Buying a home is part of the American dream. But the goal has always been harder to achieve for Black Americans. According to the National Association of Realtors, the Black homeownership rate is hovering at 44% — about 30% less than for white Americans.
It's why representation in the housing industry is a priority for twin brothers Chris and Calvin Lamont, licensed contractors and hosts of HGTV’s new show Buy It or Build It. They are the first Black brothers to have a show on the network, and want to bring new audiences into the conversation.
“We’re showing everybody in the country who we are. I think seeing Chris and Calvin is going to be great,” Chris tells Yahoo Life. “But I think it’s also going to resonate when you see a lot of diversity throughout the show. The builders, the couples, the Black doctor, the Black lawyer, they will be able to see the diversity and also it shows all cultures.”
He adds, “Hopefully we can teach and inspire while also making a great show."
The Lamont Brothers didn’t grow up building houses, but after graduating from Lehigh University in 2007, they moved to Dallas and started gaining experience by repairing water damage and fire damage, and learning home-restoration work. The next year they started working with investors to flip houses, and over the next four years they continued to work on homes while going to school to get their real estate licenses and other certifications.
“Out of everything, my brother and I are just entrepreneurs and businessmen. I believe that's the foundation of who we are and our hearts,” says Calvin.
On the show, the brothers meet with potential homebuyers and offer them two options for their dream house: One, from Chris, is to buy an existing home and remodel it. Two, from Calvin, is to build a brand new house from the ground up. After the client decides which route to go, the brothers work together to complete the project.
Buy It or Build It gives the Lamont brothers a chance to show off their skills, but they also hope it serves as a platform to inspire people from all communities to pursue homeownership. Through education and transparency, they want to demystify the home buying process and challenge people to rethink the financial traps that create barriers to entry.
“People were told to go to college and that’s a great thing, but you gotta get those loans. We need to try to find ways to make it easier and more forgiving for people to go to college so they aren’t getting hit with these crazy numbers when they’re trying to buy a house,” says Chris.
According to Calvin, developers can play a big role in making housing more affordable by buying land in communities that are undervalued, and revitalizing those neighborhoods without ratcheting up housing costs and pricing out the locals. He knows it's possible because he and Chris are already doing it.
“We’re buying a lot of lots, we’re building subdivisions, we’re building entry level and workforce housing in cities across America. We’re bringing the quality of that million-dollar home down to the entry level and workforce housing and keeping those houses steady for a certain amount of time, allowing people to be able to buy into their community,” says Calvin.
The Lamont brothers have a few similarities — the biggest being their shared passion for contracting and building homes. Though the hours are long and they don't always see eye to eye, Chris and Calvin love the work and recognize the power a home has to change lives.
"We love seeing the final product of our plan come to fruition,” says Chris. "And at the end of the project, when we can the new homeowners faces, that’s why we love to do it."
Buy it or Build it premieres on May 18 at 9pm ET on HGTV.
—Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove