Watermark’s Outstanding Designer Series: Rob Diaz
What makes a designer great? What makes clients pay upwards of $1,300 per square foot for a home? Just ask Rob Diaz, owner of The Rob Diaz Group and partner of Peter Lorimer Group Estates, Inc. Rob originally caught our eye because of the great way he uses Watermark products, and his continuous successes and elevated designs are keeping us inspired.
We sat down to talk to him about his roots, how he comes up with his designs, what he looks for in products and what the future holds.
Looking to the Past
Rob was born and raised in L.A. In 2006, he started his real estate career as an appraiser. He had a lot of investors who were flipping houses for profit, and after learning all he could from them, he started flipping them himself.
But in 2007, Rob took a break to participate in CBS’s The Amazing Race. While he didn’t win, he did come in second and formed a lasting friendship with the winner, Tyler Denk. When Tyler approached him to start flipping houses together, Rob didn’t hesitate to say yes. Rob used his real estate and appraisal background to help pick the right houses to flip.
They did most of the work themselves, getting advice from some of Rob’s construction friends when they got stuck. But eventually, they got tired of doing the same thing so they decided to grow their business to include new residential construction.
Now, over a decade later, Rob works on nine to ten multi-million dollar homes a year. And because he has such a great design eye, most of his home presell and never even make it to the market.
“There’s a bit of a waiting list,” said Rob. “It’s taken a long time to get here, but I think that having people come in and see previous models...when they see a new one coming, they know what they’re going to get.”
The Design Process
Rob doesn’t have official design training, but that hasn’t stopped him. Even as a child, he was a visual person, and he’s learned how to design a house from real-world experience, something that he says is second to none. One of the most important things this experience has taught him has been his attention to detail and willingness to spend a little extra for a great end result.
But he does admit that he can go too far with his high-end taste. “I’m the spender,” he admits. “I’m the one whose reins need to be pulled in, or I’ll drop 50 grand on lights.”
However, he thinks spending a little extra (while not going overboard) makes all the difference when selling a house. After all, he points out, “home buying is an emotional experience.” Focusing on the little details, like doors and the right hardware, will make a buyer pay attention and always pays off.
And he also thinks it’s worth paying more upfront for a house in a great location, even if it’s on the smaller size. You can always reframe the inside, raise the ceilings to nine or ten feet, and add floor-to-ceiling glass to make it feel larger.
Rob recently broke the record for Studio City with a 1,800 square foot home he sold for $1,300 per square foot, while a home down the street was having a hard time selling a 3,200 square foot house for way less. Why? The little details.
Using the Right Products
One of the little details Rob pays attention to is bathroom hardware. Watermark faucets, showerheads and hardware are a common staple in his houses.
“I love Watermark. I’ve been using them for a long time,” he says. “I think that it’s a little bit masculine, and I like that.”
He’s tried other brands over the years, but always comes back to Watermark because “it always works.” As he points out, you don’t want to spend several thousand dollars on a kitchen sprayer that doesn’t work. Remember, it’s the little details that make or break a design, and a faulty faucet will definitely break it.
Looking to the Future
When asked about what his future holds, Rob’s not sure. “I don’t live my life that way,” he says. “It’s not that I don’t plan and I’m not responsible, but I don’t like to guess. If you had asked me ten years ago, I would never have imagined I’d be here.”
For now, Rob is just taking it one project at a time and tackling the future as it comes. But he does have some advice for new designers and entrepreneurs:
“Be passionate about it. Love what you do. Be constantly learning. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you’re going to make mistakes. It’s always going to be about people, how you treat people, how you interact with people. Take care of the people you work with. Relationships aren’t one-dimensional. And know your market and who you are catering to. Don’t put a $3,000 faucet in a market that can’t afford it.”