I drank a little bit. I got caught doing that underage, selling booze. I was more on the selling side, not the using side. Stereos, car stereos and you name it, whatever I get my hands on, I would sell it.”
Juvenile detention slowed him down. He picked up a Bible there and read it cover to cover. But he wasn’t ready to give his heart to the Lord. He left his boyhood home of Indiana and headed to Florida in search of life in the fast lane.
“Kinda like that Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous voyeurism, I was a 21-year-old kid who was very materialistic. [I was] very interested in the fancy cars they were driving, the clothes, the houses, the boats, the beautiful wife and the three little beautiful kids. I wanted that American dream.”
What he found was a harsh reality — digging sand traps in the Florida heat.
“But then that foundation… When I moved to Florida, when I became self-sufficient in my own right -- I couldn’t count on my parents any more -- is when I really became very close to Jesus. He was my only friend. I left Indiana. I was here with 50 bucks and no education and no friends.”
He continues, “I didn’t pray to Him to be a mega real estate guy. I prayed to Him to get up in the morning, so I could get out there and dig those sand traps. I didn’t pray for more. I prayed for friendship, and that’s where He became my buddy. That was all I had and all I ever needed.”
As Frank developed this new relationship with Jesus, his life began to change. At 22, Frank started his first real estate investment company.
“I had started renovating these $50,000 crack houses that were in really bad parts of town. I made a career out of that for six years,” he says. “When I moved over to the ocean -- meaning I started buying houses, fixing them up and selling them for millions of dollars -- the very first project I did was represented in the newspaper. There was a photo of me standing in front of the house. On this side of the paper was an article about a soup kitchen. There was this woman handing this young man a bowl of soup and some bread. But this guy looked very much like me on this side of the paper. ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’”
Frank began volunteering at a local soup kitchen called Caring House. Now, he’s sharing his compassion with thousands of people in Haiti.
“We have our wonderful Caring House Project Foundation that we founded in 1998,” he says. “We have been providing housing, food, medical support, opportunity, through micro-credit, micro-finance to the world’s most desperately poor and homeless people.”
Frank McKinney’s success doesn’t add up to a dollar amount. He’s more concerned about succeeding at the business of life. He’s a family man who walks his daughter to school every morning and a business man who partners with Jesus.
“I’ve invited Him into my little boardroom, which is my tree house, and take Him everywhere I go. That is part of the business plan.“I hope will glorify Him -- not my garage with more cars, not my closet with more clothes, not my bank account with more money, but Him."
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