Even if you aren’t on the prowl for a fixer-upper, it’s hard not to be seduced by the magical makeover skills of HGTV hosts Drew and Jonathan Scott. Famous for transforming real-estate lemons into dream homes on their hit show, Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan have inspired millions of aspiring homeowners. We caught up with the talented twins to discuss their best tricks of the trade.
POPSUGAR: It’s pretty incredible that you both gravitated toward the same industry. What made you want to go into real estate and construction?
Drew Scott: We were actors as kids, and I continued in the entertainment industry as a director and Jonathan as an illusionist. We loved being involved in production and in various creative outlets but didn’t want to be starving artists. So in the 12th grade, we started discussing ways we could fund our creative endeavors and came to the conclusion that real estate was the way to go. We bought every book, VHS tape (dating ourselves), and infomercial program we could get our hands on to learn everything we could about real estate. We wanted to figure out how two kids with no credit and little savings could get into property investing. Well, with our newfound knowledge, we made the plunge when we graduated high school, buying a $200,000 house with only a $250 down payment. We sold that place after a year for a profit of $50,000. A lightbulb went off and we knew that we could turn our skills into something great!
PS: When it comes to buying a fixer-upper, what should people avoid?
Jonathan Scott: Avoid falling into a money pit! Make sure you plan ahead, work with professionals that know the area you are looking to invest in, and know what you are getting into before committing to any property. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Any house can be made to look beautiful but by working with the right experts you can ensure the property you choose is actually worth it in the end.
PS: What are some common turnoffs that are actually easy fixes?
DS: The funniest and most common remark we hear when we show clients a fixer upper is, “I hate the carpet! This house isn’t for me.” Outdated carpet, wallpaper, paint, and old appliances — these are all cosmetic things that can be easily fixed in a couple days. You have to be open-minded and see beyond the property’s current state. I love it when other buyers run away from a property because that usually means it’s the one I want.
PS: Since you both are pros at working with tight renovation budgets, are there cost-friendly materials that you feel are often overlooked?
JS: We are asked all the time, “How can we do the transformations we do on such small budgets?” And it’s simply because we look for areas to save money and stretch a dollar. If you can’t afford custom kitchen cabinets, then buy prefab and spend a few extra dollars on the countertop, crown, and lighting to make it look more custom. If money is tight when you’re replacing the countertops, consider butcher block for the island and stone for the rest. This can look like a design choice yet saves you thousands! Lighting is one other easy, easy way to add value. A well-lit room feels bigger and more inviting, so look at fixtures that will give you a brighter space.
PS: What are some items that are worth splurging on?
DS: First of all, you need to know your neighborhood. We learned this lesson on the first couple of houses we renovated. We spent extra money on stone countertops, custom cabinets, and porcelain tile only to realize that in this specific community buyers were not willing to pay for the upgrades. If you find you’re in an area that will permit some higher-end upgrades, then consider new appliances, dual sink vanity, glass-enclosed shower, plank-style porcelain tiles, opening up the wall between your kitchen and living space (have an engineer inspect the wall first). Also, technology is a hot-ticket item these days. How about a fridge that will tell you when your food is about to expire? Or the new energy-efficient washers and dryers that will wash a load in 15 minutes and dry in 15 minutes? Imagine the time you would save!
PS: Buying a home located in a transitional neighborhood can be a smart investment. What are some tips for uncovering these “up-and-coming neighborhoods”?
DS: This is when it’s really important to work with a real estate agent that knows the area. Proximity to downtown, transit, shopping, amenities, and schools are really important. You can also go to the city planning department and find out any major developments that are going into the different communities. Also, drive through the neighborhoods that you are considering and look to see if there are a lot of recent sales. Trying to invest in emerging communities can be risky, so if you are new to real estate, then we suggest sticking to areas you are comfortable in.
PS: What’s a good rule of thumb when deciding how much to spend on renovations when considering your neighborhood?
JS: If you find a home you really like, have a contractor walk through the space with you to give an idea of the cost of certain renovations. Then ask your real estate agent to do a comparable for the community based on those improvements being done. This can give you a better idea if the cost will be worth it. Also, walk through other renovated homes in the area to see what buyers are expecting. This can save you from overrenovating.
PS: What are some tips for maximizing a small space?
DS: Light and bright! Use a lighter color palette and light fixtures that will brighten the space. Stay away from bulky furniture pieces that will make the room feel small. Less really is more! You could also consider some multifunctioning pieces. For example, built-in shelving can be great, but you could also have a desk incorporated into the lower level. Or use furniture, like an ottoman that can also be storage. Murphy beds are popular in very small guest rooms so that it can also be used as an office or play area for kids.
PS: Where do you look for inspiration?
DS: We draw a lot of influence from our travels. Bringing design elements from Europe, Asia, or other areas of the globe helps our designs stand out. We love to use rustic or traditional pieces in a modern design in order to make the ordinary extraordinary.
PS: What’s your most memorable renovation story and what can we all learn from it?
DS: One renovation I will never forget is when we worked with a single dad who had five kids. He struggled to pay the bills and keep a roof over his children’s heads — a roof on a house that was way too small for the family. He really wanted to find a way to put some money aside for his kids’ college funds but felt he was being unrealistic. He tried selling their current home, which was falling apart, in hopes that it would pay down his debts and move the family into a better situation, but the house never sold. He worked so hard, like a lot of parents out there, so we worked with him to help his plan come to fruition. We fixed all the minor concerns in his house, updated the place to give it some amazing features, and even helped him organize a plan to reduce his debt load. The house sold in one day for more than he was asking for over the past year. This gave him the money he needed for the college funds, paid off his debts and even allowed him enough for a down payment on a bigger home just outside his current neighborhood. We didn’t just transform his home, we transformed his life. Seeing the smile on his face made it all worthwhile.
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