HGTV is a great source of inspiration for the remodeling industry. Their shows are full of creative design ideas and unique uses for repurposed items. What they do a poor job of is representing the true costs of a remodel. Their “budgets” leave out important expenses that cannot be avoided when undertaking a remodeling project in the real world.
How the design is paid for and the fact that permits are required for most of the projects shown on TV is rarely discussed on any HGTV show, however there are costs associated with those necessary steps in the real world. When you have a remodel designed you are paying for that either through a design fee, hourly rate or the costs are rolled into your construction contract. Permits can be a huge expense depending on the project you are undertaking. In Montgomery County, MD the minimum fee for a residential remodeling permit is $265. Large projects are billed by the square footage of the project, at $0.63 per sq/ft for alterations and $0.71 per sq/ft for an addition. Those pennies add up quickly, plus someone has to take the time to pull the permit, and meet with multiple inspectors throughout the course of your remodel.
On TV you usually see the Home Owner involved in the demo process, and sometimes they even bring in a huge crew of family and friends. That’s called free labor, and it’s not part of the budget you see on a reality TV show. It can also be extremely dangerous for the regular home owner to start knocking down their own walls. In the real world the demolition is going to be part of your remodeling expense along with all the labor to build your project. That’s right, HGTV doesn’t include labor in their budgets either. The labor of all those hunky carpenters you see on TV is paid for by the show, and its commercial sponsors. So the overtime you would pay in real life for all those long nights of construction doesn’t factor in to those HGVT budgets at all.
Selecting the perfect cabinet, perfect counter and perfect faucet take a lot of time in the real world. Homeowners visit show rooms and work with designers to narrow down all the choices out there. On a reality show Homeowners are usually shown their products in the great reveal. Or maybe you see them picking from a few choices the designer presents. That’s because the products are preselected on reality shows. They are ads placed by named brand fabricators to market their products … and they are, you guessed it, FREE!
Depending on the age and condition of your home the cost of electrical, plumbing and HVAC can be a large part of your budget. It’s not uncommon in a reality TV remodel to uncover a hidden problem such as knob and tube wiring. Then an electrician is brought in and a budget is set for the change order to correct the problem. What that change order doesn’t include is mark up. Everything in a real world remodel is marked up and no that’s not because contractors and designers are greedy. It’s because they have overhead expenses and need to make a profit. On TV the reality show is the business. Overhead and profit are a concern for the network not the reality designer hosting the show.
Furniture is never included in the budget of a reality TV show and it’s rarely part of the costs associated with a real remodel either. That is because they don’t get to keep the furniture! That’s right the furniture is just a prop for the show. Once the cameras are off it all gets taken away. In the real world unless your contractor is partnering with an interior designer they are not helping you pick out love seats and throw pillows.
So just how do reality designers come up with the budgets they present on TV? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps they use a random number generator or maybe there is some truth behind it and the few things that the show cannot get for free are added up to create the budget. Each show probably has their own method, but the important thing to remember is that they all have major holes in them. In reality there is a cost associated with each part of your remodel. Those costs will vary based on the part of the country you live in and the products you select, but whatever they actually are in reality they will be more than you saw on HGTV.