How TV Shows Skew Cost Reality
Updated: Jun 7, 2022
Ever since PBS’ “This Old House” launched some 30 years ago, home renovation TV shows have been a solid fixture in the TV ratings lineup. Their popularity exploded at the turn of the century when Trading Spaces made its debut, itself subsequently spawning a plethora of similarly themed reality shows and successful careers. Many of the hosts are now household names, like Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame and The Property Brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott. Home reno shows also run the gamut of price tags, from Design on a Dime to Million Dollar Decorators, adding that extra emotion of getting it done on or under budget, regardless of how much that budget may be.
Just how accurate are these shows when computing the cost of the gorgeous home renovation projects they accomplish in under an hour of viewing time, versus the possibly months-long, oft-challenging kitchen remodel you’re getting ready to undertake?
Take into account the typical “snag in the process” on these shows. Something goes wrong mid-project, and the remodelers will then ask the homeowners what they want to cut from their original plans to pay for this new problem. Dan Taddei, director of education/certification at National Association of the Remodeling Industry, says homeowners should consider having a contingency budget ready in case this happens in real life, but that’s not entirely essential since things are pretty mapped out beforehand. “Usually, once that project is in demo, it’s hard to make changes,” Taddei says, since materials have already been ordered. Instead, he suggests that the contingency fund match 10 percent of the total budget in case something unforeseeable does goes wrong, or a hidden problem like mold discovery or a leaky pipe.
An audience favorite, the so-called cost breakdown at the end of these shows, is the crowning glory achievement and the bragging point detailing cost of the remodel versus the added home value after completion. Better numbers mean higher ratings, so show
producers do their best to skew the numbers so each job looks like a monetary success. Keep in mind that these shows receive heavily discounted labor and materials through sponsorships and partners, and many are notorious for using cheap materials and rushed labor to decrease costs. In this way they are able to make the numbers prettier for TV, and yes in some instances they actually do mirror real life.
Nationally speaking, construction costs overall have come down, however builders still face considerable obstacles in several areas of the industry. “Builders continue to struggle with rising construction and development costs stemming from excessive regulations, a lack of buildable lots and a shortage of construction workers,” says NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde.
Now that we have an idea as to how TV does it, let’s take a look at the cost of remodeling in our local Florida area, taking into account the cost of living in the country’s best beach town as well as that of building materials and installation. For example, a kitchen remodel in Naples ranges anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 for the average size kitchen, while remodeling a larger one would start at $60,000, running well over $100,000. A master bathroom remodel costs anywhere from 40k to 70k, and a whole house renovation has a price tag of 200k to 400k for the average size house or condo. In short, binge and enjoy all the great home reno shows, as they certainly have entertainment value, but for a personal, true-to-life quote and/or conversation about your luxury home construction or remodel, J. Sweet Construction always puts honesty and integrity first in every project we do.