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Twin 'Property Brothers' apply realty, reno skills to fixer-uppers

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TORONTO -- Most people wait until they're secure at work or settling down with a family to buy their first home, but Drew and Jonathan Scott were barely out of high school when they decided to take the plunge.

The brothers bought a seven-bedroom house next to the University of Calgary that was hardly a dream home.

"It was dated, it was disgusting, it had brown shag carpet in all the bathrooms, it had wallpaper over everything," recalled Drew in a recent interview. "It was gross."

"Everything in the house was stucco," said Jonathan, including the cabinets, ceiling and a 1.5-metre fence.

The unpalatable decor didn't deter the duo. They moved in, got roommates and basically lived free during the first year of university while carrying out a cosmetic makeover of the home.

They sold it a year later and made $40,000.

Since then, Drew estimates they've bought and renovated some 40 homes for their own use, and hundreds more for clients.

The 32-year-old brothers started Scott Real Estate, which oversees the sales and construction of residential and commercial projects, and has offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Las Vegas.

Jonathan, who sports a streaked, wavy mane, is a licensed contractor and master builder, while identical twin Drew, who has short, dark brown hair, is a realtor.

They're bringing their know-how to their new series Property Brothers premiering Jan. 4 at 9 p.m. on W Network, helping couples find and transform "extreme fixer-uppers" into dream homes.

It's a natural progression for the affable Vancouver-born duo who have been acting and hosting since they were kids, and don't shy from engaging in a little good-natured joking and ribbing both on and off-camera.

Drew is a second-degree black belt in karate, and Jonathan is an award-winning illusionist who performs in Vegas. Unfortunately, there's no snapping of the fingers to instantly reinvent homes in dire need of overhaul.

As Drew shows a property, Jonathan is able to offer real-time advice on potential changes that could be made, whether it's removing a wall or installing a new kitchen.

Using computer-generated imagery, they are able to show clients the potential of a rundown home.

Drew said a common mistake individuals make when buying a home is not looking at fixer-uppers.

"Most people are blinded to the realities of real estate and they think they can get into their absolute dream home, move-in ready, everything they want is already there," he said. "That's not realistic for most people."

The first episode features Christine and John, married parents of four young children. The suburban couple is looking for a new home in the city with "must-haves" like a big kitchen, hardwood floors and a kids' play area.

Reality sets in when they see a home loaded with virtually everything on their wish list, and then face sticker shock upon learning the price.

Jonathan said they're working with people looking to renovate with varying budgets. It's important that people "don't live in fantasy land" and that they are aware of both budget and timeline, he said.

"If someone's going in and they only have $20,000 to do a renovation, you don't want to get into moving walls and gutting kitchens," Jonathan said.

"You need to look at homes that maybe just need flooring and paint and some fixtures or even some appliances.... But a lot of people go in and they think that they can have a massive reno done for $20,000-$25,000."

Drew said people should keep an open mind and "look past the ugly" when they step into a space. Still, it surprises him how many people selling their homes don't stage a property, something that's important so prospective buyers can picture living there.

Staging doesn't mean going out to buy all new furniture, noted Jonathan. It can be done using items you already have, as well as decluttering your space.

"Cleaning things up a little bit, making it look like it has a purpose, every area can really have a difference."

The Scotts say the best part of the experience has been revealing revamped homes, with Jonathan admitting he started welling up and crying when showing Christine and John their house post-renovation.

"It's a real journey that we take with these families," he said. "There's lots of laughter, there's lots of drama, but it makes for a good show."

Drew said he and Jonathan accent each other's strengths and weaknesses, and throughout their careers have been "very bold and blunt" with one another. "We have the same sense of humour so I think that really helps," he added. "We just say what's on our mind, we get it done. If we don't agree, we get it out, we figure it out and we'll move on."

They have also shared the same vision and goal of where they wanted to be with their real estate business, added Jonathan.

"We just pushed and pushed and pushed and that's why our company has grown to the point where it's at today, and it took the two of us to get it there," he said.

"I think the only thing we don't agree on is hair," joked Drew.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 4, 2011 C3

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