Can Nashville afford the Property Brothers?

Jan 18 2018
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Can Nashville afford the Property Brothers?

By: Brinley Hineman

Jonathan and Drew Scott of HGTV's PropertyBrothers return to Music City in search of show participants. How do they furnish Nashville's reno dreams? And what does that mean for the city's affordable housing crisis?


Property Brothers, the hit television show that features twin brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott is planning to make its second visit to Nashville. In fact, the 250th episode between the brothers’ two shows is slated to be filmed in Music City.

The Scott brothers make what looks like the perfect pair: Drew is a real estate expert and Jonathan is a licensed contractor, and together, they combine their talents to help families find, buy and renovate fixer-uppers.

The HGTV brand has influenced a new generation of self-proclaimed interior designers, fixer-uppers and shiplap connoisseurs. But despite the success of Property Brothers — nearly 2 million viewers tune in weekly — according to casting directors, the show is having a hard time reaching potential participants in Nashville. It could be the mandatory $90,000 minimum design budget for renovations. Or maybe affordable fixer-uppers are few and far between in the new Music City?

Either way, this comes at a time when affordable housing is harder to come by as lower- and middle-class buyers are being pushed out of the Nashville market — 19 percent of poverty-stricken Nashvillians seem out of luck. So, it begs the question: Are the reno dreams that HGTV brings to life built on fantasy? And can Nashville actually afford having the Property Brothers in town?


Behind the Scenes: What's the Process Really Like?

Like most HGTV shows, at-home viewers see footage that’s been directed, cut and produced into a neat 40-minute package. But that airtime is just the tip of the iceberg. According to executive producer Jessica Vander Kooij, renovations take up to seven weeks, and during those seven weeks of construction, only seven to 10 days are filmed. From there, 40 minutes are carved out for viewers to see.

“There’s a lot of footage,” Vander Kooij says. “We look for all the best moments and put it all together.”

Renovations are the highlight of the show, and although homeowners can be as involved as they choose to be, it tends to be case-by-case. Some buyers know nothing about construction — and don’t care to learn — while others crave getting their hands dirty. The brothers respect the desires of the families they’re working with and do their best to cater to their needs while working on the tight deadline. As a licensed contractor, Jonathan takes the lead on the construction of the home alongside a team that helps him spearhead the renovations.  

“We have some homeowners that like to take on the work,” Vander Kooij says. “We have some homeowners that maybe think they’re more handy than they actually are, so they might attempt to take something on, then Jonathan kind of has to swoop in and save the day.”

The show is currently casting for their upcoming season and looking for Nashvillians interested in being featured on the show. The application is composed of 55 questions that seek to get to know potential participants, their relationship with one another and details about their dream home. If the casting director is intrigued by the application, Skype interviews will follow.

“There’s a lot that happens leading up to the time that they’re going to be on the show,” Vander Kooij says. This is the brothers’ second time filming in Nashville, and to date, 17 episodes have featured Middle Tennessee for Property Brothers and Buying and Selling, the Scotts other television show, which features Jonathan fixing up a family’s old home to sell while Drew simultaneously scouts a new dream home.   

The brothers will be filming 16 new shows in Nashville in early 2018: 10 for Property Brothers and six for Buying and Selling. Although they are currently casting for both shows, filming won’t begin until April.

“For us, every episode is different; We’re always looking for different stories, different homeowners,” Vander Kooij says. “We’re looking for that energy [and] spark; people that are going to be a lot of fun, going to have fun with the brothers and just opinionated [and] outgoing.”

In addition to having an energetic personality, participants must also have a major design budget of $90,000 or more to spend on their fixer-upper. With that budget, three to four rooms will be entirely redone in approximately seven weeks, and homeowners must be available for seven to 10 days of filming alongside the brothers. “For them, it’s an experience, something they take part in,” Vander Kooij says. “Obviously the benefit is working alongside Drew and Jonathan to kind of help bring their dreams to reality.”


What Makes Nashville a Prime Location for Filming?

For locals, it’s obvious that Nashville has its own desirable charm. The rich history alone is enough to bring out-of-towners to Music City. For Drew and Jonathan, though, it’s the architecture of the city, style of the homes and different neighborhoods that attracted the HGTV stars to Middle Tennessee.

When scouting cities, the team looks for areas with beautiful construction, lived in by residents with unique stories to tell.

“We kind of want different design styles, too, depending on the city,” Vander Kooij says, noting the differences among cities the brothers have previously filmed in, such as New York City, Austin and Atlanta.

During filming, the brothers consult locals in the real estate and design arenas to help get a feel for an area. “When we’re picking a city, we go to the city, scout it; We meet with local design teams and contractors and real estate agents,” Vander Kooij says. “We want to hit the ground running and know what we’re in for.”


Nashville's Affordable Housing Dilemma

It’s not news that the attraction to Nashville has boomed in recent years, driving the demand for affordable homes sky-high while the supply has plummeted. Nashville is growing at an unprecedented rate, leaving many scratching their heads and making calls of action to Nashville Mayor Megan Barry in search of a solution to the dilemma at hand.

According to a study by personal finance website GoBankingRates, it takes a salary of more than $70,000 to live comfortably in Nashville today. The study also noted that from April 2015 to April 2017, the median list price for a home rose by almost 30 percent, from under $260,000 to nearly $340,000. The average list price on a Nashville episode of Buying and Selling is $500,000-550,000.

In the final installment of his series “Costs of Growth and Change in Nashville,” The Tennessean’s David Plazas reported that rent has increased 53 percent on average over the past six years in Nashville — what was $872 from 2011-15 rose to an average of $1,396 in late 2016, according to renting website RentJungle.

“To date, the city’s efforts to move the needle on affordable living have been offset by real estate investment groups who have one driving motivation: Return on investment,”  James Fraser, associate professor for community development and action at Vanderbilt University, told The Tennessean.  

Gentrification, an obvious issue in Nashville, has certainly been a reason for criticism of HGTV programs in a variety of cities. In an effort to halt gentrification in Nashville, a community land trust was announced by Mayor Barry’s office in December 2017, the first of its kind for the city. The goal is for Nashville to maintain partial ownership of the land, ensuring the price stays low for future generations of homebuyers.

Shows like Property Brothers claim to seek homeowners from a multitude of backgrounds, but the $90,000 minimum design budget does knock many families out of the running. However, Vander Kooij states that the team seeks to find the “diamond in the rough” when searching for homes, in an attempt to make the process as affordable as possible for the buyers.  

Vander Kooij notes that the brothers make it a priority to find housing that homeowners can afford, citing an example of a Nashville newcomer breaking into the city by purchasing a home in an “up-and-coming neighborhood.” By partnering with local real estate agents, the Scott brothers are able to get a feel for the neighborhoods that exist in Nashville. After exploring the best homes on the market that suit the needs of the buyers, the brothers then offer their choices to the featured family.

During their downtime, Drew and Jonathan seek to make a difference in the communities they’re working in, although Vander Kooij didn’t know specific charities the brothers were partnering with while in Nashville. However, in the past, they have worked alongside Habitat for Humanity.

“We’re really excited to come back to Nashville,” Vander Kooij says. “We are looking for people who want to make great television and also have a beautiful home, too. What they put into it is what we want to put into it.”


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