Monday, October 27, 2014

Home Improvement Shows: Reality or Fiction?

HGTV's Property Brothers, Jonathan and Drew Scott

Have you ever sat down with your cup of coffee on a Saturday morning  with the intent of watching a quick home improvement show, only to find yourself in the same spot, several hours later, having watched several back to back shows? neither.

But if you have seen the supposed "reality" TV shows centered around rehabbing an older home, improving homes to buy or sell, or flipping a home, then you at least know what I'm talking about.  There's one show out there that finds people wandering the isles of a home improvement store and promises to completely renovate a space in their home in just 3 days.  Sounds too good to be true?  Well, you're right, it is.

Don't be misled by these shows into thinking this is how remodeling and renovating work.  Here are some things that they don't tell you about all these shows.

1.  Rushed Time Frames

Alison Victoria of DIY's Kitchen Crashers, photo credit:  Paul Kim

In the show mentioned above, they completely gut a kitchen or some other room, then replace flooring, cabinets, appliances, back splash, and sometimes remove walls to get a completely renovated kitchen in just three days.

What they don't tell you is that the local contractors brought on site to do the work are working practically round-the-clock on that property.  Typically, you see maybe  4-5 people working on the project when in fact there are more like 30 people working in the background.

Materials used are usually items that allow for quick install.  The quality, therefore, is not always the best.  The program directors are just looking for a visual impact and the quality oftentimes suffers.  For instance they will install laminate flooring instead of actual hardwood, and they will use the lowest grade stock cabinets available.

2.  Unrealistic Budgets


Many renovation shows feature homeowners who have a very tight budget but a long list of "Must Haves" (like they must have quartz counter tops and top-end appliances, when they are currently living with laminate and 20 year old appliances...get real, people!)  Somehow the renovators are able to deliver and give them the home of their dreams on this tight budget.

What they don't tell you is that these budgets on reality TV are pure fiction.  So don't expect to accomplish nearly  the amount of work on the same budget if you decide to do the same thing.

Networks often partner with home improvement stores that offer up free materials and contractors who bid on the projects are forced to work at discounted rates in order to get the free publicity.  Additionally many programs do not show some of the behind the scenes work that needs to be done such as testing for lead and asbestos, or replacing a septic system that is many times required when you pull a permit.  These costs can add several thousand dollars to your project.

3.  Buying A Home Is Never That Easy


Many shows feature people who need to purchase a new home.  In TV-land, this process appears to happen in a single day with no worries or hassles involved.

What they don't tell you is that getting approved for a loan is usually a buyers biggest obstacle.  The entire process typically takes 60-90 days at a minimum.  There is endless paperwork, inspections, negotiations, and hoops to jump through, and they still might be turned down for a  loan.

Before you decide to purchase a new home, get your financial ducks in a row, lay aside a good-sized down payment, and have a clear understanding of how much home you can afford.

4.  Flipping Doesn't Pay What It Used To


If you're looking to make a little money by buying a cheap home and flipping it, you might want to re-think that.  There are several programs that show people buying a run-down home, doing a few days work, then making extravagant amounts of money by selling it.

What they don't tell you is that flipping houses doesn't make the money that it did a few years ago and the profits continue to go down.  The cost of homes, even run down ones, are going up, as is the cost of materials and labor needed to renovate.  This leads to lower profits for the homeowner.

There are many factors to consider that determine whether a property is suitable for flipping.  Just because a home is cheap doesn't mean it is a good investment.  You need to thoroughly investigate the neighborhood and the property.  Curb appeal really does help sell a house so if there is too much money needed to boost curb appeal, you'll lose out in the end.  You need to walk the fine line between investing too much and not enough.  Also, if you take too long to complete your renovations your carrying costs could wipe out any profit you may have made.

5.  Dramatic Storylines Are Actually Ho-Hum


We all know a good storyline creates an entertaining TV show.  Many times you'll see homeowners who severely disagree with one another, or something tragic happens that throws a wrench into things.

What they don't tell you is that many producers will fabricate a story to make the homeowners more interesting.  On the popular HGTV show "House Hunters", they typically show people who have already decided on and closed on a house.  On the program, they show the buyers going to three different homes, weighing the pros and cons, and then finally deciding on a home, which of course they qualify for and do not have to do a lot of negotiating for.  Many times the home they eventually choose (which they already own) is the one that they were bashing for something or another or had a major disagreement about.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

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