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6 ways ‘reality’ renovation TV shows can be misleading


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You’re probably familiar with this scene on the TV: A young couple purchases a fixer-upper and wants to change the layout, the outdated features and a few other undesirable features the home has to offer.

Within 30 to 60 minutes, you see this fixer-upper become transformed into something you would see on the front cover of a magazine — glitzy, glamorous, and, of course, adorned with the trendiest accessories and fresh flowers.

Although these shows are certainly entertaining, they can often portray unrealistic timelines and budgets compared to what a true renovation project can really entail.

Here are six ways that reality renovation shows can skew viewers’ beliefs about how renovations unfold IRL (in real life).

1. The show doesn’t give the complete picture  

We can’t blame the reality shows here — you can only fit so much in 30 to 60 minutes. There’s no way that a renovation could be completed in that time; often, a simple renovation can take a few weeks to complete.

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Additionally, a lot of vital steps to the process are left out because they aren’t entertaining.

Successfully completing steps such as researching, having architects draw up the plans, consulting engineers on structural issues, getting estimates from contractors and getting permits from local building officials can equal months of work — and then the real “work” begins!

2. The costs might not be accurate either  

Costs will vary depending on where your client lives, which materials your client chooses to use, how long the project takes and more. Besides, it isn’t unusual for home renovation shows to receive discounted materials and labor!

3. The whole process isn’t fluid and easy  

Life isn’t scripted. Sometimes, unexpected and expensive setbacks happen, especially when walls and floors are opened.

It would be wise for your client to set aside extra money, just in case he or she comes across any unforeseen incidents that could eat into the renovation budget.

4. The home won’t automatically look like a magazine cover

As nice as it would be to have your client’s home look like the front cover of a home and garden magazine — it won’t.

In the shows, cleaning crews, window washers and designers come together to make the space as beautiful as possible for television. After a real-life renovation project, the home will be covered in dust, and the furniture will be placed in temporary spots.

Oh, and your client shouldn’t expect fresh flowers and unique accents that complement the space to appear automatically. He or she will have to set aside some money in the budget for those things to make the home look just as nice.

5. A major renovation project can’t be completed quickly

Real-life renovations almost always take much longer than they’re portrayed on TV. Timetables can change often, whether the homeowner wants something added or the contractor has run into an unforeseen issue.

Additionally, required municipal inspections that occur during different points of the project can also cause some delays.

6. Materials aren’t chosen in one quick shopping trip

Not at all. In fact, shopping for the precise materials to use in the renovation can take weeks or months, and that doesn’t even include shipping.

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to flooring, lighting, cabinetry and more, which makes the selection process more drawn-out (yet definitely well-worth it for your client).

Renovation shows like Fixer Upper can be very educational and can also serve as inspiration if your client wants to transform his or her space.

Just remind your clients to look beyond the editing process in the show, keep realistic expectations in mind and do plenty of research before undertaking a renovation project, and they’ll wind up with a space they love in the end.

Mike Pulley is a renovation aficionado at Home Buy Design. You can follow him on Facebook or Instagram.

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