The Tutor House
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons
We are all allotted 24 hours each day. No one gets more. No one gets less. And yet some people seem to take each hour and squeeze the most they can out of it. Brett Tutor is that guy.
“I had a ‘trying-not-to-do-anything day’ yesterday, which never seems to work,” said Tutor, who founded and operates local home inspection business, Property Doctors, over coffee in East Austin. It’s the neighborhood he now calls home, having recently settled into a Greenbelt-adjacent house. A smart move, as it keeps him a quick shot to the airport for his many travels.
This includes the trips he took for his life-changing new role. Tutor will soon enter all our living rooms as the chiseled, affable carpenter in the return of TLC’s fan-beloved show, "Trading Spaces."
When I arrive at the cafe to meet Brett, he’s settled into a corner spot with a notebook on the table. The page has been sectioned off by boxes and within each he’s written a few words.
Perhaps it’s a list of all the reasons he loves his new East side digs, starting with the Austin Bouldering Project and ending with The Cowboy sandwich at Flyrite. Or maybe it’s song lyrics. Before giving me the scoop on his TLC gig, he tells me he’ll be in the studio that week to record new music with his brother for their band, The Tutor Brothers.
For a man of 32, Tutor’s life sounds a little like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. Following a rolling stone gathers no moss mentality, Tutor’s life ethos has taken him everywhere from the sandstone slots in Antelope Canyon to climbing ancient ruins in South America. Tutor is the kind of attractive that makes a waitress come over to refill coffee far more frequently than if you were dining alone. It’s also the kind that turns the heads of television execs.
Tutor learned to work with his hands from his home builder grandfather at an early age. Heading up a successful home inspection business, he seems perfectly suited to represent the ATX on the hit home renovation series. He’s also had a stint on the Discovery Channel show "Treasure Quest."
But Tutor tells me that to understand why he’s suited for the new rugged role, I needed a grasp on his adventurous background.
Born and raised in Georgetown, Tutor was as energetic and curious as a boy as he is now. When he wasn’t riding motorcycles or BMX bikes on the dirt jump track he and his brother built in their backyard or cracking homeruns over the fence, he was on the fairway practicing his swing which would earn him the title of a world-ranked golfer by his 12th birthday.
“I was this young, insatiable kid in the world trying to figure out who I was. I’ve always had so many passions,” Tutor explains.
His curiosities led him to various corners of the world. He spent a brief time studying mixed martial arts in Hilo, Hawaii. He picked up a job in Oregon as an adventure guide, learning white water rafting and rock climbing techniques while leading backcountry wilderness trips for troubled children. He signed up for the Air Force and was chosen to lead a 60-man squad on his very first day of Basic Training, but had to leave shortly thereafter because of a torn Achilles tendon.
“I have always had an adventure itch that I need to scratch sometimes,” Tutor says.
Nurturing his interest in humanitarianism, he spent time in Africa working with a relief group, volunteering at orphanages and slums in Kibera, an experience that affected him on a core level, he said.
“Seeing such a large amount of kids living and dying in such an awful environment like that can't help but change anyone who sees it,” Tutor says. “It was the most organic and authentic definition of the words love and community that I had seen in my life, and anyone who has been to a place like that knows exactly what I am talking about. I wanted to be a part of that.”
It stuck with him, and, ten years later, led him to start his nonprofit, Off the Grid International, an organization for creating solutions to human basic needs around the world.
“I learned that while I may not be able to change the world, I can absolutely change the world for a few people. And that's all I want.”
As sure-footed as the globetrotter Tutor is, he sort of stumbled onto the entertainment scene. Convinced by a girlfriend to meet with an agent to talk about becoming a stunt double, he found himself quickly thrown into screen roles.
His first job was to be Lucas Black’s stunt double in "Seven Days in Utopia."
“I didn’t know what to expect but I just kept saying yes. They asked me, ‘Can you sink a 30 foot putt?’ Yes. ‘Can you drive with silicone tires?’ Yes. ‘Can you walk ahead into the river and break a golf club over your leg?’ Yes. Saying yes has gotten me into a lot of new opportunities,” Tutor says.
The stunt work grew into a few commercial gigs—a Chevy spot here, a Dick’s Sporting Goods cameo there.
“It was good to do local spots instead of spots on a national level,” Tutor says. “People had a lot of patience with me. I got on the job training, and it was unexpected fun. It felt like I was doing something different and new.”
As is common in the world of entertainment, a few hosting and television opportunities that were presented to Tutor failed to come to fruition. Having recently ended his relationship and grappling with his mother’s cancer diagnosis, Brett suffered a rocky period.
“It was a lot. I wanted to make some changes,” Tutor explains. “Most of the things that were adding to my life and pushing my life forward were not being done after 7 p.m. The things I was doing between 6 a.m. and noon were the things that changed my life.”
Brett turned his focus toward his mother, his music, and his business, growing his company and getting his nonprofit off the ground.
“I started to think that maybe the entertainment business stuff was a way to make music, raise money for my nonprofit, and give me the freedom to do it. But when things weren’t working out with entertainment, I thought screw it—maybe I can just do it this way on my own,” Tutor says.
That’s when Tutor got the opportunity to be added to the cast for "Treasure Quest: Snake Island", a reality TV show that follows a crew of treasure hunters in search of legendary Incan treasure.
“It called for me to be in Argentina," Tutor says. "My agent didn’t want me to do it, but I was at a rock-bottom point. I needed to get away.”
Four weeks later, Tutor flew to South America to film season two of the popular show.
Replacing the snake expert, Tutor’s SWAT medic certification, wildlife experience, and licenses in rain water system and septic installation made him the “survival skills guy.” And it was just what he needed to turn the emotional corner of his life.
“If you’re going through a hard time in life, go travel,” Tutor says. “One year is worth 10 years.”
Tutor stayed on to travel after filming, making his way to Patagonia and Mar Brava, seeking adventure and experiences, which included breaking a few ribs and contracting a sickness that took months to shake.
Not long after, he was plucked for a role in a movie that would take him to Cambodia for six weeks. After the film and a few subsequent months of traveling through Bali, Tutor heard the familiar call of Austin.
He went back to doing home inspections for his business. He renovated a 21-foot Airstream Sovereign made in the mid-90s that he named "Blue". He went skydiving. He started the process of getting his pilot’s license.
And sure enough, the moment he settled into an Austin lifestyle was when the opportunity for "Trading Spaces" came his way, kickstarting the next phase in his journey.
After a ten-year hiatus, the show will air this spring, and we’ll see Tutor help transform homes across the country, an experience Tutor considers fun, humbling, and exciting.
“I’ve done a lot of carpentry work, but it’s not like I was doing it all day everyday,” Tutor says. “Sure, I know how to build things, but I’ve never done it like this. Trying to talk to camera and work at the same time...I put a nail through my finger!”
Having already filmed, Tutor has been able to ride the momentum of the show’s popularity alongside equally hunky alum, Ty Pennington.
“It’s really cool to see how excited people are about the show," Tutor says. "I’ve never watched a ton of TV. I didn’t realize how nuts people are about it.
And now I get it. The budget is so low, the time frame so quick, and the designers so talented. That time constraint forces creativity. You’re doing things for people that people watching can actually see and go do.”
With his star on the rise, Tutor is taking it all in stride.
“The goal isn’t to be famous," Tutor says. "There’s no barometer. It’s about being able to make a living doing something exciting and to be in a position to do all the things I love. If that’s happening, then I’m happy.”
As for a wife, kids and family of his own, it’s something he wants for himself.
“I don’t think it’s the chapter for that right now. I don’t think it’s the chapter after this chapter. But someday, definitely.”