While Tarek and Christina El Moussa of Flip or Flop and Jonathan and Drew Scott of Property Brothers make home renovations look quick, easy and cheap, professionals know the truth — in the real world, it’s not uncommon for home projects to take longer and cost more than projected.
Regardless, consumers don’t seem to be backing off when it comes to spending on their homes — the National Association of Home Builders predicts a 1.6% rise in remodeling spending for owner-occupied single-family homes in 2019, followed by another 1.1% in 2020.
With more people willing to spend some serious cash on home remodels, and more confusion than ever about what is realistic when it comes to remodeling expectations, it’s important for you, the expert, to be prepared and manage these misconceptions accordingly. The following are five common myths perpetuated by reality television that industry professionals are working hard to bust.
Myth No. 1: You can always expect to come in at — or even under — budget on a home renovation.
Reality: While some projects may go smoothly and come in under budget, the reality of construction is that most home renovation projects are right at or over the initial cost projections, said Jerith Bailey, senior designer and remodeling consultant with Mahogany Builders.
“While many homeowners think this is because contractors have shady billing practices, in reality, it’s because we can’t see what’s behind the walls,” she said. “Unlike building a new home, we have to work with what is already in place.” A good contractor will make educated assumptions about the condition of things like electrical, plumbing, and framing, but they can’t possibly know the full scope of the project until the demo is underway.
Keep in mind that turning a profit doesn’t just mean increasing the value of a home — you can also accomplish your goal by keeping costs low. For example, cheap remodeling costs and rising home prices helped El Paso, Texas, rank as the No. 1 city to flip houses in 2019. But even a small-time delay can blow your budget. For every month delay, home flippers in El Paso can expect to shell out around $102 for home insurance.
Myth No. 2: An entire home renovation can happen in a short amount of time.
Reality: With so many people tuning in to home renovation shows these days, it’s important for consumers to get a handle on reality vs reality television. “When filming for a series, time is usually limited and directed towards one project at a time,” said Larry Greene, president of Case Design/Remodeling in Indianapolis. “In reality, our company works on multiple projects at once, and therefore can’t have all hands on deck at all times. Though time is an important factor during the process, it is usually not a hard deadline that we will sacrifice quality in order to meet.”
Timing is especially important to take into consideration when it comes to house flipping, since certain fees — like insurance, for example — still must be paid, even when occupants aren’t currently living in the home due to a renovation.
Myth No. 3: It’s realistic to DIY most, if not all, of your home renovation.
Reality: A fresh coat of paint here and some new hardware there is one thing, but beyond that, it’s likely best to leave important home renovations to the professionals. “Every time I hear a homeowner say that they are going to take on their own home renovation project, I cringe,” Bailey said. “I’ve been in the construction and remodeling industry for 15 years, and even I struggle to complete my own projects.”
Mustering the gumption to actually tackle the project is a challenge in and of itself— according to one study from Porch.com, the average American has nine DIY jobs lingering on their to-do list. Rather than stressing to complete what might actually be a simple task for those with the necessary skills (or spend hours trying to figure out where to start in the first place), professional construction teams can help foresee small issues that can snowball and cause problems for you and your checkbook, Bailey said.
Myth No. 4: You can expect to be totally blown away by the end result of your renovation.
Reality: Good design shouldn’t happen in a bubble, and as such, remodelers likely won’t have that “Aha!” moment that’s all-important in reality shows. Instead, it’s a collaboration between the designer, the contractor, and the homeowner who has to live in the space, Bailey said. “When our job is done, we leave, and the homeowner has to use their kitchen or their bathroom for the next 10 years without us. Their input into the design and process is incredibly important.”
Myth No. 5: Flashy home renovations are profitable.
Reality: Extravagant home renovations with trendy changes may make for good television, but they don’t necessarily make for good reality. If the goal of a property owner is to actually earn a return on their investment, they’ll want to make changes that pay off when it’s time to sell. To do that, Earl White, vice-president of House Heroes LLC, suggests studying the neighborhood and keeping any changes within reason.
For example, if a home is in an area with high turnover, like college towns or military bases, landlords may not want to pay more for high-end finishings that tenants can easily break or wear out. On the other end of the spectrum, if the house is in an expensive or luxury area, the next buyer may expect luxurious details or what White calls the “wow” factor.
“Once you ‘think like the buyer,’ you will have a good sense of where to spend your dollars,” he said.
Reality home renovation shows might be fun to watch for inspiration, but when it comes to actually carrying out the renovations, that’s a task best left to the professionals. After all, expenses can add up quickly, so it’s better for everyone involved when consumers go into the process with realistic expectations, rather than Hollywood-created ones.
This article has been contributed by Callie McGill.