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The Property Brothers’ Real Estate Secrets (and the Strangest Thing You’ll Find in Their Toolbelts)

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: HGTV)

Twin brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott—also known as HGTV’s Property Brothers to anyone with a cable subscription—make a great team. As a realtor and a licensed contractor, respectively, they’ve been buying and flipping houses on and off camera for more than a decade. But their latest project, “Brother vs. Brother,” now in its fourth season on HGTV, pits the twins against each other as each one works to buy, renovate and sell a house in Las Vegas to see who can make the most on their flip.

The brothers sat down with Apartment Therapy and gave me a chance to pick their brains about real estate, renovating, red flags and how to make the most of your square footage, but first, I had an equally important question: What’s the strangest thing in your toolbelt?

“Jonathan makes fun of me, I have everything except for tools in my toolbelt,” Drew said with a laugh over the phone. “I’ll have snacks, I’ll have a banana, I’ll have a drink. I have bandaids. I have my cell phone. I have a charger. But I still leave room for tools like a hammer and a wrench.”

Jonathan aims to be a crowd-pleaser. “I almost always have something for the kids,” he said of his clients’ children that sometimes stop by the work site. “If I know my clients have kids, I’ll have something funny for the kids in my toolbelt, like crayons or a balloon animal.”

Besides crayons, Jonathan also likes to keep tunes flowing from his toolbelt. “They call me the singing contractor because I always have my phone on, playing music,” he said. On his playlist? Tegan and Sara, Magic!, Keane and Mika. “It’s a good, eclectic mix,” Jonathan said. “A little bit of everything. I think Wildest Dreams from Taylor Swift was one of my favorite songs from last year. And Adele’s new song is fantastic.” And Drew? “Drew likes to listen to Christmas music all year round,” Jonathan let slip.

The Property Brothers, they’re just like us.

(Image credit: HGTV)

5 Real Estate Secrets from the Property Brothers

Now that they’ve each gotten to flex their muscles on both sides of the Property Brothers machine on “Brother vs. Brother,” we asked Jonathan and Drew to share their best advice for amateur flippers or anyone who wants to invest in their space.

1. Run far, far away from structural problems.

The brothers have to speed up their renovations for filming—a project that would normally take 25 weeks is sped up to just 8 or 10 weeks for the show. So they’re extra cautious about digging into a property that will require lots of extra time and money – and you should be, too. “Major structural problems can just be this unending problem that keeps getting worse and worse,” Jonathan warns, “That’s a big red flag.”

2. Find a house that already has a great footprint.

It’s easy to get excited about an addition or second story, but those sorts of renovations require extra money and extra time. “I try to find a house where the outer shell of the house is already what we need it to be,” Jonathan suggested. Drew agrees: “It just makes it a lot easier. The moment you’re trying to change the outer wall or add a level, you’re just getting into so many more possible time delays, and so many more possible budget blows.”

3. Add space without adding square footage.

“A lot of times, people think that if the house isn’t big enough for them, they have to add square footage,” Drew said. “But they don’t. All they need to do is make better use of what they have.” And for inspiration on how to make lemonade from lemons, Drew suggests watching their show. “That’s basically what we do on every episode of Property Brothers. Maximizing the use of what’s already there.”

4. Give every room a fun feature.

On this season of “Brother vs. Brother,” Drew added a few little luxuries to his project house to upsell buyers, including double washers and dryers in the laundry room and matching his-and-hers water closets in the master bath. But he suggests that you can add something special to a home without a big price tag: “A light fixture can be a feature,” Drew said. “Even a piece of decor or artwork can be a feature—or the color you paint in a room, or the tile you use, or the stone around your fireplace. Those are all things that can add a lot of value.”

5. You have to know your market.

If you’re renovating with your home’s value in mind, Drew has one big piece of advice for you: “You need to know your market.” Drew knew that his project home’s neighborhood on “Brother vs. Brother” was in an area where buyers would be willing to pay for high-end features. “But there are some neighborhoods where people wouldn’t be willing to pay extra for that second toilet,” he said. “They wouldn’t be willing to pay extra for two washers and two dryers, or expensive stone countertops. You just really have to know what buyers are looking for.”

Thanks, Jonathan and Drew!

To learn who wins the season, tune in to the finale of Brother vs. Brother this Wednesday, July 6 at 9pm on HGTV.