Rosie Romero Special for the Arizona Daily Star
QQuestion: I watch a lot of home improvement reality shows and get a lot of ideas for my house. How real are the projects on these shows?
Answers: I’m thrilled that you and countless other homeowners are inspired to start home improvement projects. There are some great, inspirational, and educational DIY shows out there. But reality TV isn’t necessarily our reality.
As you watch these shows, remember that these shows should be viewed primarily as entertainment. The networks they appear on are looking for reviews and they will go to great lengths to get them and that is the problem. It’s one thing to find inspiration and ideas and another to believe that what you see on TV is what you get in real life. In most cases, real life is not what is portrayed.
“Oh how far we could go on this subject,” says Bruce Stumbo, project manager at Rosie Right, Design. To build. remodel. “Basically, it boils down to a few things. But one thing, the pricing is very unrealistic. You must have many items donated or made available at cost for the show because on almost every show I’ve seen the price is at least half the realistic cost. Also the deadlines. Although we are very tight on our schedules, some people have an unrealistic expectation of how long a project will take when they watch a show for 45 minutes.”
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Trendy vs. classic
These shows do a great job of encouraging remodeling, educating the public on the latest home improvement trends and encouraging them to don their weekend warriors. But be careful not to fall into the trend trap. Do you remember shabby chic? barn doors? Live laugh Love? Keep calm and carry on? Well, don’t get carried away by what’s trendy. Trendy doesn’t last.
Home improvement remodeling jobs generally show no consistency when compared to real job costs across the country. Compare what you see on TV to the cost in your area with the Cost vs. Value Report (tucne.ws/costvvalue).
“I often bring up ‘non-reality’ television and talk about how unrealistic schedules and budgets are for these programs,” says Rochelle Horn, designer at Rosie Right, Design. To build. remodel. “It provides a smooth way to discuss budgets.”
Some homeowners who appear in shows receive gadgets and other items from the show’s sponsors. They can also receive a fee for their appearance. The services can also be free.
Do a Google search for home improvement shows (not the one starring Tim Allen, which was one of Rosie’s favorites). You will find many articles about homeowners featured on shows who have spent way more money than budgeted.
Aside from a “This Old House” episode in Phoenix circa 1986, a couple of “Extreme Makeover – Home Edition” episodes, and a “Hoarders” episode, I’m not aware of any other home improvement shows that were filmed in Arizona. Finding inspiration can be a problem for an Arizona homeowner. Sure you can get decorating ideas, but the materials and techniques used are generally not recommended in our hot, dry climate. Many of these shows are filmed in Texas, the South, Canada and Southern California. Also, the cost of the remodel isn’t indicative of what we have here. Look again at the Cost vs. Value Report.
Time for TV
Have you seen homeowners or contractors featured on these shows lining up outside city offices waiting for permits to be reviewed to work on electrical modifications, plumbing, and wall removals in their homes? no Submitting and paying for permits takes place behind the scenes and can take some time in a real-world renovation.
Contrary to what is often said, kitchens cannot be designed, demolished and completed in a week. It can take months. With the current economy and material shortages, it can take almost a year for all the materials and equipment to arrive, not to mention the labor needed to complete the project.
In many cases, the final reveal of the houses will be staged with brand new furniture and accessories. Sometimes they are custom made. The homeowners are not allowed to keep these items after the remodeling unless they pay for it. So you need to factor these costs into the project estimate.
There are also cases where the house was left unfinished after the foiling. These shows are scripted and the producers choose what you want to watch.
These shows also don’t quite capture the realistic amount of noise, dust, and dirt a remodel can cause, or the frustration of not being able to use a bathroom for weeks or a kitchen for months.
There are stories all over the internet about homeowners who were on these shows and couldn’t afford to keep their renovated homes. The expense to keep them entertained was so outrageous. According to Desert News, monthly utility bills for an Arizona home unveiled over a decade ago rose from $500 to $1,200 and property taxes increased fivefold. By 2009, the home was up for sale (having not been sold two years earlier), lowering its original price from $1.8 million to $800,000, and eventually selling for $540,000.
So if you want to up the ante on knick knacks, make sure you can afford their upkeep and the increased real estate values they can bring.
And if there’s a casting call for homes in your area, be careful if you take the opportunity. Know what you’re getting into before you sign the dotted line.
Bottom Line: Find inspiration, get ideas, be entertained and know that what you are seeing is not the real world.
Rosie Romero has been an Arizona construction and remodeling industry expert since 1988 and is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning radio show Rosie on the House, which can be heard locally from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on KNST (790-AM) in Tucson and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m is on KGVY (1080-AM) and (100.7-FM) in Green Valley.