One of the most popular ways to zone out — especially if you’re an avid television watcher with an interest in all things property — is to tune into one of the many reality shows that entertains viewers by chronicling a home’s construction or renovation.

Shows like Fixer Upper, Property Brothers, Love It or List It, Flip or Flop, This Old House and Boise Boys take viewers through the “extreme makeover” of one (or sometimes more than one) house, giving them the full story in just 30-60 minutes.

While we love these shows just as much as the next person, there are some things about the home renovation process that don’t quite capture, well, reality.

Here are some of the key things you miss when you’re watching TLC or HGTV:

The process takes longer than it looks.

Sure, while it looks like you can have a brand-new kitchen or a completely remade master bedroom in a matter of a few days, the truth is, real remodeling takes a lot longer — especially if it’s to be done correctly.

Patrick Hurst told Kiplinger that his design/building/remodeling company was part of DIY Network’s House Crashers show. Here’s what they had to say about the disconnect between reality and reality TV:

Hurst’s team participated in a three-day remodel that converted a historic butcher shop into a livable space for a young family. Under normal circumstances, that type of project, which involved revamping a gutted storefront, would’ve taken about six weeks to complete, he says. There are various stages of the remodeling process that typically aren’t done all at once. Painting, for example, which might involve having to apply a primer or sealer in addition to the paint itself, can take multiple days to finish because each product needs to dry fully before the next can be applied, he adds.

When you see a large project get finished quickly on television, what you don’t see is all of the scrambling that goes on behind the scenes to get the job done on time, Hurst notes. Oftentimes contractors are working around the clock, which is not common practice. “On screen, they show you three or five people working, but it’s really like 30 people in the background working.”

The new decor and furniture on these shows won’t stick around.

Isn’t it amazing not just the structural and architectural changes the remodeling team does — but the design and furnishing choices they make, too?

That smash hit show Fixer Upper fills homes with those shabby chic Magnolia furnishings such as rugs, couches, art and more.

One article talks a little more about this:

Unfortunately for the show’s participants, they’re only on loan long enough for cameras to capture the grand reveal.

Home Town host Erin Napier revealed that the gorgeously restored Southern homes they work on are filled “with goods from all our favorite local shops.” The homeowners usually don’t have enough room in their budget to keep the goods.

Instead, they get a “cataloged binder” of every item and its price should they decide to buy it.

But usually they’re so far over budget (another typical situation with these shows) that they can’t afford the goods.

You can be in your home during a renovation project.

On a lot of these shows, the homeowners are either appearing to be hands-on and deeply involved in the renovation process, or they’re sent away while the dream team does its magic.

An article on Angie’s List shares that the more realistic approach and expectation is to prepare to live with a big mess for a while.

“Sometimes on those shows, homeowners aren’t living in the actual remodeling, which is a huge difference,”  [project designer Angela] Burks says. “Ninety-nine percent of our clients are living in the home while we’re doing it. It can be tough for them not to be able to use their bathroom, or the bedroom because it’s attached to the bathroom.”

Currently in the midst of a home renovation, Angie’s List member Kim Mitchell of Carmel, Indiana, says she and her family must deal with a constant flow of people in the house as Case Design/Remodeling Indy renovates her entire first floor.

“Just having people in your house all the time can get a little crazy,” she says, describing how her family must maneuver through plastic zippers each day, and ignore the dust that seems to get everywhere. “I think I kind of had to accept the fact that the house was not going to be clean at all for a long time.”


You can’t find everything you need in one place.

Many times on these reality shows, the contractors appear to have a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants approach to projects, and they’re able to waltz into a Lowe’s or Home Depot (show sponsors, no doubt) and find everything they need to make the remodel happen. One stop shopping — incredible!

It’s far more realistic for remodelers to have to shop at multiple stores, and even order certain speciality items online. The most experienced renovators will tell you that material sourcing takes weeks, and probably needs to be started even before the renovation itself begins.

I mean, think about it: Why limit yourself to the inventory on hand at one particular store, only to have to live with your selection for years?


The budgets they throw around aren’t exactly realistic.

Oh yes, the budget. On a lot of shows, the projects will hit some sort of problem and then they’ll adjust the scope of the project, asking the homeowners which aspects of the remodel they’d want to scrap.

The truth is, once you start a remodel project, it’s pretty tough to scale back. The more likely scenario is that you’ll blow up your budget. Since materials are ordered and plans and permits have been prescribed, it’s pretty near impossible to cut out aspects of a project.

And if you’re basing your remodeling budget on what you see on television, think again. Kiplinger shares:

Networks 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. Rich Carl, project manager for iKitchens Etc., in Falmouth, Mass., knows firsthand because his company was invited to appear on a remodeling reality show in 2010, but declined because the pay was significantly lower than what they’d usually charge.


It’s harder than it looks to execute a quality remodel project.

Whether you’re misled into thinking that a $25,000 standard kitchen remodel will only run you $10,000, or that some of the high-quality work these crews do can be done DIY-style by a husband and wife team over a long weekend — remember this: these shows make it look easy.

That’s why it’s best to find pros who can set a realistic budget, create the remodel of your dreams and carry it out to the standards you expect.

Walgrove will follow the script to ensure that your aspirations are more than just Hollywood magic.

Call us today.