The chances are good that you've seen, and may be a fan of, Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop, and/or many other "reality shows" featuring BEFORE/AFTER home renovation projects. I admit, I watch them as well.
What is the impact of these programs? Are they helping to educate you, or setting you up from trouble? In an informal survey, readers of "Today's Buyer's Rep" (an elite designation newsletter) strongly agreed that today's popular home improvement shows have made buyers more interested in fixer-uppers, but also more vulnerable to unrealistic expectations.
Like The Bachelor, Pawn Stars, Hell's Kitchen, and so many other iterations of realty television, very little "reality" is included in these highly scripted and edited programs. Still people get fired up by home renovation shows and assume they can replicate the results.
Even the people who homes are featured un the shows may be in for unpleasant surprises. For example, Love It or List It spent years in litigation with the owners of a home in Raleigh, NC over purportedly shoddy work that included low-grade industrial carpet, windows painted shut, and holes in the ductwork that allowed vermin to enter the home. (The case was later settled, with no disclosure details.)
When helping my buyers, my top priority is helping clients achieve their goals and make smart purchase decisions. With that in mind, consider these five common myths, as well as five ways I provide valuable assistance.
IT'S EASY TO FIND A GOOD FIXER-UPPER
This may have been true over a decade ago when home prices where rising and the question was "how fast?" Back then, it seemed like any house could be resold at a handsome profit after a few relatively easy updates, especially if you watched those first "flipping" shows.
Now it's a different story. There are still many good investment opportunities, but it may take some effort to find them. If you want to bargain-hunt, understand that you will be competing with investors, many of who have extensive experience and deeper pockets.
A seasoned investor knows hot to spot a property in a good location with "good bones," where the cost of repairs won't eat up potential profits. Investors won't bid too high, but may beat other offers, simply because they are able to pay cash. The more you are educated and allow me to arm you with the correct tools to make good decisions, quickly, the better your chance of finding a good fixer-upper.
I CAN SAVE (OR MAKE) A LOT OF MONEY
Obviously, renovation cost vary widely depending on how much work is "needed, " who is doing it, and a host of other factors. Many professional real estate investors complain that the budgets quoted on home improvement shows are unrealistically low- and the final resale price is overly optimistic.
This may be due, in part, to the regional cost variations. From an investor's perspective, however, the numbers probably don't add up because many of the expenses they face on regular basis are completely overlooked, including transaction costs (closing fees/commissions), building permits, dumpsters, portable toilets, insurance and other carrying costs.
It's also possible that the budgeting differences stem from the fact that the producers of remodeling shows operate more like "stagers" than full-fledged renovation professionals, who may encounter more expensive structural issues or stricter building codes. On television, many of the updates are largely cosmetic and the decorating elements (furniture, wall decor, etc.)disappear after the big reveal (aren't included in the budget).
Further, it's important to keep in mind that reality shows may limit their renovation efforts to a handful of rooms, whereas an owner will need to contend with the entire home, driving up their budget.
THINGS WILL GO ACCORDING TO PLAN
Most renovations projects require strong doses of both patience and tenacity. Hopefully, if you are a fan of DIY Network, HGTV, and the like, you also understand the shows frequently discount these requirements. Cost overruns, delays and headaches are often the rule, rather than the exception.
Granted, every episode of Love It or List It, Fixer Upper, and many other renovation reality shows include a "bad news" discovery, adding complications and costs to the owners' budget. Whether these "surprises" are a nod to reality, or simply a vehicle designed to inject a little drama into the story, is anyone's guess. Regardless, it's hard to imagine real home owners going along with these "whoops" so quickly and agreeably.
For more pragmatic perspectives on home improvement, check out Renovation Realities and First Time Flippers, which document the travails of homeowners tackling significant projects on their own. You won't find a crew of helpers or celebrity host deftly managing the transformation. Instead, on these shows, things rarely go according to plan.
IT WON'T TAKE VERY LONG
Finding, purchasing, and moving into any home is a time-consuming process. Factoring a major renovation project into the equation-- or the need to find buyers or renters when the project is complete-- extends timelineseven more.
And yet, home improvement shows almost always give the impression that everything falls into place at lightning speed. Of course, an episode that only featured staled out projects, waiting on inspectors to show up, or a delayed delivery of new windows, etc. is about as interesting as watching paint dry.
IT WILL BE EASY TO NAIL THE DESIGN UPDATES
Granted the proliferation of home renovation programming, websites, and Pinterest boards have armed consumers with many excellent design tips. However, good home design still requires bith skill and judgement, and there are a number of ways things can go wrong.
For example, you may be over overly eager to impose a particular style on a home, maybe going so far as to remove important architectural details. Solid wood six-panel doors and elaborate moldings may be tossed into a dumpster, in order to get the modern style you crave. Or, some people may purchase a home more suited to their preferred style, but execute the updates poorly.
Even if you know how to achieve a particular look, you are still working against the clock. Since styles constantly change, every home will eventually look dated. Sadly, that cycle now occurs faster than ever, especially if the trend becomes so popular it is overdone.
Of course, this is good news to big- box retailers, home improvement stores, paint suppliers, etc. (i.e., the sponsors of renovation programs). Consumers already feel compelled to regularly update the items in their closet. It should comes as no surprise that the home improvement industry would hope to instill the same "need" for frequent updates.
Some changes are relatively cheap and simply. After all, what's the big deal if faux deer heads are replaced with new wall art? It's the big ticket items--those full kitchen/bath remodels and moving-the-wall renovations--where the money is really on the line.