Known as an automotive expert, Cristy Lee is now sharing her real estate expertise in HGTV’s “Steal This House.” The 38-year-old discussed her new renovation series with Heavy ahead of its premiere.
“While Cristy is known for her expertise fixing cars, trucks and bikes, her heart is in home improvement,” according to the series description. “She sees the potential in the most unexpected, inexpensive properties and works to turn them into astonishing homes. For her clients, Cristy proves that it’s worth the risk to buy a lower-priced house that needs work, create a smart renovation budget and invest in a renovation to transform the place into the home of their dreams.”
HGTV’s “Steal This House” premieres on Saturday, July 9, 2022, at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times.
Here is what she said:
On Sharing Her Real Estate Expertise
While Lee’s previous television work has been automotive-focused, she admitted to Heavy that “it’s really exciting” to share her real estate expertise with the world.
“My diehard fans definitely know about my real estate past and real estate experience,” she explained. “I moved from Daytona to Detroit back in 2005. So real estate’s been a part of my life for a long time. And, you know, I’m excited to be able to take something that I had been passionate with and share that with more of my fans and hopefully some new HGTV fans.”
She continued, “You know, the automotive and motorcycle part of my life has been extremely public, that’s a huge passion of mine, and I’ve been able to, you know, incorporate that in my life professionally as well, which is just absolutely amazing to me.”
Lee is no stranger to television. She previously starred in “All Girls Garage,” “Garage Squad” and “Celebrity IOU Joyride.”
“And now I’m really excited that I’m taking the real estate stuff, which was maybe been a little bit more behind the scenes for me, and bringing that to the center stage with my automotive life publicly and be able to kind of showcase my experience and knowledge within the real estate industry now as well with everyone,” she added. “So I couldn’t be more excited about it.”
On Her Design Style
“Steal This House” will introduce most viewers to Lee’s design for the first time.
“I definitely have a specific design style, but really this show isn’t about what I want to see in the house,” she told Heavy. “It’s about what the homeowners want and need in their home. So I do the very best that I can to provide them with what I think they will love the most based on the wants and needs that they have given me. So each house is very different.”
Lee revealed this season features “an extremely diverse” group of homeowners, houses and types of projects.
“So if they’re looking for a certain type of kitchen, that’s the kitchen that I’m going to try. That in every way, shape or form that I possibly can get them,” she continued. “If they have a certain flooring that they’re looking for, that’s the type of flooring that I’m going to go for.”
While the final design may not be “the exact thing [she] love[s] the most,” she explained, “I’m not living in this house. It’s about them. And this is the house that they need to love. So I think having different designs, a different look at design styles and different types of design styles was really important for me with the show, working with very different homeowners.”
On Her Favorite Projects in ‘Steal This House’
Lee admitted to Heavy “it’s so hard to pick one project” from the six-episode season that was her favorite. She explained the projects that stuck with her were ones that the “homeowners ended up loving.”
“I was able to build this really amazing, like, metal fireplace walk around. And then the homeowners actually surprised me with this absolutely stunning mid-century modern fireplace stove that they had picked up unexpectedly,” the Michigan-based star said. “And I incorporated it into the fireplace design, and it ended up looking absolutely amazing and they loved it. That was a really memorable project for me.”
She continued, “I was also able to integrate some more metal work projects throughout the season, kind of tapping into some of my automotive experience. I just started working more with fabrication and welding, so I was very excited to bring in some of the metal work to tie a little bit into some of my automotive experience within a couple different projects throughout the show also.”
Another favorite of hers was a “wood topography project” as a nod to Michigan’s Lake Leelanau. “That was something that was really important to our homeowner because that was the area that she loved,” she explained of the project. “You know, bringing that into the home was a really fun project.”
On Why Viewers Should Watch ‘Steal This House’
Lee wants viewers to tune into her new series, telling Heavy, “I like to think that I’m a pretty funny person.”
“It’s kind of two things that I think could be of great interest to the potential viewers,” she explained. “You know, one, we’re looking at the market in a different way. You know, we’re taking the budgetary needs of these potential homeowners. And I’m not necessarily trying to convince them to buy a different house. I’m just trying to change their perspective and the scope of houses that they’ve been looking at, at different price points.”
She sees herself as a “guide,” helping her clients view a house in a new light from other prospective homebuyers and then take them through the renovation process, which she admits “can be a really scary thing.”
Secondly, Lee said, “We have a lot of fun along the way. I try to not take anything too seriously, you know, and we have some ups and downs, as you would with any major renovation in a home. But we get through the process and I try to keep it light and fun the entire time working with the homeowner.”
Throughout each project, she explained that she developed more of a friendship with her clients. “In the end, I feel like I was able to deliver what the homeowners were looking for,” Lee said. “And, you know, I made friends along the way, and I absolutely love that. So hopefully the people watching it will also feel the same. And, you know, they’ll get to enjoy the fun along the way.”
On the Challenges of the Michigan Real Estate Market
Set in Michigan, Lee explained to Heavy that the state’s geography presented its own particular challenges.
While she is working with different homes and budgets, she admitted, “Michigan specifically, one of the biggest challenges for us is the seasonality of taking on a renovation.”
“So we’re going through spring, summer, fall and winter,” Lee told Heavy. “And, you know, in Michigan specifically doing a renovation, working on anything in the winter months, I mean, that’s a huge challenge.”
There were “three surprises” while filming. “One of the properties that we worked on was actually in northern Michigan, up by Lake Leelanau, which is actually just stunning up there,” Lee said. “But, you know, we’re working in the fall and unexpectedly we got a foot of snow.”
On Advice for Prospective Homeowners Looking for a Fixer-Upper
In “Steal This Houe,” Lee is looking for fixer-upper “steals” that can be transformed into her clients’ dream houses. For prospective homebuyers looking to follow suit, Lee emphasizes to “do your due diligence” and “don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
“You have amazing, skilled, qualified people available to you if you so choose to use them,” she explained. “And that includes everything from hiring the right real estate agents to hiring the right home inspector, to making sure you get the home inspection, to hiring the right contractor, and doing your research on the type of contractor that you’re working with. Whether you’re hiring a general contractor, whether you decide to do so a la carte style and just pick a contractor for each specific job and doing that due diligence.”
She summarized, “Do your research and, and, and use the help and assistance of the right people in the industry.”
On Hosting Solo for the First Time
In “Steal This House,” Lee will be hosting solo for the first time. She told Heavy that she never realized it would involve “so much talking.”
“I’ve always appreciated every single person that I’ve ever worked with. I’ve been extremely blessed in my professional career to work with absolutely amazing on-camera talent, hosts, and most of which, to be 100% honest with you, are still extremely great friends of mine,” Lee explained. “I’m so thankful for that. But this is kind of the first time that I’ve hosted, you know, a full-season show, an episodic show, as the only main host.”
She realized how many duties she split with her former co-hosts. Lee added, “I feel like I did really well, at least the production company told me I did. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. You know, I didn’t do it completely solo, obviously. I had amazing, amazing, amazing teams that I work with, different contractors on each different house. I had some returning contractors that we worked with on different properties.”
She was also able to incorporate other important people from her life into the show, which she called “exciting.” Among them, her boyfriend who “has a lot of experience in contracting and construction, so he actually helped out on a couple of projects as well.”
Also appearing is her best friend who serves as her “project manager slash adult babysitter.” She quipped, “Yes, you heard me correct.” Admitting her friend helped with design and decor, Lee continued, “She also comes in on the show quite a bit actually, and she does about 10 million times more behind the scenes, probably.”
On Her Favorite HGTV Shows
Lee is open to appearing in other HGTV series, specifically a competition.
“I think I want to try and do one of those like competition shows or something like I am ready,” she said, citing “Battle on the Beach.” HGTV’s “Rock the Block” also pits network stars against each other in a home renovation challenge.
“I’m ready to throw down. I’m ready to pick up the tools. And do that,” she continued. “And I also like to have fun while we’re filming and just in general. I’m basically the same person on camera as I am off-camera, so no difference whatsoever.”
Lee explained that she “can only hope” she gets a call. She said, “It would be fun to work on different projects with HGTV.”