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Hosts of HGTV's Property Brothers share secrets on transforming dated dwellings into dream homes

Q&A with the Dynamic Duo

Hosts of HGTV's Property Brothers share secrets on transforming dated dwellings into dream homes.

Energy of the City (EotC): Who is older?

Jonathan: I am 4 minutes older and wiser than Drew.

Drew: But I sat on Jonathan’s head for 9 months so I maintain that I’ve always had a cheek up on him since before we were born.


EotC: What do you like most about working with your brother?

Drew: Because we’re identical, we can fill in for each other when the other needs a day off.

Jonathan: Except when it comes to any heavy lifting. Drew mysteriously disappears when it comes to any hard labor!

Drew: All jokes aside, what’s great about working together is that we have the same work ethic and a no-nonsense policy—if we ever have a disagreement, we lay everything out on the table, solve the problem and then move on. It’s nice to have a business partner I can trust implicitly.


EotC: What is your advice for someone who’s looking to purchase a fixer upper?

Drew: With any home purchase, especially a fixer-upper, surround yourself with real estate professionals who will work for you and ensure that you don’t fall into a money pit. For example, a real estate agent who knows market value in that community, a contractor who can quote the work that needs to be done and a home inspector who can give you an idea of any issues with the property.

EotC: What is your advice for someone who’s looking to renovate a home? What kind of updates will be more beneficial to the homeowner long term?

Jonathan: Focus your renovations on the areas of the home that are most important to you. However, I suggest always doing a mild update to the entire home. For example, if your family spends a lot of time in the kitchen, then allocate a larger portion of your renovation budget to creating the perfect culinary space. This focus, along with a fresh feel throughout the entire home, will ensure comfortable living throughout as well as increase the resale value.


EotC: What are some creative ways to keep costs down when renovating a home?

Property Brothers (PB): Do your research ahead of time to find competitive prices on quality products. Spend money where it counts to get that high-end look. For example, you may be able to utilize prefabricated cabinets if you blend these with higher end products like stone countertops and luxury fixtures and hardware.


EotC: What are some unforeseen problems that a homeowner can run into when doing a renovation and how should they prepare?

PB: Lack of experience and poor organization are usually the catalysts for a DIY disaster. Do as much planning and research as you possibly can to understand the costs and timelines involved in any project. Be aware that every major project will have unforeseen problems pop up, which is why it is mandatory to have a contingency in place. Educate yourself on the typical issues with a home of your age and in your area. This can give you an indication of what you should prepare for.


EotC: When choosing to purchase a fixer upper, what are the most important qualities the property should already have besides location?

PB: The home and lot size that your family needs. Additions can be very expensive so it is best to have the square footage already in place. You also want to ensure that there are no foundation or structural issues.


EotC: What are some of the top features people are looking for in houses today?

PB: Outdoor living spaces which can include a built-in barbecue, fire pit and an entertainment area for watching the big game.

Kitchens are still a high priority for most buyers. Homeowners also want a master suite that gives them all of the options they desire and helps them feel relaxed at the end of a long day—from a spa-like bathroom to a spacious walk-in closet.

Technology is also an increasing demand as products become more cost effective for the average consumer. From heating control to new entertainment space, find ways to integrate technology into your home.


EotC: When renovating a home for the purpose of selling it for a greater return on investment, where should the homeowner spend their money first?

PB: As stated before, it is a better idea to do a mild makeover on the entire home rather than solely focusing on one or two areas. However, you should also save a few extra dollars to add a couple of eye-catching features to the home such as an infinity gas fireplace, a dual sink vanity or top-of-the-line appliances.


EotC: What are the benefits of investing in green features when renovating a home?

PB: Being environmentally-and-socially-conscious is very important, but beyond the gratification of knowing you’re doing the right thing, many of these products are superior to the traditional ones. It is important to do your homework because many companies use the popularity of “green” to push products that are inferior. Generally. the longer you own a home the more these green features pay off in utility savings.


EotC: Can you offer your top five tips to make a home more sustainable/green?

PB: Quickest and easiest is to replace light bulbs to either CFL or LED. LEDs are pricey so I’ll just put those in areas where the lights are on a lot and CFLs everywhere else.

Lower your heating/cooling costs by ensuring you have adequate insulation. Two-pound closed cell foam is the most efficient insulation/vapor barrier. Check around doors, windows and receptacles to ensure they are properly sealed. The more air leaks you have in the building envelope, the more it will cost to heat or cool.

Install a newer digital thermostat that learns your patterns and automatically adjusts to reduce furnace/AC demand.

Get a tankless hot water system that only heats water as you need it. Be sure to size it accordingly to handle a little more in case there are two people showering and the laundry going at the same time. You don’t need anybody jumping out of the shower because it turns ice cold!


EotC: What benefit does a home with natural gas heating, water heating and cooking have?

PB: In today’s home natural gas is more cost effective than electricity. Some appliances, such as a tankless hot water system, require natural gas to operate. They are a superior product to the traditional hot water tank. Many chefs also prefer cooking with natural gas.

EotC: What are some of the tricks you have for making small homes feel larger inside?

PB: Use a lighter colored palette and lots of light. Don’t obstruct the sightlines with bulky pieces and try to find multifunctional furniture that can act as storage and seating (for example). It also helps to have reflective surfaces like mirrors and chrome décor pieces.


EotC: What are some of your top tips for renovating a kitchen?

PB: Do not restrict yourself to the existing kitchen’s footprint if it doesn’t work. All you’ll do is put in a bunch of new cabinets into a space that still doesn’t work. I recommend working with a kitchen designer who understands some of the basic rules for layout. Cabinet companies and places like Home Depot or Lowes offer these services for free. Be careful not to go too bold because the design will go out of style faster. Eighty percent of the kitchens I do are prefab and then finished off and trimmed to look custom. So if you can’t afford to go all custom, you can still put in an amazing kitchen if you save on the cabinets and put a little extra into the countertops and appliances. Lastly, consider doing a different color cabinet and/or counter on the lower cabinets or an island. This change doesn’t cost extra but can add a lot of interest to the kitchen.


EotC: What types of kitchen appliances do you recommend?

PB: Budget is a big factor here. Shop around and compare the consumer reports. Most major manufacturers have fairly comparable products. If you want high-end appliances, like a gas Wolf range or Sub Zero, look online for resale deals. I have found amazing deals on great appliances. Be aware there are no warranties but you may walk away with commercial grade appliances for a fraction of the cost.


EotC: There have been some great advances in natural gas fireplace designs. What do you consider to be the benefits of having a natural gas fireplace?

PB: If you have the budget for a natural gas fireplace, that’s the way to go. They are beautiful and come in a variety of styles to match any design. Also while still efficient, they kick off more heat than other fireplaces. You get the beauty of a real fireplace without the hassle of chopping wood or cleaning the hearth of soot!


EotC: What materials do you find stand the test of time in your renovations? What are some new green/ sustainable materials you are seeing come on the market?

PB: Some of the newer single-board laminate flooring products are so well made that they are indistinguishable from engineered hardwood, but are 10 times more durable. When considering how “green” a product is you want to calculate how long a product will last before you have to replace it. Real hardwood scratches quite easily and doesn’t usually last as long before you have to sand down or replace. Also cork flooring is great because you don’t cut down the tree to produce it. It is made from the bark. Bamboo is also very green because of its rapid growth.

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