5 Things Home Improvement Reality TV Shows Don’t Tell You

You start off your Saturday morning ready to tackle your to-do list, but somehow you end up on the couch, flipping through TV channels.

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(Image credit: Thinkstock)

You start off your Saturday morning ready to tackle your to-do list, but somehow you end up on the couch, flipping through TV channels. Then you land on your favorite home improvement station. Six hour-long episodes of home-buying/selling/renovation reality TV shows later, you’re now a self-proclaimed expert.

Not so fast. While having the viewing experience might seem helpful, it can be misleading if you are actually looking to remodel or buy a home.

This year, the value of home remodeling saw its largest increase since 2005, returning an average of 66.1% of the amount invested, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value report. And Kiplinger forecasts that new- and existing-home sales will accelerate by year’s end. So as homeowners see larger returns on their renovation investments and as more buyers are actively searching for new homes, homeowners and buyers alike may watch these shows before hiring a contractor or realtor thinking they are realistic. And in many cases, they are not.

In a statement to Kiplinger, HGTV, which produces several popular shows, including “House Hunters” and “Love It or List It,” had the following to say when asked about the behind-the-scenes quirks that aren’t disclosed to viewers:

“Our goal is to respect the home-buying, selling or renovation process, while still creating fun and entertaining programming for viewers. When we’re telling a real estate or renovation story for television, we may abridge and adjust timelines to help manage production and time constraints. In some cases, a program is a competition series or a crazy experiment designed to play out the ‘what if’ fantasy of our viewers. Today’s viewers are savvier than ever and know that the development of an entertaining program does require the occasional use of a creative license.”

We talked with several remodeling and real estate experts, as well as people who’ve appeared on some of these shows, to find out what some of the biggest misconceptions are -- and to get advice on how homeowners and buyers can set more realistic expectations. Take a look.

Andrea Browne Taylor
Contributing Editor

Browne Taylor joined Kiplinger in 2011 and was a channel editor for Kiplinger.com covering living and family finance topics. She previously worked at the Washington Post as a Web producer in the Style section and prior to that covered the Jobs, Cars and Real Estate sections. She earned a BA in journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She is Director of Member Services, at the National Association of Home Builders.