Ah, where to begin with Frank McKinney?
Is it his claim of being, not a custom homebuilder, but a "real estate artist"?
Is it his Fabio hair and tight-jeans, rock-star persona — the get-rich-with-real-estate author who travels around the country promoting his books in a Greyhound-sized bus adorned with blowups of his face?
Is it his apparent ability to please the ultrawealthy, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars for his spec homes?
Or is it, instead, his devotion to improving the standard of living in Haiti, where a charity he founded has constructed 11 villages — all of them turned to rubble by the Jan. 12 earthquake?
McKinney would prefer to begin with Haiti, explaining in an interview last week that he had returned days earlier from a relief mission that he and his foundation had organized immediately after the quake.
"Both my heart and my head are in Haiti," says McKinney, a Delray Beach, Fla., builder who went to the disaster area with a search-and-rescue group that worked alongside teams from Peru, Jordan and Nicaragua. He says the team succeeded in pulling two survivors from the debris, and medical staff that accompanied them provided emergency care.
McKinney had been a frequent visitor to Haiti since 2003, when he began to construct the 11 enclaves, which he describes as "self-sufficient — 50 homes, a school for 800 kids, a clinic, and a micro-finance lending building."
The organization, Caring House Project Foundation, also has completed projects in Brazil, Honduras, Nicaragua, Uganda and Ghana. He had planned to construct three more Haitian villages in 2010, though he said Caring House would focus first on recovery efforts.
In the meantime, he said, he was struggling to get his mind back to U.S. real estate — specifically, a $24.3 million oceanfront spec home in Manalapan, in Palm Beach County, Fla.
"I live such a dichotomous existence, providing homes for the world’s most wealthy people and for the world’s poorest," he said. "I have unsold inventory that I have to sell, or there is no charity." …CONTINUED