HGTV: Reality or Unreality TV for Those Looking to Remodel Their Home

A huge shout-out to HGTV!

Thanks to hours and hours of binge watching, we think we now know how to remodel a home.

We had just been going about it the wrong way!

Day One: Purchase home.

Day Two: Visit home to see what you bought, the condition the home is in, and see who might still be living in the lean-to (aka “rental unit”) in back.

watching HGTV reality tv

See! Our reno can be done in a few weeks!

Day Three: Invite your contractor over. Someone say “open concept,” while the others “ooh and ahh.” Perhaps applaud.

Day Four: Look at where the wall used to be and agree this was the right choice. Put on magic stilettos a la The Wizard of Oz (There’s no place like Home Depot!) and walk around various spaces waving your arms. Declare that new kitchen can be done for $5,000. Bathroom easily for $3,000.

Day Five: Uncover renovation surprise. You had no idea the 1920’s home you bought would need to be rewired completely and re-plumbed. Complain about additional costs but agree to them anyway.

Day Six: Take magic stilettos to one location and pick out all of the finish materials. Be sure the words granite, herringbone, and stainless steel are involved.

Three Weeks Later: Complete construction; put “For Sale” sign in the yard; bring cookies to the open house; receive multiple offers on the first day; and move on to the next project.

I told you we’ve been going about this the wrong way! What were we thinking?

If you’re a fan of HGTV, the above scenario probably sounds somewhat familiar (although perhaps a bit stretched for effect). But if you’re a property owner looking to renovate a home — and especially one who lives in the Dallas area — you need to be aware that the above remodeling timeline is anything but realistic.

Renovations on these shows often seem like a snap. And what distorts perceptions, even more, is the fact that all of this magic seems to happen seamlessly and without effort, within the 30 minutes, the show is on TV.

The reality, of course, is something quite different and has nothing to do with the carefully orchestrated narrative you see on camera. Viewers are not shown time spent in escrow, or with an architect, or down at the city trying to get a permit – all of which can add months to a project.

Nor do they get to see the staff of 40 working in the background to make the project happen. Sort of like watching Martha Stewart. Sure she churns out these great home “do-it-yourself” projects. Yet, you know there are ten guys in the basement covered in glitter, hot glue, and decoupage paper making sure Martha looks her best.

Not that reality will stop clients from buying into what the shows are offering. One contractor, we work with was asked (in all seriousness) by a client who was going away for the weekend if her bathroom remodel would be complete when she got back. “But, those shows on TV do this stuff in two days…” Unfortunately, his magic wand was in the shop and he had to tell her, “No.”

Yet, even we can’t help getting sucked into watching. For us, HGTV can be the architectural equivalent of Real Housewives or Jersey Shore. We know it’s not real. But we just can’t help watching.

We know better, and we have to educate the client as to what the realities are. Drawings take time. Obtaining permits take time. Construction takes time.

So don’t be wed to the idea that the flash and glamor you’re seeing on TV resemble the hard work, inevitable obstacles, and delays you can expect to be part of the remodeling process.

However, when the new season of HGTV comes on, call us. We’ll bring the wine. You bring the magic stilettos. And we’ll guide you through the reality of schedules and budgets.

Because very rarely is renovation a snap.

Even when HGTV says it should be.


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