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Are HGTV Remodeling Shows Realistic?

 Many homeowners go into a home remodel expecting it to be like an episode of their favorite remodeling show. If you’re a fan of home improvement HGTV shows like Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop, or Property Brothers, you’ve probably dreamed of having a similar experience at least a few times. But are HGTV remodeling shows a realistic representation of the actual remodeling process? 

As one of the Portland Metro Area’s leading remodeling companies, our team at Lamont Bros. helps dozens of homeowners navigate the remodeling process every year. While HGTV remodeling shows offer entertainment value, they are not realistic representations of the remodeling process.

The purpose of this article is to explore how reality TV shows on HGTV and other home improvement channels don’t provide a realistic view on the remodeling experience. After reading through, you’ll have a better understanding of how your home remodel will differ from the programs you’re used to watching on TV. The topics we will discuss include:

I. What is the Purpose of HGTV Remodeling Shows?

To begin breaking down why HGTV isn’t a realistic reflection of the remodeling process, let’s first examine the purpose and format of these shows. 

HGTV Shows are Primarily Meant for Entertainment Purposes

It’s true that HGTV shows are fun to watch. In fact, many of our team members enjoy watching these programs and even have friends who have appeared in them. However, it’s important to recognize that the purpose of HGTV remodeling shows is to entertain rather than educate. 

When watching your favorite house flipping show, remember that the producers often embellish the positive and negative elements of the story to make them more entertaining.  As a result, these shows are rarely reflective of people’s real-life remodeling experiences.

HGTV Shows Only Present a Glimpse of the Remodeling Process

Keep in mind that in television, networks have the ability to control what is and is not shown. With only 30 minutes to an hour of episode time, they have to create a curated portrayal of the remodeling experience. 

Most home remodels take weeks or even months to complete. When watching a hour-long episode about a person’s remodeling journey, it’s easy for viewers to develop false expectations. These shows often gloss over the complexity and timeline of remodeling projects in order to keep them interesting and understandable to the average viewer.

HGTV Shows Make money From Sponsorship & Product Placement

To make additional profit on each episode, many remodeling shows will feature sponsors and product placement. Typically, if a person on the show mentions a product by name and highlights its uses and benefits, that’s the result of a paid partnership with the manufacturer. However, these products may not actually be the best quality or most suitable for long-term use. 

Oftentimes, manufacturers will provide products for free or at reduced cost in exchange for visibility on the show. This can create a false perception of the quality and affordability of the products shown on screen. 

5 Common Misconceptions From HGTV Remodeling Shows

At this point, you should have a little better understanding of the purpose and format of HGTV shows, including their focus on entertainment and product placement.  Now, let’s examine some of the common misconceptions viewers have about remodeling as a result of these shows. 

1. Unrealistic pricing expectations

HGTV shows often do not provide breakdowns of project costs, making it difficult for viewers to understand the true expenses involved in a remodel. 

We as viewers don’t get to see where the builders were offered discounts for product placement, or what money they saved by doing work themselves. This lack of transparency can lead to unrealistic expectations for viewers who may not be aware of the actual costs of remodel construction. 

Material costs also vary depending on the geographic location and type of contractor doing the work. Lumber is cheaper in the Pacific Northwest, while stone and stonework tend to be less expensive in the South. 

Most established remodeling companies do many jobs a year and have a standardized system for acquiring materials. Contractors who only complete one or two remodels simultaneously for a TV show may find themselves chasing highly customized products such as beams, hearthstones, or other large ticket items that make a significant difference for their company’s bottom line.

This photo is from a whole-home remodel that cost over $1 million.

2. Misleading timeline expectations

With episode times constrained to 1 hour at most, remodeling projects are often depicted on television within a short time frame. The condensed portrayal of these projects often fail to showcase a realistic portrayal of the speed at which a remodel can be completed.

Additionally, many of the build crews on HGTV shows not only have construction deadlines, but program production deadlines, as well. Many of these projects end up being completed quickly in order to meet the expectations of the network. When TV show contractors work around the clock the finish a job for TV deadlines, it can mislead viewers into believing their own home renovations could be completed in a similarly expedited manner.

3. Belief in the superiority of products shown

As previously stated, many manufacturers sponsor TV programs by paying for product placement. These product features and endorsements are meant to influence the viewers’ perception of its quality and superiority.

Without considering other products that may better suit their needs, viewers often assume that the products featured on their favorite HGTV show are the best options available. In reality, it’s important to recognize that the materials and products showcased in these programs do not represent the highest quality or durability. Rather, it’s a reflection of who was willing to pay the most money to get their product on screen.

Product placement in TV shows is meant to influence viewer purchasing decisions.

4. Misunderstanding labor costs and expertise

It’s also important to note that labor and material costs vary greatly based on geographic location. Remodeling costs tend to be much higher in the American Northeast and West Coast than in the South and Midwest. HGTV shows often fail to address these variations, giving viewers a distorted understanding of the labor costs they may face based on where they live.

On top of that, viewers should also recognize that television producers often prioritize visual appeal and entertainment value over skilled craftsmanship and quality products on screen. They’re more likely to focus on the appearance of the finished product rather than the process and quality of craftsmanship that goes into creating it. 

By drawing attention away from skilled craftsmanship, viewers may underestimate the level of expertise and attention to detail that is truly required to accomplish their own remodel. We’ve personally seen homeowners who assume that because something looked easy on HGTV, they could achieve a similar result without professional assistance. 

5. Unrealistic expectations about the longevity and quality of outcomes

We all love to see the before and after comparisons at the end of an HGTV renovation episode. But what about 6 months later? What about a year later? How does the renovation actually hold up to the test of time? 

Sometimes, a $50,000 remodel and a $200,000 remodel look pretty similar when compared side by side on the day of completion. But where the $50,000 project used cheap products and contractors who cut corners, the $200,000 one featured top quality materials and skilled craftsmanship. 

It’s not hard to build a remodel that looks great. The hard part is building a remodel that looks great and withstands the test of time. Go back a year later, and you’ll find that the $50,000 remodel has already deteriorated and requires extensive repair. The $200,000 project still looks just as good as it did on the day of completion. 

Due to their restrictive production timeline, HGTV shows rarely capture the long-term quality of the project featured in their episodes. Keep that in mind the next time a home renovation sounds suspiciously inexpensive on TV.

Want To Learn More About the Remodeling Process?

By now, you should have a better understanding of why HGTV shows are better for entertainment than they are for setting realistic expectations for home remodeling. Now, start building your understanding of what makes a truly good remodel successful. Check out our Remodeling Process page to learn more about how the design-build process can provide you with a smooth and enjoyable remodel experience.

Want to talk to a professional about your remodeling dreams? Click the button below to schedule a free design consultation with a member of our team. We’ll help you navigate the challenges of remodeling so you can turn your current home into your dream home.