The truth about renovation reality shows

The truth about home improvement and remodeling

Three things to consider before you renovate an old house


From “House Flipping” to “Flip This House” to “Renovation Realities,” reality TV is packed with DIY home construction programs. The story is often the same: Real people take real old houses, and in the span of a 30-minute show, transform them into a stunning, fresh, perfect, liveable heaven.

We all know not to trust everything you see on TV. But it can be hard not to feel excited and inspired by these kinds of shows, especially if you’re in the market to buy a home, and you appreciate the character of older architecture.

Here are three things to consider before you decide to set off on your own fix-and-flip journey, whether for profit or for personal reasons.

1. Renovation is not as quick as it looks on TV.

Even if you hire professionals, revamping a kitchen or even something as standard as tiling a bathroom is rarely an overnight fix — not to mention fixing water damage, attacking mold or rewiring old electric systems. says a complete kitchen renovation typically takes three to six months.

If you want to do a quality renovation job, you will need patience.


2. Renovation can be expensive — sometimes more expensive than simply buying a newer house that needs no work.

Reality check: Despite the numbers that reality shows throw around, $10,000 often won’t even cover new carpet and paint, according to the Washington Post. You can save money if you shop around, buy on sale and do the work yourself; but also be realistic about costs.

Some types of improvements cost much more than others. Take plumbing. HouseLogic estimates it can cost $4,000 to $10,000 to replumb a whole house. Get a few professional bids — it’s always important to compare, because costs can vary a lot between contractors — and decide if that matches your numbers.

Bottom line: It’s smart to sit down and crunch out a realistic renovation budget before you commit to the vision — and before you make an offer on an old house.


3. Know your own limits.

By all means, get involved in the renovation of your house — as far as you are capable. Homeowners can often do their own painting or even tear out some walls (carefully! Make sure you don’t tear out a load-bearing wall). You can probably replace light fixtures, lay laminate and tear up old carpet.

But don’t hesitate to sign up for a training class, stock up on home-improvement books and watch educational videos online.

Yes, the homeowners on reality TV are shown doing a lot of their own work. But what you may not realize is they have a staff of professionals watching them, helping them and training them behind the scenes.

Don’t be afraid to hire help when you need it, ask questions and get the support you need to do the job right.

The good news is if you approach a renovation with intelligence, savvy and realistic expectations, you truly can create your dream home — one that you helped design with your own hands. And there’s something deeply satisfying in that.


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