Why Property Brothers is totally fake

In the world of home improvement dramas, Drew and Jonathan Scott are kings. The Canadian twin brothers — who moonlighted as birthday party clowns and underwear models before landing their current gig as hosts of HGTV's top-rated reality series, Property Brothers — have created one of the most compulsively watchable shows in the home-decorating universe.

The premise is simple: in each one-hour increment, the brothers convince their clients to spring for an imperfect fixer-upper and then use their talents to turn the ugly duckling house into a luxury dream home. As primetime home-renovation reality dramas go, it's one of the best around. But is it real? After a peek at the show's casting requirements (along with the occasional Reddit thread from behind the scenes and quotes from the brothers themselves), it appears that seeing is not necessarily believing on this series. The houses may be real, but the drama doesn't create itself. Let's take a closer look at some of the reasons why Property Brothers may be totally fake.

Most clients know going in that they can't afford that first house

The clients, the budget, and even the neighborhood might change, but the basic premise of Property Brothers is always the same: Drew and Jonathan Scott, through a combination of boyish charm and common sense, convince homebuyers to give up their dreams of a turn-key property and take on a renovation project. And in service of this premise, every episode starts with a moment where the prospective buyers are shown a move-in ready home that has everything they've ever wanted ... only to learn, to their shock and horror, that the house is miles beyond their max budget.

Mean, right? Only, in reality, that big nasty surprise may not be a surprise at all. According to MSN, homebuyers must walk in with at least $65,000 for renovations and "a 25% contingency fee" in case things go wrong. With more than a dozen seasons under its work belt, it strains belief to think that prospective clients haven't watched the show at least once. Surely most folks are familiar with the show's formula by now. Since the clients know when they apply that a renovation project is invariably part of the deal (otherwise, Jonathan would have no reason to be there, and the show would just be called Property Bro), these couples already know that a turn-key home isn't on the menu. In fact...

Some of the house-hunting is totally fake

Although a tiny fraction of the Scott brothers' clients may still be shopping around for a house, it seems most of them already have one picked out, if not under contract. The application you have to fill out to appear on the program asks prospective clients to submit the address of the property they intend to renovate — the assumption being that many, if not most, will already be in the process of purchasing a home. "We have homeowners who have identified a house that they already like. Because everything moves so fast for the show, we have found that it doesn't work well for people who haven't even started searching," Jonathan told Popsugar. "It needs to be people who really have started to narrow down the stuff that's important to them."

What does that mean when the cameras are rolling? In short, the walking-around-looking-at-houses portion is often just for show — as is the drawn-out, dramatic deliberation between the buyers as to which home they'll choose. It also means that in many cases, the couples who appear on the show have to go through the absurd process of hemming, hawing, and faking ambivalence over a home they've already purchased. And you thought reality TV didn't require any acting ability.

Drew isn't really making all those real estate deals

It probably goes without saying after that last point, but just to be clear: A healthy percentage of the folks on Property Brothers aren't necessarily using Drew Scott as their real estate agent. He might take the lead on those occasions when his clients don't have a house already under contract, as long as they're buying in a location where he's legally licensed as a realtor (pro tip: If there's some back-and-forth offering and counter-offering happening on a given episode, it's probably legit.) But for the folks who show up to film with the keys to their new house basically in hand, Drew is just there to banter with Jonathan Scott and look pretty on camera, which, of course, he does very well.

However, sometimes the brothers will change the homeowners' minds. "We block shoot so we try to get as much leg work done as possible so [the production company] likes to find people who have identified houses," Jonathan told Popsugar. "We'll show them other houses and sometimes they'll pick another house because there will be a house that they didn't know was available or would have potential. Or sometimes when we're showing them other houses, because of the resources that we have, we can do more than they would have ever been able to."

The sidekick is a setup

Ever notice how every client on Property Brothers is two clients — even if only one person is buying the home in question? That's because when it comes to casting on the Scott brothers' series, singles need not apply unless they have an opinionated, camera-ready friend they can coax along for the ride. Having a sidekick to collude with, bounce ideas off of, and (most importantly) turn to at a pivotal moment and moan, "This is a total gut job!" is a non-negotiable requirement if you want to appear on the show. 

While it's not a concern most of the time — since most of the featured homebuyers are couples who come as a prepackaged pair from the get-go — it's always fun to see the episodes where a hapless parent, sibling, or random acquaintance has been roped in to play the role of Homebuyer No. 2. What if your sidekick friend is an actor? Do they get to put this on their IMDb? Help your buddy out.

They don't renovate the whole house

Don't get us wrong; it's not like Property Brothers leaves its projects unfinished. The houses on the show are structurally sound and habitable once they're through with them, but only about half the house — between three and four rooms' worth — gets stripped down, rebuilt, and furnished to the gills with the Scott brothers' help. Keep a close eye on the big reveal at the end, and you'll notice the camera only goes investigating in a handful of spaces while leaving, say, the guest bedrooms unexplored. Folks who appear on the show get to pick which rooms the brothers renovate, and even then, there are rules.

According to MSN, homebuyers can get either their kitchen or their bathroom redone, but not both, which means that if you want to be on the show, you'll have to make some tough choices about where you truly need that signature, luxury touch.

The big mid-renovation surprise is a sure thing

The Property Brothers formula seems to require a minimum of two pratfalls per episode. The first comes when the prospective buyers are baited to drool over a house they can't afford (which, as previously noted, they probably know is coming), but the second mishap usually comes mid-renovation, when the poor hapless couple learns that something has gone wrong with the project. Dry rot, water damage, termites, weirdly-placed ductwork, a family of murderous clowns squatting in the basement — it could be anything. And it always takes a big bite out of the budget that necessitates the sacrifice of some other, longed-for item on the buyer's renovation wish list.

Or at least, that's how it looks on TV. In reality, we think it's reasonable to assume that unexpected complications would be a projected and planned-for aspect of any home renovation project, mainly because something always goes wrong, and no contractor worth his/her salt would embark on an extreme home makeover without some surplus in the budget to accommodate for the unexpected. According to a Reddit thread posted by a potential show participant, a 20 percent in-case-of-emergency contingency fee is a non-negotiable requirement for those who appear on "Property Brothers." When buyers make up their wish lists at the start of the show, they likely know in advance that they probably won't be getting everything they've asked for when Jonathan calls them with bad news.

Jonathan doesn't really do all the work

Jonathan Scott is the face of the Property Brothers renovation machine, but he's not the muscle. While Jonathan puts in an appearance at pivotal moments, this Reddit poster (who was in the process of auditioning for the show) claims the bulk of the work is done by local contractors who might not be quite so made-for-TV, but who have the skills, tools, and time to do the job right.

If you're selected to be on the show, wear something comfortable because Jonathan is going to put you to work as well — for the sake of your wallet. "One of the ways we stretch the budget is that we utilize the homeowners to do a bunch of the work with me," he told Popsugar. "If we find that our budget is taking hits left, right, and center, I'll jump in and do even more because I'm not charging for my time, or we'll get the homeowners to jump in and do more."

The homebuyers' bickering isn't necessarily real

Considering how much eye-rolling and infighting goes on between Property Brothers' prospective homebuyers, you could be thinking every couple on the show filed for divorce once the cameras stopped rolling (cue an additional six months of arguing over who gets to keep that subway tile backsplash). The truth is, the drama is likely just another cultivated element of the show that makes it more watchable. Couples who appear on the series know they need to be "opinionated" enough to create some on-screen intrigue, so don't fret for the marriages of those poor homebuyers with their sledgehammers. They're likely just hamming up their conflicts (or manufacturing them completely) to give the producers a little something to play around with in the editing room.

It could be worse. They could be on The Bachelor, where they allegedly make you cry for the camera with jalapeños or lemons. Being "opinionated" sounds more fun to us.

They reshoot scenes to add more drama

A 2017 profile in The New York Times ripped the curtain back on what happens behind the scenes faster than the brothers rip out outdated cabinets. In one instance, during the filming of Season 5, Jonathan Scott yanked a toilet out from the floor, but that reportedly didn't have enough drama. "Let's do it one more time," a producer said. Jonathan then "walked into the small bathroom again, acting surprised as he spied the toilet," then he yanked it out again.

In another instance, strong winds reportedly knocked a metal chimney off the roof and onto the driveway of a house the brothers were renovating the day before a scheduled shoot. The producers couldn't let this go to waste, so they recreated the "high-intensity moment." According to the NYT, the director ordered more workers out front, and when he hollered "bang!" the workers pretended to act surprised. Drew Scott then supposedly ran out "with feigned shock," but he didn't exactly nail the scene. "Let's do the run out again," the director said. They reran the scene, this time with Drew running out to say, "Go inside, guys! I don't want you to work outside; it's too windy!" 

Although this was almost comically staged to create drama, Drew is fully aware of what his audience wants. "At the end of the day, it has to be interesting television," he said.

The Property Brothers don't spend every minute with their clients

If you've ever watched the show, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Scott brothers become your constant companions for the duration of the renovation project. In reality, folks who appear on Property Brothers supposedly only see the hosts about once a week while transforming their property from drab to fab. Per the show's casting call, by the completion of the renovation, you'll have "7-10 days" in the company of either Drew or Jonathan Scott. That's not much, but hey, at least it's quality time with the bros.

The reason? It takes a lot of property to make a show called Property Brothers, so the pair is usually working at "17 different homes with five construction crews" at any given moment during the filming of a season (via Popsugar). In other words, if the guys don't call you back right away about the design choice you made, sit tight. They'll get to you eventually.

The drama may be scripted, but the brothers are legit

As contrived as the majority of the drama on Property Brothers might be, it's worth noting that there's one thing about the show that's definitely for real. According to many folks who've appeared on the series (or at least, those who shared their stories online), Drew and Jonathan really are the nicest twin home renovation team on the planet.

Don't believe us? Unlike other renovation shows (*cough* Fixer Upper *cough*), the Scott brothers let you keep everything, because it was all worked into the budget. "Every one of our shows, where it's a homeowner moving in, they all keep the furniture," Jonathan Scott told Popsugar. "I've heard that some other shows take it all away and I was like, 'Uh . . . That's a jerk move.' You get someone to fall in love with a room and then you're like, 'See ya!' So no, everything that you see on TV stays." Mark us down as Team Keep Furniture.