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Scott McGillivray: Hot Property

Jonathan Valelly chats with Income Property hunk about being a good/sexy landlord

05.11.2011

The sexy landlord was, for too long, an underrepresented gay fantasy. Not anymore, thanks to the hunky host of HGTV Canada’s Income Property, Scott McGillivray. He’s a full-time homeowner and renovator, but for three years he has been bringing his real estate expertise and remarkable good looks to the small screen to help GTA homeowners get the best out of their rental properties. Now shooting its fifth and sixth seasons, the show has a legion of fans across North America, a few of whom are just as interested in McGillivray’s muscles as they are his design tips.

When asked if handsomeness helps him find tenants, McGillivray says, “It’s more of a hassle than an advantage. Looks don’t get you anywhere in this business; it’s all brains.” After buying his first property during his last year of university, he quickly realized the profit potential of house rentals. “I was a business student, so I repeated the process the next year and had two rental properties,” he says. “Every year I picked up a half dozen more. And that’s what got me into real estate investing.” After doing side work for the network, creators caught wind of his investment projects and proposed the series.

If sex appeal has no return in real estate, that’s certainly not the case for McGillivray’s TV career. His newfound fame is thanks in part to a considerable gay fan base and, although he is happily married to a woman, internet discussion boards are rife with gay men and straight women scuffling over which camp can claim him. McGillivray doesn’t mind the attention. “A fan is a fan, and our gay following is extremely large and probably some of the best supporters of the show,” he says. “They’ve been the most vocal and supportive fans that we’ve had and have been there since day one, which means a lot to us.”

McGillivray’s not shy about turning up the naughty once the cameras are off. “We’re a pretty rambunctious group,” he notes. “The jokes get dirty and then get dirtier, and they’re straight, they’re sideways, they’re everything.” In fact, McGillivray admits that they have to warn the show’s homeowners off the bat, “We don’t just do construction; we do cock-struction.”

Of course, we’d all love for McGillivray to come personally put his drill in our sockets or compare Fubar sizes. But since he’s a man on the move, he’s conveniently left us with a few essential tips for homeowners, homo or otherwise, to hold on to.

Three essential tips for homeowners

Do it legally

Get all your permits and your inspections. Don’t try to cut corners and go around the building permits;  if you do, it’s guaranteed to come back and bite you in the butt. If you cheap out, you’re not going to have legal retrofit status when you try to sell the house, and if anything happens to your tenants, your insurance might not cover the claims. It’s a huge mistake to think that you’re in better shape if you save a thousand or two off the top, because it translates into thousands and thousands of dollars more over time.

A good space means a good tenant

Don’t think that because it’s a rental, it doesn’t have to be in good shape and have all the things that you would like in a home. There are great tenants out there, and better tenants are attracted to better spaces. Good tenants who live in a nice house will never miss a rent payment, because they don’t want to lose one of the best rentals around. Always aim for the highest-calibre tenant possible.

Avoid over-investing

Some people get very attached to the properties, thinking, “Oh, this is a heritage home!” or “It’s a Victorian — I want to restore its natural beauty. I want granite countertops and travertine floors.” You need to invest in a profitable design rather than invest emotionally. Durable floors? Yes. Marble floors? I don’t think so.

The three biggest mistakes designers make

What’s behind the design?

What’s behind the walls is just as, if not more, important than what you actually see. That’s the drywall, the insulation, the vapour barrier, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, heating and ventilation — all of the structure. A lot of designers discount the severity of those elements. A place might look great but be freezing cold. It might appear nice on the surface, but then the drywall starts cracking, or there’s a leak and a weird smell or an electrical issue. Walls should be just as nice on the inside as the outside.

Too much taste

You want to appeal to 90 percent of the population 90 percent of the time. I always pick one element to highlight that will stick in people’s minds. For instance, one feature wall with specialty wallpaper or an island that’s particularly extravagant will stand out. If you’re showing it to tenants, give them one thing to latch on to, like, “Oh, remember that cool house with the textured wallpaper in the dining room?” or “It’s that house with the red vanity in the bathroom.” But don’t overdo it or people won’t think it’s their taste. Everybody who walks in should say, “Wow, this is my style.” Keep it neutral.

Smart investments

Make sure you’re getting a return on your renovations. Renovating kitchens, bathrooms, doing painting, updating floors: these things immediately add value.

Three easy value-added renovations

Walls and floors

Paint has the highest return on investment. A paint job is great bang for your buck and makes a place look way better. Nice floors are also important. People love solid surfaces and hardwood these days.

Kitchens and bathrooms

The kitchen is the most expensive room in your house, so when you upgrade your kitchen, you upgrade the entire home. A crappy updated bathroom adds nothing. People want nice, new bathrooms and kitchens, if nothing else.

Door hardware

Anyone with a screwdriver can change door hardware in 10 minutes, and it makes a world of difference. Think about how it looks to tenants. Any time you’re going to someone’s home, the only things you’re forced to touch are the doorknobs. If they’re nasty, you’ll automatically have a nasty association with the home.

Catch new episodes of Income Property on Mondays at 9pm on HGTV Canada. Follow Scott on Twitter:@smcgillivray.

hgtv.ca, Facebook/Income Property


Jonathan Valelly is a fab writer who appreciates a man who knows how to use his Fubar for the greater good.

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