Friday, February 22, 2013

I’m so happy to have Scott McGillivray on the blog today answering questions about his background, his popular show Income Property and his former life in a boy band.  You read it here first!

Scott McGillivray Photo credit: Tim Leyes, courtesy of RTR Media Inc

On Income Property, Scott shares his extensive knowledge of real estate investing to generate income (he owns over 100 properties, half in the US.)  This season, Income Property expands to a one hour format to show the house search as well as the renovation.  (Previous seasons focussed on creating a rental unit within the homeowner’s existing residence.)  His renovation expertise comes from having been involved in almost 250 renovations over the course of 10+ years. 

1) Tell us a bit about your background. When did you begin buying and renovating income properties? How did that lead to Income Property?

“I started in college. I purchased my first house with a friend as students.  We were going to be without a home because we couldn’t find anything to rent. A friend who is a real estate agent said that the rental market is really saturated and we would be better off buying than renting. We didn’t take it seriously until we started crunching the numbers.

We ended up buying a place, fixing it up, living there and renting out a portion. Loved the business model and so we did it again the next year and started buying multiple properties, renovating them and turned it into a full time business. After four or five years of doing that, the biggest struggle was finding responsible trades. I was a carpenter by trade and loved doing the work so I decided to become a licensed contractor and manage my own crews.

Another friend worked in TV and asked if I would be interested in doing a gig. I didn’t know anything about TV but I gave it a try - did some work for Debbie Travis’ Facelift. Met people in TV, told them what I do, they said “there’s a different idea – can you do that for homeowners? Do you want to host a show?” Not really but it sounded interesting and I like to try new things and it worked out well.”


Scott Before2


Scott After2 The power of paint!

2) Why do you think Income Property has remained popular for 7 seasons going on 8? Do you think viewers are interested in investing in income properties?

“When we started the show, it was “who is going to be interested in this idea?” I think we planted a seed in people’s heads. What we do is great for anyone who is struggling to afford their home or looking to get a bigger home and need help with the mortgage.  For anyone interested in investing in real estate, crunching the numbers/doing the math is really important.  The show gives insight into the business model which I think is what they are really looking for.”


EP 71 Kitchen Before


EP 71 Kitchen After

 3) I’m just wondering, in light of the House Hunters controversy, are the homes that you tour through actually for sale and are things as presented on the show?

“It’s been a struggle to do this show because production and the real estate market don’t always work well together. I did six seasons of Income Property and about 50% of all homeowners came back to me at the end of the show to help them to find their next rental property. I have done a lot of real estate shopping with previous homeowners to tell them what to look for - that’s where we got the idea for the new show format.  Try to do it as authentic as possible. Timelines are long and it’s challenging.

Some of the houses we book to look at already have conditional offers by the time we get to see them. We do look at houses with homeowners – it’s totally legit. We put 3 house tours in the show but sometimes we look at even more. Some houses the homeowner has picked and sometimes we find other listings for them. Most of the time, the homeowners have been shopping for houses for awhile. They just need a final push as to which one to buy.”

4) How long do the renos take on the show?

“The homeowners need to be available for camera for 8 days but the renos take about 3-4 weeks.”


Scott Before3


Scott After3 

5) Tell us about the team that works on the show and the process.

“When I first started the show, it was just me. Now, I have a construction team and a design team who are my employees. We have an onsite construction meeting first and walk throughs where we get floor plans and measurements.  We talk about what design elements and construction elements we are going to have, what permits do we need, what does the engineer need to OK - go through everything we need. Talk to designers and construction team about the new layout options and budget.  The design team specs everything - they pick colours, hardware, tiles, backsplash and they will help stage the homes. We talk about everything as a team and we stay in communication because it is super important that I translate specific details, eg. let the designer know where the TV is going to go so she can do the furniture plan around that. We are in constant communication.

I have two designers on staff and have worked with them for years. I hire them for 10 episodes a year each.

I can’t be there every day any more. Season 1, I was onsite and cameras showed up a few times a week. But now I am running 4 episodes at a time and I have my rental property business. I expanded my construction team who are assigned to a particular site. My foreman has been with me 10 years.  I do all the planning, am there at the beginning and hop around to all the sites and I am 100% fully involved.”


Scott Before4


Scott After4

6) I heard you say on the Marilyn Denis show that you have been accused of being “too cheap” with the renos. What did they mean by that and do you think that you can be too cheap with a reno?

“They were referring to my pricing. I’m frugal and cannot get that out of my blood. I never overspend and break the budget. I’m really disciplined about where the money is spent. I don’t believe in splurging. You have to be smart. I don’t compromise on quality and safety – those are necessities. But I will get used appliances; or paint it or lay the laminate floor myself if someone charges too much; or choose an inexpensive backsplash. I find my cost savings where I can and when I work with homeowners I like them to think that way as well. I always try to promote the reality of the situation (not how to spend $1 million on a room!)

Not a good majority of the population will spend $80K on a kitchen reno. If you are smart about putting a kitchen together and plan it properly, you can customize standardized cabinetry to look like any custom kitchen – I’m telling you now!”


Scott Before1


Scott After1 All photos courtesy of SKIT

7) The Before and Afters on the show are amazing and the rooms look beautiful in the end. Do the homeowners keep the furniture etc.?

“The cost of the furniture and staging is not included in their budget. I try to give my homeowners the best possible start to their real estate investing career. So, as a gift for playing along with the show, being on camera and opening up their lives, I take pictures and give them a portfolio and want them to be proud of the space and be confident on posting and getting a great tenant in there.  Staging is a nice little bonus for my homeowners to show the rental property at its best. Some do end up purchasing the furniture and renting it furnished but it’s not a necessity.”

8) What is the most common mistake people make when renovating? (besides not hiring a designer! )

“Preparation. The key for us to be able to stay on time and on budget is to be prepared -  plan out the space, pre-order materials, have the schedule ready. That’s the key thing – it takes a lot of planning ahead.”

9) Name one thing about yourself that readers may be surprised to learn?

“That’s a tough question…I can tell you something really revealing. I was a singer in a boy band. That’s as much as I’m going to say. I have never told anybody that. It was in the late 1990’s/early 2000 for a few years. I knew I should have never said anything.  Nobody has ever asked this before!”

(I thought he would have mentioned his former modelling gig or the fact that his wedding video featuring his dance moves are quite the YouTube sensation!)

10) What’s next for you?

“We are currently filming episode 2 of Season 8 of Income Property. We will start filming again for Canadian Handyman in the summer.”  (Psst: Read this if you want to apply to be on Income Property. They are looking for people for the current season.)

Scott also writes for publications such as Style at Home and in 2010 he launched his real estate course, “The Lifetime Wealth Academy”, sharing his wealth of knowledge with would-be property investors all over North America.

I always love to hear how celebs/TV personalities give back and was touched when I read about how Scott and his team jumped on board to help a woman named Twyla build a rental unit in her basement.  You can read about it here.

Thank you so much Scott for being so candid especially about your boy band past.  (That was a bit of an Oprah moment for me!)

Be sure to catch 1-hour episodes of Income Property on Thursdays at 9 pm EST on HGTV Canada. (In the US, it airs on Monday nights on HGTV.)

Have a happy weekend folks!

If you need design/decorating advice, please contact me at vanessa(at)


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