Drew and Jonathan Scott, the energetic Canadian twins better known as the Property Brothers, have helped turn things like real estate transactions and decisions about bathroom tile and countertop materials into must-see TV. They're the princes of HGTV, a network that's expertly tapped in to our subconscious desire to nest. Depending on how you look at it, shows such as theirs and House Hunters are either entertainment or propaganda; after watching a six-episode on-demand marathon, has anyone not started poking around online to see what's for sale in their price range? (Spoiler: nothing.)
On their shows Property Brothers, Buying & Selling and Brother vs. Brother, the Scotts have offered unto us untold amounts of real estate advice that we may or may not ever have the means to put into practice, and now they've collected it all in a book called Dream Home: The Property Brothers' Ultimate Guide to Finding & Fixing Your Perfect House (which they're signing tonight at Barnes & Noble at the Grove).
Besides being full of helpful advice for people who are buying or selling or renovating a home, the book lays out the story of how a couple of ambitious young guys built a real estate and entertainment empire when they were in college.
Over the phone last week, I asked the guys some questions: First and foremost, why is real estate TV so popular? And how do they deal with people's pie-in-the-sky expectations?
Concerning the reality genre's popularity, Drew says, "The main thing is, everyone lives somewhere, no matter who you are or whether it's a $100,000 condo or a $2 million house, everyone wants to live in their dream home." Jonathan adds, "There's a voyeuristic part of it, too — watching people make good and bad decisions. Looking at the what-the-hell moments."
When they appear live, they do an entire segment on disaster DIY, discussing, for instance, the time they looked at a home and discovered that instead of putting a pocket door in a small basement bathroom, the owner had simply cut a toilet-shaped hole in the door so it could open and shut.
On the show, no matter the condition of the home they're renovating, the biggest challenge the Scott brothers face is homebuyers' unrealistic demands. And it sounds like we don't even know the half of it. The brothers, who are based out of Vegas and Canada, fly every other weekend to film shows, and Jonathan oversees as many as 10 renovation projects at a time. The tight filming schedule means that the renovation schedule is accelerated as well. But it's still not fast enough for some people. Jonathan says, "I kind of laugh because I go very, very fast. We have all of our vendors make us a first priority so they can never delay us and we can do in six weeks what would take 13 weeks outside of the show. Still, I have people who say, I want this done faster."
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Then there's the fact that there's always a hidden problem: old plumbing, bad wiring, an unlicensed addition that needs to be leveled. Jonathan says they've had people basically say, you found the problem, you fix it. Which is not a reasonable reaction.
They also have to deal with the way people's emotions play into their assessments of their homes, which isn't really the way home appraisal works. People always think their house is the best house on the block. If the neighbor's house sold for $400,000 the previous year, they'll say theirs is worth $500,000, regardless of factors such as square footage and other things of a quantifiable nature. "People come up with the dumbest excuses for why their house is better," Drew says.
Drew and Jonathan say they really do recommend homeownership, but recognize that it might not be for everyone. "If you're going to be strapped," Drew says, "maybe renting is the better choice."
Barnes & Noble at the Grove, 189 The Grove Drive #30, Fairfax; Thu., April 7, 7 p.m.; book is $30. stores.barnesandnoble.com.