4 Home Remodeling Realities that HGTV Gets Wrong


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In the era of reality TV, house flipping, and the ever-growing realm of visual-based social media, home remodeling is becoming a more and more popular subject. Everyone wants to have an “Instagram worthy” interior, but even more, homeowners want to experience the complete design process they see on HGTV. The heartwarming backstory of the couple looking for a home, finding a “diamond in the rough”, and having it transformed into their breathtaking dream home: it’s an emotional journey that almost all of us can identify with. Seeing the impressive 3D renderings, the thrift store finds, the unexpected issues and the dramatic final reveal is enough to make you jump online and search for a local contractor on the next commercial break. It’s no wonder so many of our clients mention an HGTV show as the main source of inspiration for their remodel!

As magical and seamless as these shows make the remodeling process appear, it’s important to keep in mind that 90% of what we see on television is in a controlled environment. The storylines are built up, scenarios are scripted, and most importantly, the remodeling process as a whole is downplayed. As the saying goes, “you can’t believe everything you see on TV.”

If you are serious about remodeling your home, here are the realities to keep in mind while swooning over the dream homes on HGTV:

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1. New home buyers are less likely to complete a major remodel upon moving in.

Many of the shows on HGTV are about a couple or family purchasing a home and proceeding to completely remodel it before moving in. Not only does this process appear to go as smooth as butter (which usually is not the case), but it also has proven to be a very unrealistic scenario for most home buyers. The truth is that finding the right home takes a good amount of time and often a fair amount of stress. A home has to check all of the boxes, such as location, price, condition, number of rooms, whether it can accommodate pets, and so on. After the ideal house is found, the actual purchasing process is its own battle that also takes plenty of time. What seems like one day on television can actually take 60 to 90 days in real life. Top off this lengthy transaction with the headache of fixing up and selling your current home and packing all of your belongings to prepare for the move – well, that’s just about as much stress as most homeowners can handle without the inclusion of a major remodel!

Aside from the time and stress involved in purchasing a house, the cost of buying a new home doesn’t typically leave the buyers in the financial position to complete a remodel. Unfortunately, remodeling an entire home can cost upwards of $100K, with full-gut kitchen and master bathroom remodels coming in around $40K each. Of course, each project is different, as is each homeowner’s financial situation. However, it is important to be aware of this reality before getting your hopes up for a full-scale renovation prior to moving into a newly purchased home.

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2. Planning takes time.

Moving forward with a major home remodel is a big commitment. It takes a lot of time, money, and decision-making. Since most of the reality shows you see on television are only an hour long, the planning phase (not exactly the most exciting part of a remodel) is often shortened or left out completely.

At Medford Design-Build, we typically allow for 4 to 6 weeks of “planning” during the design and purchase order phase. This phase comes immediately after the initial consultation and involves our designers putting together the floor plans, 3D renderings and a detailed scope of work document for the entire project. Once the designs are complete and approved by the client, our Interior Designer helps to select all of the materials and budget items for the project (tile, appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc.) This process can be quick, but typically you want to have some time to think about options, visit showrooms or debate different aesthetics. After everything has been selected, our Operations Manager will order and track all of the items. We will not start construction until after everything is delivered and all of the design details have been finalized. This planning phase is critical to a successful outcome! If it is neglected or skipped, you’ll see the repercussions throughout the remainder of the project.

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3. The total cost might be higher than you expect.

How many times have you been watching a home improvement show when the total cost of the renovations pops up on the screen and you think “hey, I can afford that!” Unfortunately, this is what causes the most heartache and the highest level of sticker shock when homeowners come to us for a quote. The reality of the matter is that the types of full-scale remodeling projects you see on TV tend to be significantly more expensive than what is portrayed. This is especially true if the cost quoted on the show does not include the cost of budget items, such as high-end appliances. Networks like HGTV often partner with advertisers that provide free materials, and some contractors that appear on these shows will work at discounted rates in exchange for the free publicity.

These TV shows also tend to leave out the starting condition of the home. If you plan to remodel a house that has pre-existing issues, such as foundation problems, water damage, or asbestos, additional time and money will be required to correct these things before the actual remodel can begin. Of course, these are not “fun” things to think about or to feature on a tv show, so naturally, these details are left out of the storyline.

You also must take your location into consideration. Rates can vary depending on your city; a kitchen remodel in San Francisco, California is not going to cost the same as a kitchen remodel in Waco, Texas, for example. For realistic average costs of various remodeling projects across the US, this cost vs value report is an honest source. It would be wise to do some research regarding the national average and the local average cost for your specific remodeling project before you start calling contractors!

Lastly, it’s important to remember that quality work doesn’t come at a discount, so if your project is large, you should view your remodel as an investment in experienced designers, skilled craftsmen and polished tradesmen. It’s okay to shop around and price multiple contractors, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for and the cheapest contractor might not be the best choice. It could potentially cost you much more in the long run if you hire the guy with the lowest price if he also has the least experience and fewest credentials.

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4. Construction can’t be completed overnight.

How nice it would be to snap our fingers and have a full house worth of construction complete in a matter of hours! Unfortunately, this is not at all the reality. The quick turn-around times where an entire remodel is completed within a few days is yet another fallacy TV shows imply. Truthfully, the exact timeframe of a project will depend on its specific size and complexity.  Even if the project is small, there are various stages of the remodeling process that cannot be rushed. Painting, for example, might involve applying a primer or sealer in addition to the paint itself, which can take multiple days to finish to allow each to fully dry before the next can be applied. You also have to take into consideration the availability of professionals like plumbers and electricians – if they are subcontractors, it’s likely they have multiple jobs on their schedule, meaning they will get you in when they can. On home improvement shows, contractors often work around the clock, which is not common practice. You might see a handful of people working on the show, but in reality, there is a whole team of people off screen scrambling to get the job done as quickly as possible. Again, not realistic!

Our process at Medford Design-Build is to allow approximately 6 weeks for the construction phase of a remodel.  As mentioned, size and complexity can impact this timeframe, but it’s a goal we can generally meet. The schedule for your unique remodel will be discussed during your design review meeting at our office, which will allow us to set specific dates for every step of the project. You will also be assigned a project manager once construction begins to ensure everything is done correctly and on time. For more information about the timeline you can expect for your remodel, see our recent blog.

While these realities might somewhat burst your bubble regarding your home remodeling dreams, it’s important to know the truth about what you will be jumping into should you choose to meet with a contractor. You can certainly still enjoy watching HGTV; the shows are a great source of inspiration and can really get your creativity going. Just be careful not to set false expectations regarding planning, budget and timeline!

For more (truthful) information about the remodeling process, contact us! We’d be more than happy to chat with you about the process, answer your questions, and send you a free sample design package to your email!

Warm Regards,

The Medford Design-Build Team

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