When reality really means fantasy in real estate TV shows

Feb 12, 2018

It’s a no-brainer. You can fold laundry to it, play your own music in the background or walk away from it. Then you can come back 55 minutes later and see the “big reveal” of a home that was renovated on a reality real estate TV network. It’s gorgeous, of course, and people are giddy over the results. Who wouldn’t be?

The formula for each show like this is the pretty much the same every time. Find fixer-upper. Buy fixer-upper. Choose a budget with or without the buyers (if you are an investor, you do this for yourself). Show all the unexpected stuff that happens along the way as the home gets made over. Who knew there would be lead paint applied to and asbestos behind the walls of a 100-year old house? Then show the gratifying final product — one that looks NOTHING like the original on the inside (fully staged, of course) and sometimes on the outside.

But how about those budgets and timelines they present, usually listed right there on the screen? After all, what you’d pay for materials and labor in Waco, TX, does NOT equate what you’d pay in LA, New York, or Miami, so are these shows just leading us down the rosy path to dream home budget disaster? Does pricing include labor? How much of the stuff you see is furnished by sponsors, home staging professionals, or contractors hoping to get noticed and willing to give away their services? Do these 7-8 week timelines they talk about happen only when the show employs multiple crews working around the clock — something we plebes could never arrange nor afford? Since the credits at the end of the shows do not include these disclosures, we’ll never know.

Doing a bit of research, here is what we found:

Renovation costs on reality TV shows are usually unrealistically low. Contractor quotes for gutting houses on these entertaining shows coming in at around the $50,000 to $60,000 for some savings-strapped homeowner or clever house flipper would probably soak the rest of us to the tune of $100 to $200K. In neighborhoods close to major cities, renovation costs for an entire house flip would rarely be less than six figures unless the house was a tiny bungalow or a condo.

The average cost of a kitchen remodel alone (new cabinets, appliances, countertops, etc) — WITHOUT relocating appliances, plumbing, or changing the room’s footprint —is about $30,000 according to Home Advisor. So when you watch these shows and see walls coming down to make way for new kitchen islands, sinks being moved necessitating jack-hammering concrete foundations and fancy vent hoods with marble backsplashes being installed, you can bet the price would be triple for you and me, and there would be no remaining budget for that new fireplace fascia, the gorgeous new master bath or a state-of-the-art laundry room they include in the show.

So if you’re in the market for a great deal on a house to live in, remodel or flip, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain of a reality real estate TV show when it comes to pricing and timelines. Values are not what they seem (nor profits), and expectations are wildly out of line with reality. These shows (while fun to watch to gather ideas for projects you’d like to tackle in your own home) are crafted for entertainment value first and foremost. In the meantime, they do get the laundry folded.

 

Source: TBWS

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