The HGTV Illusion
HGTV sucks you in.
As a family in the real estate business, we are certainly not immune to its deceptive charm. We watch it. A lot.
HGTV is addictive. But the fact that you could waste hours in front of the TV being riveted by befores and afters as if you were watching a true crime series isn’t what makes it so dangerous. The danger lies in the false expectation in creates in the viewer (and the market as a whole) as to how easy it is to buy, renovate, and sell a home. Sure, HGTV doesn’t claim to be a pragmatic how-to resource, but it presents these seemingly magical transformations as the norm. That’s dangerous territory.
One of the biggest problems is the cost of renovations. Take Love It or List It, for example.
A buyer comes in with a long list of requests; kitchen re-do’s, removal of stairs and/or walls, additions, completion of basements and master bath overhauls. All of this with a budget of $35-$50k? Yea, right. And that doesn’t even account for the extra fees you rack up when using the services of architects, engineers, and interior designers.
Beyond cost, timing is a reality often ignored. I guess an episode where plans to knock down a wall sit on a City Hall desk for three weeks doesn’t make for very compelling television. But that is real life. Sometimes something that simple can completely derail the budget of a project.
Another factor of home improvement given the reality TV gloss? The cost of financing and transferring property. These shows make it seem like the $30,000 spent on a renovation magically adds $45,000 of equity to a property. That’s a cool $15,000 of new equity right? Not so fast. If cash was used to finance the renovation, it gets locked up unless the property is sold or refinanced. Say goodbye to some or all of that $15,000. It’s going to closing cost of commissions. I haven’t even touched on refinancing rates or the unpredictable nature of appraisals. Who knows if the bank will agree on the worth of a house based on comparable sales?
The buying process is also rarely as easy as these types of shows depict. The usual scene: a buyer looks at three properties, goes over plans and details with their team, and then buys one of the properties just like that. There’s no mention of bidding wars or the payment for the contractors and architects drawing up those plans. This can be a difficult and time consuming process, and these shows make viewers think it’s as easy as signing a contract.
Now, bear with me. I don’t mean to suggest that these shows are not entertaining or useful…to a point. Renovating a home to include more natural light, cleaner paint choices, and well-chosen décor and furnishings can definitely improve its chances on the market and make the owners happier living there. Illustrating the hottest trends keeps viewers informed. And who doesn’t love a good before and after? Taking the dive into renovating a home might be the best option for some folks, and these shows do a great job of showing the fun and glamorous side of the process, but they don’t give the complete picture.
Be wary of HTGV if you’re considering getting into a renovation or buying a home. You can absolutely use these shows as inspiration, but don’t forget these things take time, lots of money, and a fair amount of plain hard work. Get ready for the unexpected, be sure to pad your budget, and be realistic about what you can actually do. You’re in for a wild ride.
And don’t forget to tune in tonight at 8 to see whether they are going to “Love It or List It”!