The Untold Truth Of This Old House Host Kevin O'Connor

Home renovation shows are one of the most popular genres in television today, and we have one show to thank for it. The one that started it all: "This Old House." According to Country Living, producer Russell Morash got the idea for the show one snowy day in Boston. He was driving past a construction site and saw a group of people trying to get a glimpse inside to see what was going on, even though it was freezing outside. He thought if people cared enough to brave the cold to watch construction, they would watch a TV show about it, too.

"This Old House" has been airing since February 20, 1979, and has had a few different hosts over the years. However, the show's most current host is a friendly-faced, red-headed former banker from New Jersey named Kevin O'Connor. So, how exactly did O'Connor go from working in finance and being a longtime fan of "This Old House" to fan-favorite host? The untold truth of Kevin O'Connor is a lot more interesting than you might think.

1. Kevin has a great education

According to his bio on This Old House, O'Connor earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the College of the Holy Cross. According to the college's website, Holy Cross is located in Worcester, Massachusetts, and currently has an acceptance rate of just 38%. O'Connor's rigorous high school education must have paid off. 

After college, O'Connor didn't pursue his history degree any further and instead pivoted to prepare himself for the business world. He went on to earn a Master's of Business Administration degree from Boston University. According to the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, the main benefits of having an MBA are credibility across multiple fields, confidence to work outside your comfort zone, and more job opportunities. Since O'Connor's plan wasn't to dive into home improvement right away, he had no idea just how helpful these qualities would be to him in his future.

2. He hasn't always worked in home improvement

Since O'Connor has been the much-loved host of "This Old House" since 2003, it's hard to imagine a time that he wasn't working in television. However, after earning his MBA from Boston University, home improvement was the farthest thing from his mind. According to This Old House, O'Connor's love of sports led him to work for the Sports Finance Group and Fleet Bank.

However, his next job makes a bit more sense with what he does now: He worked for Bank of America as a Senior Vice President in the Commercial Real Estate Group. According to Bank of America, the position mainly oversees large investment properties, like apartment buildings, office buildings, retail centers, and even farms and ranches. As the Senior Vice President, O'Connor would have been in charge of ensuring each client obtained the proper financing. He also would have overseen clients' portfolios, advising them of the benefits and risks associated with each property and what their best steps would be. While he didn't know it yet, this work was preparing him for his next role -– the role that would make him famous.

3. His first appearance on 'This Old House' was as a homeowner

O'Connor didn't audition to become the new host of "This Old House." In fact, he wasn't even working in home improvement when he got the job. He recently shared a memory on his Instagram that confirms that his first time on "This Old House" was as a homeowner. O'Connor and his wife Kathleen owned a Queen Anne Victorian home located in Beverly, Massachusetts. The house, built in the late 1800s, was converted to a two-family home in the 1920s. The O'Connors wanted to keep the home as a two-family, but recognized that the home needed a lot of work. The pair had already begun renovations when the cameras arrived, and continued to stay heavily involved in the work throughout the episode.

Years later, O'Connor confirmed to Nashville Interiors what all die-hard fans of the show hoped to hear: the renovations on the home were a complete success. So much so that O'Connor and Kathleen don't live there anymore, but instead keep it on as a rental property. This means that if you're in the market for a rental in Beverly, you might be able to be a tenant!

4. O'Connor wasn't too sure about becoming a TV host

During the filming of his famous "This Old House" episode, O'Connor and his wife got along with the crew of both the construction and production varieties. The show needed a new host, and producers had a crazy idea: Why not Kevin? Russell Morash, creator of "This Old House," told Charles & Hudson, "In Kevin, we found the perfect mixture of optimism and energy, two ingredients an old house owner must have to survive." O'Connor admitted in the same interview that he had always been a fan of the show, and after meeting the big names like Jim Clark and Tom Silva, all his dreams had come true.

But "This Old House" wasn't done with O'Connor just yet and invited him to stay on permanently. Unlike hosts of other popular home renovation shows, O'Connor didn't even have to audition or send in a demo reno. He just attended a few meetings with the higher-ups, and that was that. He was now the host of the longest-running home improvement show on TV.

5. His casting on 'This Old House' was controversial

Although the creators of "This Old House" and plenty of fans were happy with O'Connor's new position as host, there were plenty of naysayers who weren't too sure he would succeed because of the controversial exit of a previous host, Bob Vila. According to the Houston Chronicle, after Vila's departure, the hosting spot was filled by Steve Thomas for over a decade. Thomas, who has essentially disappeared from TV since his era on the show ended, was replaced by O'Connor.

But, as Vila was the show's original host, there was still tension around his reasons for departing. According to Tedium, Vila only made $200 per episode of "This Old House ” when it first premiered. Years later, his compensation had only increased to $800 per episode. The low salary was because the home renovation show aired on PBS, a publicly-funded station. Throughout the 1980s, funding for public television was cut, leaving Vila with a hard choice to make. He can either stay at PBS and "This Old House ” and make pennies — all while other DIY shows exploded in popularity and made their stars rich — or leave to join them. He chose the latter. O'Connor has never publicly addressed the controversial exit of Vila.

6. He's a viral TikToker

Like many TV hosts, O'Connor has a pretty active presence on social media. However, unlike plenty of TV hosts, O'Connor seems to be not only an expert at home renovations but also at online marketing. If his TikTok account is any indication, he knows what he's doing. O'Connor has over 100,000 loyal followers on the app. His videos cover everything from remodeling tips and tricks to small glimpses of his personal life and the hobbies he pursues.

However, a few of O'Connor's videos stand apart from the rest, as they've earned well over 1 million views. The first viral TikTok showcases one of the world's most impressive refrigerators, which isn't a fridge at all but instead a separate climate-controlled room off the homeowner's kitchen. The second viral video on his TikTok account is a recommendation for a pair of work pants that can stop a chainsaw from cutting into your leg. Let's hope O'Connor (and you, as well) never actually need pants like this.

7. He prefers to keep his family life private

While scrolling through O'Connor's social media posts, you're likely to notice something very important. Most of the content relates directly to "This Old House." If it's not directly related to the show, it's typically home improvement related or something about current events. While O'Connor's family and his personal life make small appearances across his social media, they are few and far between.

O'Connor explained his social media stance in an Instagram caption, writing, "I don't post much personal stuff — the family, travel, home life. Not sure why. I generally try to keep it to TOH material." O'Connor's strategy is a pretty smart one, as Microsoft warns that being too open with your followers on social media can put you at risk, and these risks are only amplified for public figures. For example, if O'Connor were to post a photo of his family on vacation in real time, his thousands of followers would then know his home is unoccupied or vulnerable. Additionally, revealing too much about his family, his hobbies, and his interests would make it all too easy for cyber thieves to have an easier time guessing his passwords.

8. His family has some sweet Christmas traditions

Christmas seems to be O'Connor's favorite holiday, as he shared some of his favorite Christmas traditions with PBS, and they sound amazing. O'Connor has six siblings, and come Christmas morning, all six of them waited, maybe not so patiently, at the top of the stairs in his family home. They were waiting for the go-ahead to come downstairs and begin ripping into their gifts. The best part was that, due to the landing location, O'Connor and his siblings could technically still see the presents down below. This gave them plenty of time to guess what each one could be and choose which ones to open first.

This guessing game was especially important because O'Connor and his six siblings had something very important to agree on: whether to open presents or stockings first. And there couldn't be one stand out, either; they all had to agree. The number one argument in favor of opening stockings first? His parents usually put the batteries of each toy inside them. So if you opened presents first and got a new toy, you couldn't play with it until you got the batteries later on. However, O'Connor stated that he and his siblings never could make up their minds, and the choice typically came about in the last instant.

9. He doesn't keep up with many hobbies other than DIY projects

Since leaving the world of finance behind when he started hosting "This Old House" in 2003, O'Connor hasn't really kept up with many hobbies outside the DIY sphere. In an interview with Charlotte Magazine, O'Connor joked that he doesn't participate in many activities a man his age usually would, like golfing or other sports. Instead, he said, he prefers to spend any free time with his children pursuing what interests them. At the time of the interview, he was creating science experiments in his backyard workshop.

However, O'Connor did admit that since he's lived in New England his entire life, he's a die-hard New England Patriots fan. Because of this, he is typically unavailable most Sundays because he has to watch the game live. Since the Patriots have pulled off the most impressive come-from-behind victory ever recorded during the 2017 Superbowl, we understand why O'Connor is so adamant about watching all the games in real-time.

10. O'Connor has a passion for hot air ballooning

Although most of O'Connor's time is taken up by DIY projects of his own, as well as with work for "This Old House," he shared a video across his social media feeds of him enjoying one of the coolest hobbies out there: a hot air balloon ride. O'Connor was visiting the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York, and the ride took place near the famous Lake George. He posted the video for fans to enjoy on his Twitter.

However, hot air ballooning is not for the faint of heart. O'Connor mentioned that the balloon floated up to 3,000 feet before beginning its descent back to earth. On the way down, O'Connor showed fans just how up close and personal you would get with nature on a ride like that. He grabbed a handful of leaves from the top of a tree as the balloon's basket skimmed by. When O'Connor was safely on the ground again, his "This Old House" co-star Tom Silva was seen welcoming him back, perhaps waiting for his turn!

11. O'Connor is a popular podcast host

O'Connor hosts the "This Old House" podcast called "Clearstory." According to Listen Notes, the podcast is meant to help homeowners understand their properties from a new perspective. During each episode, O'Connor and his guests discuss everything there is to discuss about every kind of structure. From water and its uses for building and maintaining homes, to modern plumbing and its impact on human health, to the many uses for construction waste, O'Connor covers it all.

"Clearstory" is also one of the most popular podcasts on the platform, as it ranks in the top .5% of most downloaded shows. When reading the reviews on Apple Podcasts, it's easy to see why the show ranks so well: The listeners love it. With a 4.8 out of 5 stars rating, the show's most popular reviews praise it for being informative, offering practical advice, and making listeners laugh.

12. O'Connor is a published author

In addition to hosting "This Old House" on TV and via podcast, O'Connor also published his first book associated with the series in 2011. Called "The Best Homes from This Old House," the book scratched a very particular itch for die-hard fans of the renovation series. According to Charles & Hudson, the coffee table book is the only place where viewers can see a library of the most popular renovated homes from the series, all in one place.

There are 10 homes featured in total, and they each represent a unique architectural style. O'Connor's writing goes into immense detail about the renovation process behind each house, as well as the unique features of the homes that initially convinced producers to feature the project on the show. Ever the people-person, O'Connor made sure to profile important members of the "This Old House" team in the book, such as a member of the film crew, Stephen "Dino" D'Onofrio.

13. He is friends with 'Dirty Jobs' host Mike Rowe

O'Connor happily shared a throwback photo on his Instagram of when "Dirty Jobs" host Mike Rowe stopped by the set of "This Old House" to guest star on a popular season premiere. But, according to KBIS, O'Connor and Rowe's friendship and working relationship go deeper than simply guest-starring on each other's shows. In 2017, O'Connor was involved in donating a $500,000 check to Rowe's mikeroweWorks Foundation.

The foundation's purpose is to encourage young people to take up trade work training if they feel like a traditional four-year degree program isn't a good fit for them. The money donated funded full and partial scholarships for students involved with the program to study their trades. According to the mikeroweWorks Foundation, the program's official name is the "Work Ethic Scholarship Program" and has given out more than $5 million in educational support. It makes sense that O'Connor and the rest of the "This Old House" team would support such a great venture, since they value hard work from professionals who excel in their trades. And by donating to the scholarship fund, they are training the next generation of craftspeople.

14. He thinks other DIY shows are 'crap'

We all know that most modern home renovation shows owe their popularity to "This Old House." After all, it's been airing since the 1970s. So, it's no wonder that plenty of fans are curious about when O'Connor (and the rest of the "This Old House" crew) think about the onslaught of new shows. O'Connor made his feelings very clear in an interview with Charles & Hudson. "The growth in DIY is remarkable. On the one hand, I love it because I think it's vindication for all of us house lovers and do-it-yourselfers. There are a lot of great shows and websites out there that never existed and that's great," he said. "On the other hand, there's a lot of crap out there too. I can think of a dozen shows and websites that wouldn't hold my interest for a nanosecond." 

Hey, everyone has their own tastes! O'Connor likes more informational shows, much like the one he hosts. "HGTV shows are recreational, and ours is informational. There's nothing wrong with that. Clearly the audience has an appetite for it," he told Charlotte Magazine.