The recent allegations that "House Hunters" is fake got us thinking about the other show we're mildly obsessed with on HGTV, "Property Brothers." It features people who buy a fixer-upper and renovate it into their dream home with the help of twins Jonathan (the contractor) and Drew (the real estate agent) Scott.
The guys, 34, laugh off the idea that the show isn't real. "Everything is genuine, and we keep it nice and transparent," Jonathan tells Yahoo! Shine.
"We've had people watch the show and go on fact-finding missions," he adds. "Every home is on the MLS or for sale by owner. You can go online and search, unlike some of these other shows showing houses that aren't even for sale." (One subject who appeared on "House Hunters" wrote on a blog, "You have to already own the house that gets picked at the end of the show.")
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"It's so real, Drew doesn't even have to hide the fact that he admits he goes to the spa while I work," jokes Jonathan of his realtor brother who is never seen swinging sledge hammers or getting dirty in the renovation. (For the record, Drew says he used to help with tiling in early episodes.)
In a tidy 30 minutes on "Property Brothers," potential buyers are shown a home considerably beyond their budget that has all of their ideal amenities like expansive granite countertops and steam showers, and then taken to two houses that need a major renovation. Cue the baffled "I just can't picture how we could ever live here!", the seemingly on-the-fly designs by Jonathan, Drew closing the deal for under asking price, and a super fast renovation before the credits roll and the buyers coo about how they never thought they could afford such a place.
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But, in fact, the guys say each episode is filmed over about six months, and they have nine working construction sites at once.
"We work with a team of realtors within the city we're in," explains Drew. They help bring clients to the guys to feature in the show. (And sometimes they don't know the premise of the show is that they'll have to buy a fixer upper, which is why they always appear so reluctant to do so, he says.) He also has 12 researchers who help find properties.
Then Jonathan has to scramble to whip up designs to help the buyers choose between two houses. "It's a little bit of pressure in order to turn it around to get an offer out," he says. He spends 24-48 hours on each one, using "3D design software that is very pricey." (Not to mention that his staff includes a 3D design expert and liaisons on each project whose sole job is to coordinate with all the vendors and tradespeople.)
On the show, it seems that the couple spends approximately 20 seconds deciding if they should dump their entire life savings into a house and put up with a renovation. That's not just editing.
"The decision is usually fairly quick. They have seen the houses and we've alluded to what we can do with the job. They have an idea. We can make a beautiful home no matter where, but it's the location at the end of the day," says Jonathan.
"Sometimes that debate only happens for five to 10 minutes. It has taken hours to debate. There were two where they couldn't decide that night and we had to wait for another day," he goes on.
Because each house is really for sale, sometimes they don't actually win the house after submitting a bid, Drew admits. (Although he does add that he loves to negotiate: "I'm good at it.") That part usually doesn't make it on the show.
"You're taking a process from searching to construction, and that can take anywhere from a couple of months to four to five months, condensed into one hour," says Jonathan, who also stars with his brother in a new hour-long show on HGTV called "Buying and Selling" that follows homeowners as they renovate a current home to sell it and buy a new one.
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"There's a lot that goes on. Even when some of the homeowners seem hot headed or unreasonable, again you're just taking excited moments out of that four to five month period, and putting it into one hour."
"We take the job seriously, but not ourselves," adds Jonathan, who thinks the renovations have gotten more down-to-earth since the show kicked off. "We do work that works, to show the average person what they can do to get champagne dreams on a beer budget."
Budgets are, after all, the topic that people have the most questions about, they say.
"The price is for the three to four rooms you are shown on TV. We usually renovate the entire house," explains Jonathan. And, yes, the people on the show get to keep the furniture usually.
The families do pay for it themselves, whether it's a bank loan, their own money or loans from their families. "The production kicks in $10,000 cash, and we try to set up some specials for them," says Jonathan. "I don't charge for my time. Drew doesn't charge a commission."
"We have no desire to trick the audience. The whole purpose of our show is to educate the audience on what they can do in their home," adds Jonathan, who says he's never gone over budget on the original scope of work -- not including what homeowners later add on.
The brothers (who are single, in case you were wondering) grew up in Vancouver and first wanted to be actors -- but didn't want to be "starving artists," jokes Drew.
Around 1997, they watched a late-night program called "Make Millions in Real Estate," and decided to give it a chance. Jonathan spent a summer with his father fixing up a ranch and learning "how to be really handy," he says. (Drew, meanwhile, says he wasn't there that summer, and Jonathan jokes it was the "beginning of Drew skipping out on all the house work.")
The guys started fixing up homes when they were still in school, buying a townhouse in Calgary across from a university and cleaning out a basement "full of 15 years of peoples' crap left behind." After finishing the basement, they began renting it out, making a profit of $800 a month. For their next project, they put down $250 on a $250,000 house.
When they sold that place for a $50,000 profit, a light bulb went off, and they began flipping properties for themselves and then friends and business partners. At that point, Drew got licensed as a realtor, and Jonathan went back to trade school to learn construction and design and they set off to launch their company.
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They still held out hope of a career in entertainment as their real estate company expanded from Calgary to Vancouver and Las Vegas. Drew was at one point up for a role in a potential show called "Realtor Idol" ("It was so bad," he jokes). Around the same time, in 2009, they say HGTV was considering a show called "My Dream Home," with a male and female host, but when they learned of the twin guys, they changed up their format.
"The show itself has a been a crazy, chaotic thing," says Jonathan, who has personally renovated and flipped upwards of 50 homes (not including those on the show) with his brother.
They say they are the top-rated show on the network, but HGTV does not confirm ratings numbers.
"We do 13 episodes per season, shoot in 26-episode blocks for HGTV. We're aired in 16 counties, but each country airs differently," says Jonathan. "House Hunters is our main rival. That's who we're going for!"
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