“Two Steps Home” stars Jon Pierre and Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin were two working parents with a vision: to get into the house flipping and real estate market. But there was a slight issue: he worked in the oil industry, and she was a flight attendant, so how on earth would a couple in completely different trades (with no tie to the housing market) make it big in one of the most competitive industries? With a lot of hard work, Jon and Mary made it work — not only are their noses right on the money within the Houston, Texas real estate market, and not only are their flipped houses beautiful, but they’ve scored with the ever-popular network HGTV.
Jon and Mary’s new HGTV series, “Two Steps Home,” follows the couple as they work with clients to not only flip and sell an initial home for top dollar, it also shows the process of then flipping that and buying a new dream home. The process sounds fairly simple, but for HGTV fans, “Two Steps Home” means two flipping projects, two reveals, and two heartwarming reactions per episode — it is the dream show, and Jon and Mary are the icing on the cake.
The List sat down with Jon and Mary to discuss their new show, their creative and business processes, and what it’s been like to see their lives and careers evolve with time. Here’s what they had to say about their new show and the house-flipping industry.
Jon Pierre and Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin are grateful that they can be themselves on HGTV
I really felt like you both really presented your authentic selves on screen, which I really enjoyed. I felt like I got to really watch and follow your process, your creative process, and your business process as well, which was exciting. And also I felt like I was learning something as I was watching. Is that something that you’ve thought about before, that you could potentially be educating people about how to flip houses?
John: No, not at all.
Mary: You guys are learning with us.
John: It sounds weird, but whenever the whole thing started with just the whole process of working with HGTV, I never really understood what was so cool or what was so appealing about us because all we ever would be is just be ourselves. That’s the only thing you’d ever know how to be. And so I think the one thing that we do really appreciate from like all the people at HGTV and the production company is that they never asked us to do anything other than just be ourselves. So that made it easy to be authentic and just to be whatever … you see on TV. And that part I really am grateful for when it comes to being able to just be yourself. Because that’s really all that we can be. It’s too hard to not to try to be something that you’re not. Just go out there and be yourself. If people love it, great. And if they don’t, it’s just me.
Mary: It’s John with a collared shirt and basketball shorts.
Mary: Me dressed up from head to toe. I’m like, they’re going to hate it. They’re going to think I’m so extra, but guess what? I am. I am extra. It’s who I am. I can’t help it. And if I have to stand next to this man in his basketball shorts and flip flops, it’s what I’ve been doing since I met him since 2005. It’s what it is.
John: You signed up for it. You did sign up for it.
What was it like for Jon Pierre and Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin to leave their original career paths?
So I know that you both had wildly different career paths before making your way to the real estate market, to the flipping industry. I’d love to talk to you about what made you both want to really drastically change your career paths. And in what ways was that really daunting?
Mary: Well, I tell you, I definitely will take an agreement. It definitely is not something that I ever thought that we would be doing. John came to me. We had, at that time a five month old, our first baby. And he came to me and said that he wanted to try something new and that he wanted to do something … Not your traditional nine to five and something that he wanted to try and pursue happiness and find passion. And after a while I was like, who am I to deny him of that? But I didn’t think that I would have to participate in it full time. But because he really did his due diligence and he worked nonstop for a year educating himself on the real estate market and things just started to go beyond his scope … I had to come in full time. Which by the way, at that point we were expecting our second child. So things happen the way that they’re supposed to.
Jon Pierre and Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin share how they balance their personal and professional lives
That’s actually a really good transition into me wanting to ask you about your life as a couple. You’re doing this with two kids. You work together. What’s it like balancing all these different aspects of your lives together, your relationship, all at the same time, and on TV to top it off?
John: Yeah. It’s difficult. It’s not easy. And a lot of times it’s not balanced and that’s part of the journey. That’s something that we never expected. And I surely didn’t expect it whenever I tried to convince Mary that this is what we’re going to do. So it is always a constant battle, and that’s really not the right word. But it’s definitely just trying to figure out what is the balance? How do you navigate working late with having kids, with having time for one another, with trying to make [a] TV show, and make it all work? And it’s kind of like the lady with the two scales. It’s never quite in balance.
John: But it’s always just trying to fight to make it happen.
Mary: I don’t like the word balance. It really is an extreme sacrifice … But the thing about the sacrifice is that’s why you have a partner. We really are a team and some days it really is tough. Some days he’s working all day and all night. And then I’m working all day and then have the kids and then put them to bed. But then there are days it’s flip flopped and I’m the one working all day and all night and he has the kids. So it really is the sacrifice of time. It’s almost like a … We were just talking to Scott about wrestling. It’s like a tag team. It’s like tag, okay, you’re it. I got to step out of the ring … It’s your turn. So it really is a lot, but we always think about the goal in mind. And the goal in mind is working hard now so that we don’t have to later and even so that we can enjoy more time later with our kids.
Definitely. It definitely sounds like you have some tactics, especially some communication tactics, that are there helping.
John: Yeah. We definitely talk a lot. Sometimes we don’t agree and sometimes we do.
Mary: Most times.
Jon Pierre and Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin never thought they'd be on television
[On their HGTV journey]
John: I think the coolest thing about it and the part that I enjoy the most, it really is about the journey. The destination is never set. When we got married 12 years ago, no one in their right mind would have come to me or Mary and said, “You guys are going to be on TV in 12 years.”
John: It would have never happened. You know what I mean? And so I think this is just part of the journey and trying to navigate that and enjoying that process, not necessarily enjoying or looking forward to the end. It’s figuring out how do you enjoy the process, the journey of what you’re going through.
John: And keeping that at the forefront of your mind, because that will make it worth it. Because in the end, there’s only one end. Everything before the very end is the journey. And you just have to enjoy that process.
What is it about the Houston real estate market that Jon Pierre and Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin love?
I’m going to shift a little bit to talk to you about the real estate market and what attracts you to different projects. So, first and foremost obviously like I said, I’m from California. I have been here my whole life. So I’d love to know what about the Houston real estate market is really attractive to you? This is definitely coming from someone who knows that in Southern California, you can’t purchase a home here for less than $800,000. I’d love to know what about the market makes you like working with it.
Mary: Well, first of all, you need to move here like all the other Californians and live like royalty. Okay. Don’t tell [them] you’re leaving. Continue to work remotely and collect all the coins.
John: Yeah. That’s probably the biggest attractive part of Houston is the fact that we’re the fourth largest city [in the U.S.], but our cost of living is way, way lower than any of the larger three markets — which are Chicago, New York, and L.A. And so that makes Houston very attractive. Like Mary just said, we do have quite a few people moving to Texas, specifically from California.
Mary: 27 people a day.
John: Yeah, it’s crazy.
Mary: From California specifically.
John: Right, just from California. And so the cost of living is a huge attraction to living in a city of this size. Now the crazy part is because everyone’s moving here, the cost of living is drastically going up. Houses are, I think for the first time ever on the average, houses sold for more than what they were listed for across the entire city. And so it’s really crazy. And that makes for a very active [market], and unfortunately it means a lot of times your buyers are disappointed because they’re just not getting the house they thought they were going to get.
The mistakes Jon Pierre and Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin see people make when buying and selling homes
What do you think some of the biggest mistakes are that you see when people are selling and buying homes?
John: Right now, because of the market, the thing I always try to counsel my clients is to be patient and don’t get discouraged and be ready for the roller coaster. I think a lot of people come into the house-buying experience thinking, “Oh, if I get my pre-approval then I’m good, I’ll just find a house and everything will be great.” And it just doesn’t work that way right now. And so I try to just give everybody the idea that, listen, this is going to be a little bit of task. It’s not going to happen in one month. We’re going to have to take your time. We’re probably going to … I think I’m probably averaging between five to seven offers on houses before my clients get the house.
Mary: It’s almost like the wedding day. We’re always so hyped about that perfect wedding day and it ends up raining or something. It’s almost like you have to prepare them for all the things. It’s like, “Oh, I’m buying my first home. It’s just going to be so amazing. And I’m going to walk into this house and I’m going to fall in love with it.” And it’s like, no, no, no, no. You’re going to walk into this house, fall in love with it, and you’re not going to get it. Okay. It is going to rain on your wedding day. And it’s going to be great because at the end of the day, it’s not about the wedding, it’s about the journey. It’s about the marriage. John always tells his clients what’s for you is for you. And even though they’re putting offers on three and four and five or more homes, that house at the end of the day, that you end up getting is the one that you were supposed to get. And you’re going to make it amazing because it’s for you.
John: It’s your home.
What moments stand out to the couple from their series, Two Steps Home?
Shifting a little bit to talk about the show, I got to watch one episode. But I’d love to know from this episode or this season, was there a particular client or project that really stood out to you?
John: Oh man.
Mary: I’ll let you go first because we probably won’t agree.
John: Yeah. The thing that I –
Mary: Don’t give it all away.
John: The one thing that I really enjoy, and I don’t even know if I can give … a top one of my favorites. The part that I enjoy the most about our show is whenever we revealed their house that they’re going to live in and Mary’s able to give them something specific to their house. And just see the emotion that comes out of them knowing that we put not just thought in renovating their house to make it pretty, but we renovated their house to make it their home. And being able to connect with people and then see that the effort and the blood and the literal sweat and tears that we put in –
Mary: Lots of ugly crying.
John: Right. That we put into their house to see them –
John: Just to react to that is just something that is really a payoff for us.
Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin bonded with this client in particular
[On their standout projects and clients]
Mary: We have some really amazing surprises. And that particular episode, the gift that we gave Adrian at the end really was one of my favorites. And it was really special to me. I just had like a connection to her as a mom.
Mary: And just how hard she worked as a single mom. I just thought that it was really something that we don’t get to see that often.
So I was saying that one stood out to me because it was something that I thought of and gave it to someone to bring to life. And sharing that with Adrian and sharing that moment with her and really sharing what it was, was a vision. As a parent, you think about your kids and they’re the why. They’re the reason why we work so hard and so that moment to me was really special and I’ll never forget it. And I hope that even right now that they’re in that room, wherever the gift is that it’s something that she can look at and really feel proud of herself. That she got herself to this point of home ownership and showing her girls, especially her two girls, that women, man, we’re doing it. We don’t need no help. We don’t need no man.
I feel like this is particularly unique to what I’ve seen thus far, but I feel like you both really took the time to listen to what Adrian wanted. And I’m sure that’s going to be a theme throughout all the episodes, but I really liked that. It felt like you weren’t just doing a project for the sake of doing a project. I felt like there was a really genuine want to meet her where she wanted to be and what she wanted to create.
Mary: It was really special to do that and take what they want and make it even more. And it really pushes us.
Jon Pierre and Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin reveal how COVID-19 impacted their careers in real estate
How has COVID-19 impacted your time in front of the camera and off the camera since the show wrapped?
John: Yeah it was definitely a unique experience having to deal with COVID and filming. And I think the thing it brought to light was, especially when it comes to the renovation part of it, is that we really had to focus on the things that people don’t just necessarily always want to do. Kitchens and bathrooms. Now people are in their homes all the time and so we were having to renovate the parts of the home that now they’re living in 24 hours a day. And so just dealing with the COVID part for the purpose of the filming was one whole thing. But I think it gave us a really cool opportunity to renovate other parts of homes that they don’t normally get the same attention to detail and the same effort that you get in things like kitchens and bathrooms. So it was definitely a unique experience.
I noticed right ahead in the first episode, you mentioned people are working a lot more from home now, so we should focus on some sort of home office setup. Which is such a natural thing now, but for awhile that wasn’t the reality.
Mary: Absolutely. Those were parts of your home … Growing up for me, there were definitely parts of our house that had plastic on it. We weren’t allowed to go in those rooms and now those rooms are actually being utilized. People are actually going in every part of their house and finding really unique ways to make it their own and make it something just like a vacation getaway. So I think you’ll be able to see that throughout the series that … There are going to be some interesting spaces that we’ll be able to showcase.
“Two Steps Home” premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV with new episodes airing every Wednesday.
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