The Property Brothers Flip A Page On Their TV Triumphs

Nov 5, 2017
Originally published on November 5, 2017 11:43 am

Drew and Jonathan Scott struggled for years to break into the entertainment industry. So the twin brothers decided to open a real estate services company to pay the bills as they continued trying to become stars.

Then, they got an idea — why not combine their two pursuits? And thus, the Property Brothers were born.

Drew and Jonathan now host the smash-hit home renovation show Property Brothers (and its spinoffs) on HGTV, where they do about 50 actual renovations a year for television cameras. Their journey is documented in their new memoir It Takes Two: Our Story.


Interview Highlights

On the start of Property Brothers

Drew Scott: So way back, Jonathan and I were – we were entertainers as kids. We were actors; we did theater, musicals; we ended up getting into commercials and some TV spots. Actually, one of our jobs, we were clowns. We had all this energy, so our parents figured, 'Go be clowns, and get rid of the energy, so by the time you come home you're calmed down a bit.' ... You cannot take yourself too seriously. And don't get the greasepaint in your eyes, because damn, that hurts.

Jonathan Scott: Oh that hurts. Hard to get out.

Drew: So, anyway, we were entertainers as kids, and we wanted — we had these aspirations. Jonathan wanted to do more magic, and I wanted to do more acting and directing for scripted. But we didn't want to be struggling artists, so we actually got into real estate as a way to fund our creative endeavors right out of high school, back in the mid '90s. And I started getting more host auditions as a real estate expert instead of acting auditions, and that's where it all started—

Jonathan: His very first role that he landed as a host, he calls me up, he's like, 'Hey Jonathan, I landed a show!" And I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, that's amazing, what's the show?' He's like, 'It's called Realtor Idol. It's like American Idol for realtors.' ... And I was like, 'That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.'

Drew: I'm glad that didn't take off, and then the next show—

Lulu Garcia-Navarro: What was that even — show — about? Like, would people stand up on stage, and like, what, show you pictures of homes?

Drew: Who doesn't like a singing realtor? I mean, come on. So I told that production company—

Jonathan: How do you grade and give scores to an amortization table?

Drew: I don't know, it's sexy amortization. Um, but yea, so that's when I was talking to the production company. I let them know that I had a brother who's a contractor. I let them know what we were doing with clients. What you see on Property Brothers is what Jonathan and I were doing with clients at the time. They liked the idea and they wanted to pitch us.

On the 'open concept' design that has become a signature

Drew: So a lot of our design, when Jonathan and I work with clients, we're being realistic for their lifestyle and what they're looking for.

Jonathan: The big thing is, when we say open concept – and we've even had, we were doing the Today show, co-hosting the Today show a couple months back, and somebody chased us down the street when we were in our car yelling, 'Open concept sucks! Open concept sucks!' Like, some people passionately are averse to, have an aversion to—

Lulu: I work in an open plan office, so I am against it!

Jonathan: Keep in mind, open concept is just supposed to be between the kitchen, dining room and living room. Those are the entertaining areas, where it's nice to have sight lines, you don't want to feel like you're stuck in the—

Drew: No toilet in the middle of the room.

Jonathan: But yea, if you have a family, there should be another area where there's kids' toys, and you can close off that noise and mess. You know, open concept bathrooms are not the greatest.

On critiques of HGTV 'house-flipping' programming for being unrealistic or irresponsible

Jonathan: We've heard it all — the positive, the negative — and when you are dealing with the largest asset in most peoples' lives, obviously emotions can get involved. The one thing I would say, you know, there are some shows out there that are not too realistic, or there have been shows over the years that have said, you know, they're fake, and they just make it pretty to look at for camera, but in reality the work is terrible. Well, we've been lucky enough and fortunate enough that we have a high standard with everything that we do, and we've never really had that flak.

The only thing that people say is the prices. They say, 'How can you renovate an entire house for $50,000?' Well, we don't. On Property Brothers, for example, we're only – for the show, we're doing three to four rooms. So the budgets and timelines you see are for the three to four rooms. Which, we actually say it on the show, but sometimes people, you know, they'll miss that.

Drew: It's also the same thing too – there was a story I read one time that some shows, at the end of it, they back the truck up and take all the furniture stuff away. I'm like, 'That's the biggest slap in the face.' Like, I could have been so--

Lulu: Yea, here's your dream home. Uh, sorry, the truck's here.

Drew: [beeping truck reversal noises] So, no. We really become close with the families. And that's the thing, too. I know it's a stressful experience, 'cause you're taking what would normally be months and months and months of renovation, and you're cramming it into an eight-week timeline, and a 45-minute show. So it's hard to discuss all the complexities of a construction project in 42 minutes, but we try to make it as authentic as we can.

Eric McDaniel, Oliver Dearden and Ed McNulty produced and edited the audio of this interview. Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the web.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Drew and Jonathan Scott struggled for years to break into the entertainment industry. And then after a heap of setbacks, the brothers decided to open a real estate services company to pay the bills as they continued trying to become stars. Then they got an idea. Why not combine them? And so the "Property Brothers" was born.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PROPERTY BROTHERS")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: They sell, reimagine, renovate. They are the "Property Brothers."

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Drew and Jonathan, of course, host this smash hit home renovation show "Property Brothers" on HGTV, and they join me now. Welcome, to the program.

JONATHAN SCOTT: Thanks for having me.

DREW SCOTT: Hello.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hey. So of course you are twins, and I can't see you and neither can our audience. So you're going to have to introduce yourselves and say which one of you is which.

SCOTT: OK. So we're going to test you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK.

SCOTT: So I'll do my sexy voice.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, no.

SCOTT: Oh, wait.

SCOTT: I messed up already.

SCOTT: Yeah, you just gave it away. See, this is why we don't let Drew talk.

SCOTT: Jonathan has more base, and I'm probably more phlegmy since it's early morning, and that's how I am in the morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Phlegmy. Yeah, you see not sexy.

SCOTT: See, the trick is my mom said when were - you know, we'd call home and, you know, we sound exactly the same. Mom said the trick is Jonathan uses bigger words.

SCOTT: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. All right. You guys have written a book, "It Takes Two," about your journey. So tell me about the beginning, how you ended up making the show?

SCOTT: Well, so way back Jonathan and I were - we were entertainers as kids. We were actors. We did theater, musicals. We did - we ended up getting into commercials and some TV spots. Actually one of our first jobs we were clowns. We had all this energy so our parents figured go be clowns and get rid of the energy. So by the time you come home, you're calmed down a little bit.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. What's the secret to being a good clown?

SCOTT: You can not take yourself too seriously. That's the number one rule. And don't get the grease paint in your eyes because damn that hurts.

SCOTT: Oh, that hurts.

SCOTT: Hard to get out. So anyway we were entertainers as kids, and we wanted - we had these aspirations. Jonathan wanted to do more magic, and I wanted to do more acting and directing for scripted, but we didn't want to be struggling artists. So we actually got into real estate as a way to fund our creative endeavors right out of high school back in the mid-90s. And I started getting more host auditions as a real estate expert instead of acting auditions, and that's where it all started.

SCOTT: His very first role that he landed as a host. He calls me up, and he's like hey, Jonathan. I landed a show. And I'm like oh, my gosh that's amazing. What's the show? He's like it's called "Realtor Idol." It's like "American Idol" for realtors.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) This is a real idea?

SCOTT: Yeah.

SCOTT: This is - I was like that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Like, would people stand up on stage and, like, what show you pictures of homes?

SCOTT: Who doesn't like a singing realtor? I mean, come on. But yeah so that's when I was talking to the production company. I let them know that I had a brother who's a contractor. I let them know what we were doing with clients. What you see on "Property Brothers" is what Jonathan and I were doing with clients at the time, and they liked the idea and they wanted to pitch us. And the funny thing is in the beginning...

SCOTT: They looked at Drew and they're like hey, he's a little more rugged looking, you know, a little rough and tumble. You know, he should be the contractor because - back in the day, if you think - Drew actually did all the work with me. He would do the construction and tiling, you name it.

SCOTT: Oh, yeah. And that was good.

SCOTT: And then they said and Jonathan - because I'm actually - I was the broker for our company. So I had licensing designations, and, like, Jonathan would be the broker. And then they realized that Drew was not a licensed builder. I am. And they're like well this could go wrong. So we went into our actual organic roles and then of course "Property Brothers"...

SCOTT: And also the thought of - you know, we do about almost 50 renovations, full-blown renovations a year for the shows.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow.

SCOTT: The thought of doing that solid 50 a year for the last eight years, me being in a dirty construction site every day. That would've made me cry.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Well, are we over the open plan thing now?

SCOTT: (Laughter) Oh.

SCOTT: We were doing the "Today Show" - co-hosting the "Today Show" a couple of months back, and somebody chased us down the street when we're in our car yelling open concept sucks. Open concept sucks.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

SCOTT: Like, some people passionately are overt to having a...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I work in an open plan office so I am against it.

SCOTT: Yeah.

SCOTT: Keep in mind, open concept is just supposed to be between the kitchen, dining room and living room. Those are the entertaining areas where it's nice to have sight lines, you don't want to feel like you're stuck in the...

SCOTT: No toilet in the middle of the room.

SCOTT: But yeah, you should - if you have a family, there should be another area where there's kids' toys and you can close off that noise and mess. And, you know, open concept bathrooms and not the greatest (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In the book, you let us peek behind the scenes, and you say none of what you do is manufactured. You work with real local contractors, real people looking for homes. Why is that important to have that sort of local element?

SCOTT: Well, there's a lot of things. You know, every three months we work in a different city and construction in Toronto very different from New Orleans and New York and L.A. And you know, dealing with hurricanes or dealing with earthquakes, construction is physically different. So we need to work with local professionals who understand the local amendments to the code. But even more so when we leave after three months, I want to make sure that these families have a warranty on everything and that somebody's there in case for some reason something happens where they need that warranty work. So we create about 150 jobs in every city that we go to from local real estate professionals who know the local market and work with Drew to find houses to the construction teams and production crews. It's a pretty big thing because we do 17 projects at a time. Seventeen projects simultaneously in three months.

SCOTT: People say on social media, and they say Jonathan, how do you do all those renovations all on your own. There is no physical way that's possible, and you even see our crews and our sub-trades and everybody who works with us. You see it on the show. So it's a big well-oiled machine, and it takes a lot of amazing people to pull this off.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have to ask you this. A lot of programming on HGTV has been critiqued for not painting a realistic picture of what the process of buying or renovating is like and, you know, some have even blamed the housing crisis on flipping homes and say HGTV and shows, like yours, are irresponsible.

SCOTT: Yeah, we have - you know, we've heard it all. The positives, the negative. And, you know, when you are dealing with the largest asset in most people's lives, obviously emotions can get involved. The one thing I would say, you know, there are some shows out there that are not too realistic or there have been shows over the years that have said, you know, they're fake and they just make it pretty to look at camera but in reality the work is terrible. We've never actually had that flak. The only thing that some people say is the prices. They say how can you renovate an entire house for $50,000. Well, we don't. We're only for the show. We're doing three to four rooms. So the budgets and timelines you see are for the three to four rooms, which we actually say it on the show, but sometimes people, you know, they'll miss that.

SCOTT: It's also the - there's a story I read one time that some shows at the end of it they back a truck up and they take all the furniture stuff away. I'm like that's the biggest slap in the face. Like, I could admit so...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, here's your dream home. Sorry. the truck's here.

SCOTT: Goodbye.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah.

SCOTT: (Mimicking beeping truck sound_).

SCOTT: So no. You see that we really become close with the families, and that's the thing too. I know it's a stressful experience because you're taking what would normally be months and months and months of renovation, and you're cramming it into, you know, an eight-week timeline and a 45-minute show. And so it's hard to discuss all the complexities of a construction project in 42 minutes, but we try to make it as authentic as we can.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Drew and Jonathan Scott or as you probably know them, the "Property Brothers." Their show airs on Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. on HGTV. Guys, thanks so much.

SCOTT: Thank you very much.

SCOTT: Thank you.

SCOTT: Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF ONE ALTERNATIVE'S "STRATUS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.