Are you addicted to home renovation reality shows? You’re not alone.
Who doesn’t like to fantasize about an easy home renovation that only takes a weekend and delivers perfectly finished results (complete with clean sheets and fresh flowers)?
The popularity of reality shows that reveal dramatic home renovations has skyrocketed, turning HGTV into one of the most successful cable networks. From Trading Spaces to Property Brothers, there is no shortage of fixer-upper programming to binge on.
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in the aspirational fantasies served up by these “reality” shows. In fact, they can offer creative ideas and inspire you to finally take up your own project.
The problems start when viewers develop unrealistic expectations of their own real life renovation process.
Want to remodel your bathroom in a day? Planning to DIY that new wood flooring? Think you can order the kitchen of your dreams at a bargain price?
8 Home Renovation Fantasies Seen On (Reality) TV
Unfortunately, the overnight transformations on a shoestring budget shown on TV are far from reality.
A properly planned home renovation executed by trustworthy professionals can absolutely be a dream come true. But if you want to avoid the nightmare of budget overages, drawn-out timelines, and shoddy workmanship, don’t fall for these reality TV lies.
Reality Show Lie #1: The Job Always Takes Longer Than They Say
In a statement issued by HGTV, they admitted that they “may abridge and adjust timelines to help manage production and time constraints.”
Translation: They fudge the timeline to suit the story they’re telling.
Reality shows may make it look like you can have a new kitchen in 24 hours, but the truth is that’s physically impossible. Shows depicting super speedy renovations likely have a professional crew working round the clock for days or weeks to get the job done.
Reality shows make it look like an entire home can be remodeled in a month by leaving out many critical steps involved in the real-world process.
From meeting with architects and contractors to selecting materials and finishes, significant planning and preparation goes into a proper renovation. Not to mention the time required for inspections, humane work schedules, and letting the paint dry.
Reality Show Lie #2: How Much Does it Really Cost?
Sorry to break it to you, but you can’t compete with reality TV home renovation budgets.
These shows receive heavily discounted labor and materials through partners and sponsors. On top of that, they’ve become notorious for using cheap materials and rushed labor to drive down costs.
Reality TV shows would have you believe that contractors can churn kitchens out for $10k a pop.
There’s no way around it; quality floors, countertops, appliances, and furniture that will last doesn’t come cheap.
Reality Show Lie #3: DIYers are Doing it Themselves
Remember watching the regular folks on Trading Spaces DIY their way to total home makeover? That was all clever editing.
DIY projects shown on TV are actually being supervised and largely executed by pros behind the scenes.
One participant on Trading Spaces Family had this to say: “On screen, they show just the families working, but behind the scenes there’s like 6-10 other people that come in the room to expedite the process.”
This may be one of the most dangerous lies perpetuated by home renovation reality shows.
An untrained person should not be attempting their own demolition, construction, or electrical work. At best you’ll end up with subpar workmanship, at worst you could seriously injure yourself or a loved one.
Reality Show Lie #4: The Fancy New Furniture and Décor isn’t Yours
If you’re a fan of the show Fixer Upper, you’ll be familiar with the beautiful Magnolia Market furnishings, rugs, planters and more that fill the finished homes.
Unfortunately for the show’s participants, they’re only on loan long enough for cameras to capture the grand reveal.
Home Town host Erin Napier revealed that the gorgeously restored Southern homes they work on are filled “with goods from all our favorite local shops.” The homeowners usually don’t have enough room in their budget to keep the goods.
Instead, they get a “cataloged binder” of every item and its price should they decide to buy it.
Reality Show Lie #5: Everything You’ll Need is in One Store
On TV, couples make one whirlwind trip to the home improvement store to pick up everything they need — usually after the renovation has started.
The harsh reality is that sourcing materials can take weeks and items frequently need to be ordered from distant suppliers.
Any contractor worth her salt will tell you that you need to start this process well before renovation begins. Ideally, the materials have been gathered and delivered before workers arrive so the process isn’t delayed by waiting for lumber or fixtures to arrive.
What’s more, making your selections in a single trip is ill advised. You have to live with your cabinets, carpet, and paint colors for long time. Rushing this phase only leads to regrets.
Reality Show Lie #6: You Can Wing it
The hasty home renovation process shown on TV would be an absolute disaster in real life.
While reality TV hosts seem to swoop in, immediately grasp the homeowners’ vision, and start knocking out walls in the same breath, this is pure fantasy.
Winging it is a surefire way to ruin your budget and run into frustrating complications and delays. This is repeatedly proven in real-world renovation projects when people — both DIY and professional — attempt to make it up as they go.
Winging it forces you into last minute decisions and often leads to a haphazard finished design.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Solid planning and preparation is a homeowner’s best insurance when embarking on a renovation.
Reality Show Lie #7: You Don’t Need to Go on Vacation While Your Home is Transformed
Some home renovation reality shows prefer to keep the home renovation a surprise for participants. A couple or family may go off on a relaxing vacation for a week and return to a new, barely recognizable space.
The big lie? That a home renovation doesn’t have to disrupt your life at all.
A proper renovation should be carefully orchestrated to minimize disruption and keep your day-to-day schedule as normal as possible. Still, you may need to live for weeks without a functioning kitchen or bathroom, and share your space with workers, tools, and materials.
Even if you can afford to vacation for weeks, it’s best to stay close enough to keep an eye on the project and communicate with contractors.
Reality Show Lie #8: It’s Not all Smiles and Hugs at the End
After the big reveal and emotional reactions, the cameras leave and viewers don’t get to see what happens next.
We’ve already revealed that most of the furniture and decor is quickly stripped away, but it gets worse. There is a growing list of former reality TV participants who were left with shoddy work to repair and redo on their own.
One person on Designed to Sell reported that their “custom” pillowcases were merely fabric duct taped to pillows. And in a more extreme example, a couple on Catch a Contractor ended up with 200 gallons of raw sewage in their home after rushed workers forgot to connect a pipe.
In shows like Extreme Home Makeover, families sometimes end up with a newly built home they can’t actually afford. Mounting taxes and utility bills have even led to foreclosure for some participants.
The Truth? Expert Renovators Can Bring Your Fantasy to Life
The renovations we see on TV may be mostly smoke and mirrors, but in real life it is possible to get the results you want without nasty surprises.
We love to see spaces given new life on TV because we all have areas of our homes that we hope to transform. Watching designers update a kitchen with new flooring or completely revamp the layout of a home can spark great ideas for your own home renovation project. It can even teach you about smart use of space, creative ways to save money, and design trends.
The key is to take your inspiration to someone who can guide you through the actual steps required to do the job right.
The next time you’re inspired by Flip This House or Design on a Dime, remember to keep your renovation dreams grounded in reality.