The discussion about the effect of home renovation reality television shows on the expectations of clients often arises in our office. Let's face it, we all watch them — as if working in an architecture firm 9 hours a day isn't enough, we return to our dens and flip on HGTV to watch the multitude of shows such as "Flip or Flop" and "Property Brothers" as if we are observing a strange wild animal in its natural habitat. I think, for the most part, we tell ourselves it is to "get ideas", but let's face it, it's reality TV — we're in it for the scripted drama just like everyone else.
But in all seriousness, do these shows help or hurt the homebuilding and architecture industry in the long-run? While, on one hand it does inspire possible new clients who have been mulling over the idea of buying a home in need of renovation, or renovating their existing home, to take the big plunge, when they do contact that homebuilder or architect they may come with a set of rather unrealistic ideas base on what they have seen in the 30 minute episode of "Love It or List It" they saw last week.
In all honesty, it is easy to be seduced by these shows which seem to make the transformation of a rundown 1910's home into a brand new ultra modern renovation seem to appear in a matter of a week. The one thing they usually are semi-honest about in these shows is how they are usually "over budget". This is because they come to these clients with ridiculously low estimates in the beginning instead of setting realistic expectations for how much things are actually going to cost.
Another false expectations is timeframes. These shows do not factor in things like engineering surveys, land surveys, arborists to determine whether or not you can remove a tree, and, the most time consuming part, pulling permits from the City. And you need a permit for just about every aspect of the project you are building. This alone can take weeks because if there is one tiny error anywhere which they disagree with, it's back to the drawing board, literally.
One aspect of these home renovation shows I personally like — yes, I watch them religiously — is the "unexpected" that they often run in to once they start opening up walls. This is another huge unknown when beginning a restoration or renovation project. If your home is more than twenty years old, depending on how the original construction was completed, you may have some issues once you peek below the surface. And the older the home, the stranger the issues may be. Remember, at one time permits and inspections weren't needed and people could effectively build as they saw fit. A terrifying thought today.
In recent months there have been more and more scrutiny of the home shows on HGTV and their legitimacy, their authenticity. One show, "Fixer Upper", they recently did a "behind the scenes" edition in which they showed the 37 crew members that followed them around and discussed some of the major problems they have run into while filming, as well as how many "takes" it requires just to film one episode. I appreciated this, especially for our clients, because it removed some of the TV magic that can be so seductive.
When all is said and done, home renovation reality TV shows will always be a double-edged sword for architects and homebuilders. We only can hope that when the public is watching these shows that they remind themselves that this is not true reality, but what can be fit within a nice neat time slot on primetime. Use these shows for ideas for design finishes and layout concepts, but when it comes to the reality of actual construction trust in your chosen architect or homebuilder to be your wise guide throughout the process.