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10 Pieces of Advice That Scott McGillivray Has Never Forgotten – and Neither Should You

Scott McGillivray standing outside of a house

Scott McGillivray is a real estate expert and host of HGTV Canada’s Income Property and Moving the McGillivrays.


Throughout my career, I’ve relied on the advice of those who know more than I do. These pearls of wisdom worked for me and I hope they’ll work for you too!

1. Don’t take no for an answer
In business and in life I search for people who say yes – which is not to be confused with searching for “yes” people. When I tried to buy my first property I was turned down by several mortgage brokers. I heard no after no after no. Finally, right before I was about to give up, I found someone who said, “It’s going to be tough, but we’ll find a way to make it happen.” He did and the rest is history.

2. Look for the opportunities other people have overlooked
If you want to be a successful real estate investor (or successful at anything, really) you have to look for the opportunities other people have missed. I always look for properties that have undesirable qualities that other people don’t want to deal with. I also make sure to visit properties that don’t have photos in the listings, because people tend to ignore them, assuming they’re in bad shape. Things other people see as problems, I see as opportunities.

Related: 10 Signs a Fixer Upper Isn’t Worth Saving, According to Scott McGillivray

3. When it comes to real estate, don’t get emotional
Buying a house is a big deal, particularly if you’re a first-time homebuyer, but I learned very early on that if you want to be successful you have to keep your emotions out of it. Easier said than done, I know, but when your emotions take control, you make mistakes. When you fall in love with a house you can become attached and end up spending more than you can afford, especially if there’s a bidding war. Keep your heart out of it and think with your head.

4. Get your hands dirty
One of the best things I did as a real estate investor was to also become a contractor. In the beginning I didn’t have the money to hire anyone to make fixes and upgrades, so I had to learn how to do it myself. As a result, I learned first-hand the ins and outs of what makes a house tick. That knowledge has helped me over and over again as I’ve navigated my way through the business. In any industry, I recommend starting from the bottom and working your way up. It will help you understand your business and it will help you make smarter choices.


Related: 7 Questions You Need to Ask Your Real Estate Agent Before Buying

5. Don’t let starting stop you
Too many people suffer from paralysis through analysis. They spend so much time thinking about and over-analyzing potential projects that they never take that first step and just do it. The key to tackling any big or daunting endeavour is to start small and start now. The first step is always the hardest, but if you can get yourself started and take it one step at a time, the rest won’t seem so overwhelming. The longer you wait the harder it gets, so don’t let getting started be the thing that stops you.

6. Don’t cut corners
Everyone wants to save money, but cheap fixes generally don’t stay cheap for long. I’m a fan of DIY renos only if you know what you’re doing. If a problem in a house is not addressed properly it can cause major problems and cost more money down the road. So don’t cut corners. If there’s any doubt, hire a professional.

7. Don’t look for the worst house on the best street
OK, I admit that I’ve strayed from this one a few times. Buying the worst house on the best street has been a mantra of house flippers for quite some time and it’s correct in theory because it gives you the best opportunity for adding value. However, buying the worst house on the best street is not a good idea if the renovations needed are so extensive that you completely blow your budget. If you can’t afford the cost of doing it right, don’t buy it. Keep the search going until you can find something you can add value to that won’t bankrupt you in the meantime.


8. Don’t be discouraged by failure
Nobody wants to fail, but it’s important to remember that failure can lead to
opportunity. Easy success sounds great, but ultimately it’s failure that drives you to keep going. Learning how to overcome challenges and obstacles is an important skill and you can only learn by doing. So if at first you don’t succeed, keep at it!

Related: Scott McGillivray’s 12 Inexpensive (or Free!) Ways to Add Value to Your Home

9. Don’t take financial advice from people with no money
Everyone feels like they’re qualified to give financial advice. I learned at a young age that you should only take the advice given by people who actually have money. When I started investing in income properties everyone told me I was crazy and that I should stop. These were mainly people who struggled financially and lived paycheque to paycheque. The one person who told me I was on the right path was a successful investor with a healthy portfolio. Who do you think I listened to?

10. Put time limits on goals
Someone told me once that goals without deadlines are just fantasies. It’s true and I’ve really taken it to heart. When I set a goal, I give myself a time limit. It’s not enough to say “I want to buy a house,” for example. You’ve got to say something like “I want to buy a house within the next two years.” Putting a deadline on a dream means you can take actionable steps to help make it happen. It’s the best way to turn a fantasy into reality.


Published May 29, 2019, Updated September 19, 2021

Photos courtesy of McGillivray Entertainment

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