Friday, September 3, 2010
All About Scott McGillivray
So here's all the low down about Scott McGillivray, the suddenly famous host and interviewer on HGTV's Income Property which returns for its third season Monday night at 9 on HGTV..
First of all he seems fairly amiable, not full of himself as I rather expected.
After all he has legions of female fans who keep pestering this column with questions about his marital status (he's married) , age (he's 32) and how much is he really worth (he seems well off).
But what has kept Income Property going is his sheer good sense.
"When HGTV first approached me about a series they wanted something about flipping properties," he confides over glasses of San Pellegrino in a downtown Toronto watering hole.
"And I said no way. I'm not a fan of those shows, particularly the U.S. ones. They are made with a false premise --that everyone can become rich just by flipping a few houses. With the housing crash in America we've seen just the opposite. It's not a healthy time to flip."
McGillivray had a different idea. He wanted to show how average homeowners could refix their basements or upper floors into income generating apartments that would help them more quickly pay off the mortgages.
The first season wobbled a bit as McGillivray and his producers worked on getting the format down just right.
"It's pretty hard to set up the situation, have me interview the owners, get a tour of the house, bring in my designs and show the finished project --and all in 22 minutes," he laughs.
Also, McGillivray wasn't used to being the star attraction. He needed to hone his interviewing skills --which came quickly.
"We tell a different story every week. Getting the right combination of owners was our first challenge. We didn't want to do the same thing every week."
McGillivray, 32, got into the renovation racket when he was only 23 and still a student at the University of Guelph. "I saw there was a need for affordable housing for students and I went for it." Within a few years he was buying and selling properties as well as leasing out his own properties and renovating others.
You've seen him on TV on From The Ground Up with Debbie Travis --the second season set in Ottawa cast him as the resident
For Income Property to make money it must notch strong foreign sales. Income Property, Propertry Virgins and Mike Holmes are all the rage on the U.S. version of HGTV and McGillivray's show also sells well in Europe and Asia (but not in Btritain where networks must have 65 episodes or they won't buy into a series).
McGillivray reports HI has just been picked up for two more seasons. Making only 13 new episodes a year is the lot of cable shows --he might have a bigger budget and more episodes on a mainstream networtk. "But there's always the threat of cancellation." With HGTV the fans are used to watching a lot of reruns.
McGillivray says he'll usually be working on at least two episodes at once. "Once we had four going at once and that was too much. We have to have cameras there for every stage and we have to factor in the possibility of unpleasant surprises."
In the first new episode one of the basement walls has a moisture problem meaning the outside foundation has to be dug up and weeping tiles installed at additional cost to thehome owners.
Although McGillivray usually gives the clients two sets of designs there have been times when he'll step in and refuse to let them chose the more expensive option. "I very carefully check their finances. If they're planning to put it on credit cards, well, I won't go that way because they could wind up in additional financial trouble. My job after all is helping them pay down their debts."
In the first year the finished product magically appeared all built to perfection. But the team now understands fans want to see the host right in there banging down walls and generally mucking about.
"I've stayed most of the night on some projects just because I felt I had to for the job to be done right. And there's only been one complaint so far --a lady who had already gone through 17 contractors. We knew we were in trouble when she came with a chair and just sat and watched all day."
Whereas the team had to search for first year distressed home owners "now we get thousands of emails. And this year we go outside Toronto--we were in Texas last week. Those we chose get a 35 per cent discount which is one incentive for getting on the show."
First up is a visit with Jeremy and Angie in Newmarket --they need to fix up their dilapidated basement which they've unsuccessfully been trying to rent for months. If they can't make it Angie will have to go back to work instead of looking after their new baby. And after Scott's team have finished --the apartment is rented for $950 a month.
The day I chatted with MacGillivray he'd been doing press since dawn (on Canada AM). About the onset of celebritydom he remains ambivalent. There's a downside to being recognized wherever he goes.
"Even in Europe people noticed me. I know what I sound like in Spanish but I guess all that comes with the territory."
INCOME PROPERTY'S THIRD SEASON DEBUTS MONDAY SEPT. 6 AT 9 P.M. ON HGTV
MY RATING: *** 1/2.