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2 Major Ways HGTV Creates Unrealistic Expectations for Building and Renovating Houses


All of us at AJ have certainly enjoyed HGTV shows before! While not completely realistic and clearly shot more for the drama at times (it IS a TV show, after all), it can be fun to see before and afters of houses that renovation teams take on, all in under thirty minutes. Although it’s fun to enjoy an HGTV show, we think it’s important to understand that it’s just that - a show. HGTV often leads homeowners or potential homebuyers or builders astray by giving them unrealistic expectations for how the process will go. Here are two major issues we have and have run into in our field before. Let’s start with the biggest one we often run into: the cost. 

The average cost of a major, upscale kitchen renovation is $119,909, according to Remodeling’s 2016 Cost Versus Value Report. Yet homeowners who appear on TV shows often get a new kitchen, new flooring throughout the entire house, new windows and doors, and a luxurious patio area, all for less than $100,000. Some renovation shows are worse than others: entire kitchens can be remodeled for $10,000, and entire floor plans can be changed for only a few thousand dollars.

Here’s the catch on why these renovations are so cheap:

Manufacturers donate their projects in exchange for free advertising, while contractors work at a reduced rate or for free in the hope of attracting more business.

It certainly is a good deal then to get featured on one of these shows (although you won’t have as much freedom in picking finishes: you get what’s donated), but it is NOT representative of how much it actually costs to do a massive remodel. Homeowners will watch HGTV and think that they can remodel their entire kitchen for $10,000, when really, even with free labor, purchasing cabinets, floors, hardware, and countertops alone won’t come in under 10k. It’s fun to watch these shows, but if you’re seriously considering a build or a remodel, do your research to figure out how much these things actually cost in your area so you aren’t blindsided by a (totally realistic) quote!

This brings us to our second issue: the compressed timeline.


Most HGTV shows follow the same formula:

• The host/remodeler meets with the homeowners to discuss the project.

• A short time later, the host shows the homeowners plans that include everything on their wish list, plus a few additional items.

• Construction begins, but uh oh, there’s a snag that will delay the project and add to the costs. One or more items on the wish list now have to go.

• Despite all the hand wringing, the big problem barely slows down work, and the project is completed in a week or less.

Although the quick turnaround never seems to drive up costs on the shows, in real life, contractors would need to work long hours to finish a project in a week or less. Working around the clock would increase the budget and compromise the quality of the work. Focusing on quick deadlines, rather than quality, often leads to corner cutting. Unfortunately, you usually end up spending more later to fix the issues that can occur. The truth is, a house is something you live in and don't want to cut corners on: a lot goes into making sure a house is quality. These things, as well as scheduling specialized contractors to make sure the job is done safely and correctly (like electricians, plumbers, etc) take time. You may be excited about your new remodel, but trust us: it’s worth the wait!

HGTV shows aren’t documentaries. They’re fun to watch, but don’t take them as an honest depiction of the building industry. Thanks to all of our years in the business, we have plenty of real-life experience and can help you successfully navigate the design and build process. Call us today to set up an appointment for a quote, and we can get you on the right path!