On season seven of Income Property, Canada’s hunkiest handyman helps buyers select and renovate profitable properties. We caught up with the dreamy TV host to discuss the realities of real-estate investment, why the housing market isn’t going to crash, and whether Dancing With the Stars is really in his future.
On your show, you spend a lot of time with a sledgehammer. Does taking that first whack ever get old?
Oh, it’s always awesome. It’s kind of like breaking the ice with the whole renovation situation for the homeowner. It’s not always completely necessary, but it really gets the adrenaline pumping and kicks the whole thing off, so we smash a few walls, break a few things, and then we get into the real work.
How often do you see homeowners biting off more than they can chew in terms of a reno?
All the time. I don’t try to tell people they shouldn’t do their own renovations, but I do advise them to know what they’re getting into, and also to understand that if it’s a structural or mechanical issue, you’re going to have to hire professionals. I see people trying to rewire their homes or move structural walls all the time. It’s insane!
What is the best advice you would offer buyers looking to invest in a home with income potential?
The main thing is the divisibility of the home. Is there a separate entrance? How easy is it to divide the house into multiple units?
Where do you see buyers making mistakes?
People want to have their cake and eat it, too: “I want a great house now, and I want savings, and I want to retire early.” The reality is if you want to get ahead and generate wealth, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. When people dream of their first beautiful home, they don’t really dream of strangers living in the basement.
Or worse, they’re living in the basement.
Right, but that’s exactly what I did with the first property I ever bought. I lived in the basement and rented out the rest of the house. Because my entire mortgage was covered, I could qualify to buy another house, and so on and so forth.
It seems like there are a lot of conflicting messages about the Toronto real-estate market these days—2013 is off to a strong start, get ready for the crash, et cetera. What’s your take?
Most people have been predicting a crash for the past five years. My team and I have been looking at the fundamentals, and really, I don’t think the prices are going to change all that much until interest rates go up. There may be fewer houses on the market, but the prices won’t change.
If you had to name the next big thing, in terms of Toronto neighbourhoods, what area would you pick?
Everybody’s always asking me about that. A couple of years ago, I identified the [University of] Guelph-Humber area. I used to invest in properties there, but since I mentioned it the housing prices there have gone out of control. My honest opinion right now is that most of the market is a little overvalued. Ninety per cent of the real estate that I buy now is south of the border.
You work with a lot of young couples on your show. Where do most of them want to live?
They want to be as close to downtown as possible, so we end up in areas like Little India by Gerrard, the east end of Leslieville, the Junction, and Mimico. I’ve actually been doing a lot of work out in Pickering, Ajax, and Oshawa. A lot of young families are realizing they can’t afford to buy downtown and they’re going out to the suburbs.
You and your wife live in Brampton. Do you ever feel the itch to move into the city?
No. I’m not interested in living in the congestion. I like to have a lot of property, I like the privacy. To be honest, living downtown would be very difficult for me at this point. As it is, privacy is an issue.
You mean in terms of your fans?
I noticed that you have a pretty zealous female fan base. What does your wife think?
She’s cool. We’ve grown into all of this together, so it’s fine. We really enjoy the fans, but there have been a few people who have reached out a little too far—sending me inappropriate pictures. I got tackled once.
One fan suggested that you might create a Scott McGillivray pin-up calendar.
Somebody tweeted that the other day. I won’t lie—I’m playful, I write back. You know, “Yeah, maybe in 2014.”
You could have a different plaid shirt for every month.
There you go.
I’m sure you know there is a YouTube video of you dancing at your wedding. Those are some serious moves.
My wife was a dance teacher, so when we started planning the wedding, she wanted to do a dance. I gave her a dozen ballroom dancing lessons for her birthday and they helped us choreograph a wedding dance.
Was that dry ice I saw in the background?
Ha! I think it was. You’d actually have to ask the DJ, though.
Did anything ever come of the campaign to get you on Dancing With the Stars?
Not yet. My old assistant was a huge fan of the show and she put together that video. It would be tough with my schedule, but I have not been asked yet, so we’ll see.
Hockey or football?
Mac or PC?
Salt or pepper?
Pomade or gel?
Nike running shoes.
Gold Rush Alaska.
My Ford F-150 Platinum pickup truck.
Who would play you in a movie?
The Disney prince from Tangled.