HGTV Is Not Realty
We’ve all been on the band wagon of watching one HGTV renovation show or another. Have you noticed the increase in “flips” and renovations in your own neighborhood? Better yet, have you, yourself, been inspired by the thought “I could totally Flip That House”?
The greater follow up to this questions is, how do you think the real life experience compares to what you see on HGTV?
For starters, the concepts of time, budget, and obstacles are gravely misrepresented.
The thing about remodel shows is that there is a major discrepancy in the time lapsed process from the “before” to the anticipated reveal of the “after”. Many contractors will tell you that there is a lot that goes into a project before demolition even starts, including design, selections, material acquisitions, scheduling, and lining up the right subcontractors. In addition, if any materials have a long lead time or if unforeseen issues are uncovered behind the walls, the schedule of the renovation is directly impacted. Client Tip: Avoid starting a renovation if you know you have something big that may be adversely affected if the renovation takes longer than intended. Examples include the need to move-in before it’s done or bring home a new born baby or even plans to host Thanksgiving dinner. It is best that you, as a client, mentally prepare for your renovation to take longer and make the necessary arrangements for your comfort level.
Some shows will often give a high level breakdown of budget, expenses, and the final profit or loss number. What they do not show is the allocation of the money toward the various elements of the process. The design portion often requirers a professional designer or engineer be hired. If it is revealed that the home contains Chinese drywall or lead pipes behind the walls, curing these items can be expensive but necessary in order to proceed and often very costly. If anything is added or changed from the original scope of work, a Change Order is generated which also adds to cost.
Client Tip: If you are not familiar with Change Orders and their impact on the construction process and your budget, it is important to discuss it with your contractor. Take the time to review the estimate and learn where the money in your budget actually goes. Keep in mind, most contractors work with a small cushion to accommodate variances in labor and material costs in order to protect themselves and your budget as much as possible. That means changes can have a big impact on final cost, depending on what they are and when they come up in the process.
Let’s face it, the hurdles displayed on some of our favorite renovation shows are anti-climactic at best. Most of the time, they show an easy solution or alternative that doesn’t seem to affect the time of the project or the relationship between the contractor and the client. In reality, people don’t like getting bad news and hearing that their timeline or budget is being negatively impacted. In reality, contractors do now know what is behind a wall or under a floor until they pull the apart. They can make estimates and assumptions but surprises do happen and it’s important to be ready for them.
Client Tip: A remodel/renovation means that you are taking something that is pre-existing and hiring professionals to turn it into what you want. If a house was built in the 1950s and has been untouched, it may be settled with crooked walls and likely has old HVAC ducts. It’s a good idea to anticipate some revelations and possible complications while turning it into a modern, coastal cottage with great airflow and perfectly linear grouted wall tiles!
Which leads us to our final point of comparison…
While these inspiring renovation shows are wildly entertaining, we must keep in mind that they are geared to do just that… ENTERTAIN. Often featured are the latest design trends, attractive hosts who appear to know it all, unreasonable clean job sites and the most stark before and after products. It may seem like the hosts are doing everything themselves, however, what goes unseen is the staff of professionals that contribute to the majority of the work in order to expedite the process. This can mislead viewers into thinking that they can DIY a remodel or that a renovation project is much simpler than it really is. The problem here is that it creates an unrealistic expectation from clients based on an unrealistic understanding of the renovation process.
If you enter a contractor-client relationship with the notion that you can do the job better, you are leaving little room for trust and creating more room for disappointment resulting from an unrealistic expectation of what the renovation process requires. A good general contractor sees the “before” and shares your goal of achieving your “after” vision, by taking your budget and applying it to the various phases of the process (permitting, demo, engineering, design, systems, finishes, overhead) and doing so within the most realistic timeline and quality for budget.
Client Tip: The best thing you can do is to hire a professional who is willing to educate you and work with you through the entirety of your remodel in a way that sheds light on the truth of the craft of a renovation beyond reality TV entertainment.