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Home Improvement Shows: Reality vs REALty

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

by Kerry Duet


You start off your Saturday morning ready to tackle your weekend to-do list, but somehow you land on the sofa watching your favorite home improvement station instead. Seven hours later, you’re ready to call a contractor and gut the master bathroom. After all, it’ll only take 4-5 days and will cost less than $8,000!

Slow down there, Speed Racer.


We asked a few local construction professionals if they think TV shows like Fixer Upper, House Hunters, and Property Brothers were realistic and most of them answered “NO!”  The rest of them just laughed. Whether they thought these shows were just a joke or a genuine headache for the Industry, four common complaints stood out across the trades:

The Process is Over-Simplified  They set a budget, tell viewers their must haves (four bedrooms! a double fireplace! no ghosts!) and a real estate agent shows them three houses, from which they pick their dream home.  The designer/draftsman/builder/demo crew chief/project manager sketches a new floor plan on a paper towel and on Monday they start demolition!  In reality, your home may be one of the biggest financial investments you will make, and it deserves time, consideration, and careful planning.  We could no more sum it up here than they could press it into thirty minutes with commercials and montages.

The Timelines are Impossible  After buying a dump of a home for $200k it’s at half of the market potential, and the projected timeline to complete the renovation is 5-7 weeks. Even after they find out that they can’t take down a load bearing wall and have to completely redesign the main living area, they still come in at 6 weeks and 4 days, just in time for the big open house! It makes for great TV, but it’s all a big fat lie. In reality, modest complete renovations (especially involving kitchen and baths) take several months to complete; and if the family lives in the house it will take even longer.

The Math doesn’t Compute The homeowners have their must haves (sub-zero refrigerator! claw-foot tub! built-in bunk beds!) and a very tight budget. But the team is always able to make it work.  Or maybe he’s an environmental lawyer and she’s makes glitter candles and their budget is 1.9 million. In reality, most families must choose a modest budget that is still returnable should they sell the home.  Even in high end homes, homeowners often have to pick and choose luxuries because they add up quickly; and because you do have to actually pay someone to install them. 

The Installations won’t Last They’re flipping the house, so every effort is made to “get creative”. They go for a natural earthy look by putting down travertine tile (easy to install with pre-mixed mastic that will literally says on the bucket: not for use with natural stone). And because they stayed with natural tones and kept a casual feel, they choose not to add a sealer and let it “age naturally”. In reality, quality materials, adhesives, sealers, waterproofing membranes, etc. are necessary to avoid costly failures. Protect your investment by committing to a 100% quality process. 

The real-life personality quirks of the people on the screen and the instant gratification of before and afters make these shows enjoyable and addicting. If you enjoy TV home improvement reality shows, but think of them as simply entertainment, your remodel team will breathe a collective sigh of relief.

#realitytv #homeimprovement

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