Try to tell The Property Brothers apart. It’s easier than you think. Don’t look at their pretty faces – focus on the color of their collars. Jonathan is blue collar, a licensed contractor who rocks the renovations. Drew, the white-collar bro, is the real estate maven who scans the world for fixer-uppers and makes with the negotiating.
Together, these hotties have one of the hottest shows on HGTV since its debut in 2011. The renovate-to-flip series is a major ratings getter in North America, and broadcast in over 30 countries. The siblings can hear themselves dubbed into everything from Hungarian to Chinese, but at the end of the day it’s all about one common universal language.
“We really care about helping the people we are working with and educating the viewer,” Jon says, “but we are also down to earth. We like to have fun. We like to goof off.”
Not a huge order for these guys, whose camera-ready looks have graced the TV screens of their native Canada since they were mere tots (there is an older brother, J.D., who is also in the biz, as a writer).
“When we were coming out of high school, we didn’t want to be starving actors,” Jon says. “So we decided to invest in real estate.”
Smooth move. Their current series is meant to open doors (and double-sided windows too) to the possibilities of impossible houses.
“People who are watching it are looking for ideas,” Jon says. “We hold ourselves to very high standards. We raise the bar in everything that we do. These are the things that I would do in my own house.”
Growing up together, show business easily beckoned on the horizon, but a real estate empire was ultimately in the cards.
“My dad was always very handy,” Drew says. “And if our parents popped out for a few hours, we would rearrange the entire space to something we thought was more functional. We just had a knack for it.”
It’s all about creating visuals as well as creating magic, and fate dealt them a winning hand.
“Jonathan, he’s an illusionist,” Drew says. “When he was younger, he was ranked one of the top professional illusionists in North America. He won a competition. Jonathan used to build all his own illusions. That’s what got him really hands on with building and design. And he expanded from there into properties. We were never focused on just making money or just renovating a place. We were looking at both the finance side of it and the construction side of it.”
The beginnings were slightly above humble, but it started the climb.
“Our very first property we bought for only $250 down,” Drew says. “It was out of pocket, and it was a $250,000 home across from The University of Calgary. After a short period of time, we sold it for a $50,000 profit. That’s when the light bulb went on. We focused on being smart on the financial side, and being smart on the renovation/design side too.”
Today, the boys make their home in Las Vegas. Wait, Vegas? You mean the market that took quite the beating during the recent crash and was left for dead?
“When we first started investing in the States, we looked at all the major markets and what had been affected the most,” Jon says. “We discovered that Vegas had the most potential for a rebound. When we first went in, we were buying properties for $25-30,000. These were four-bedroom homes, just really beat up. And we went in, fixed them all up, renovated them. Our philosophy has been that the nicest rental combinations have the most reasonable price, and to have tenants who are dedicated to keeping the place well maintained. We’ve seen appreciation on every single property.”
Like they say about Vegas, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. And as far as advice in succeeding from the guys who have made it where others have failed?
“Do not over-renovate,” Jon says. “You need to work with a good real estate agent who understands the market and knows exactly who the buyers are in that community. Each community is different. Every city has its own market, and within a city there are many [sub] markets. You need to understand what buyers are looking for in that area. If this is a first-time-buyer community, don’t spend all your money on putting in granite counters or quartz counters. The buyers are not going to pay you extra for that. They’re going to love it, but it’s not going to get you more money. Ask yourself: is it something that is going to add value to the home or is it something that is going to help the home sell faster but won’t get you any more money?”
Drew adds, ”You need to be prepared. You need to have all your ducks in a row and your financing arranged. Understand your situation. Know where your income is at now. Know where you future income is going to be if it’s going to change. Make sure you budget for what you can afford.”
He adds that you should not be shy about inspecting the biggest commitment of your life.
“This is a huge investment,” he says, “so you have the right to kick the tires. When you are doing an inspection of a home, look behind every piece of furniture, pull up the rug, look at the floor, because you know the seller is [going to put a piece of furniture in front of it]. Even though you are supposed to disclose everything, people don’t. Instead of a regular home inspection, bring in a contractor to do an estimate on all the work. It’s like a free inspection because contractors will do a written quote for free. So it’s like having a second inspection on the whole place.”
With The Property Brothers help, many people have realized their American dream both on and off the screen. All in a day’s double duty for the twins.
Jon says, “There is so much you can do that doesn’t cost a lot but can really give that ‘magazine look’ to a property, that can give you that dream feel. We are getting people their dream homes within their budget. We see people look at their house and smile. All the people we work with on Property Brothers are people who otherwise would never have gotten into their dream home. These are people who have tried to sell their home because they want something better for their family, and we show them how. Just a little creativity and knowing when to use professionals. The biggest reward for me is when people give me a hug and say, ‘You’ve really helped our family.’”
Photos by Harley Reinhardt