HGTV Shows versus Reality

Who likes HGTV? I love watching all the home renovations shows, from "Fixer Upper" to "Flip or Flop" to "Property Brothers". When we bought our home last April I binged watched all these shows to get ready to do our own flip. I was pregnant and could not move around much so it was perfect. In April we started our home renovation. Started is a good word because unlike the HGTV shows I have found that home renovations take time, not 30 minutes or an hour of life, or three weeks like happens in the shows. Why? Read on to find out how they compare and what I have learned about home renovations.


1. The biggest factor in all the HGTV shows is MONEY. And money will influence a lot of factors in the speed, timing and quality of the renovation. On the shows buyers usually come in with $100,000 dollars extra to spend on their renovation. Maybe this is the case for some, but it was not for us. When we bought our house we qualified for more, but we could not access the funds. The reason? The bank only wants to loan what the house is worth. If the house is undervalued there may be room to ask for some back from the sellers. But if it is undervalued there is a risk of the sellers wanting more for the house depending on the type of market it is. The best way to do a quick high quality renovation is to have the money saved up to spend on it.

We did not have the extra money to spend on the house. Therefore the renovations are not happening as quickly as they would on a show. And what I have learned is that is okay. As long as there is a plan the plans will happen.

2. One of the first things we did when we were planning our renovations was to MAKE A LIST of all the ideas we had for the house. Just write them down. We wrote down everything even if it seemed silly. We found sometimes the silly things were things we both wanted. It really helped me and my husband be on the same page with the renovations. After we wrote them all down we prioritized them. What was the most important and what could wait? And what was a pipe dream?

3. DRAW IT OUT AND PLAN. The HGTV shows do this really well. They make schedules and have a plan. I made a 3-D model of our house using home by me. It was really easy to change wall colors and flooring. We were able to get an idea for what we wanted our house to look like. I wish changing all those things in real life was that easy :)
The before picture
The after, we still have some planning to do ;)
4. RESEARCH. Before renovations start research everything. This will help if you DIY or if you hire contractors. I worked at a home improvement store in college and studied engineering. This helped me immensely when talking to the contractors that were helping us. I also as stated above watched a ton of home improvement shows. This helped me find lots of ideas and know how to fix issues that arose during our improvements.

5. Figure out the ORDER for each project. What do I mean by this? We wanted to paint the whole house first. We elected to paint all our oak trim instead of getting rid of it. But we also wanted to replace our floors. In order to replace floors baseboards need to be taken off quite often. In one room we painted them first and the other rooms we did not. The baseboards in the kitchen got removed 3 times. And guess what they looked horrible and needed to be painted again. The baseboards in areas that did not need to be painted again look good. I wish we had waited to paint those baseboards.

Make a flow chart of what needs to get done first. Sometimes it will be a toss up, should carpet be put down or the room painted first? Other times it will definitely be an order. Replace sink with vanity. For example for us we removed mold first, then did sheetrock repairs and then put down the flooring. Then we put the baseboards up.

6. After we wrote down our ideas WRITE A TENTATIVE SCHEDULE. This schedule will most definitely be changed with time as problems come up with the renovation and they will. But with this schedule in mind there can be a plan.

7. After we wrote down our ideas I started PRICING OUT EVERYTHING. Why is this important? It helps fine tune the schedule and helps know what can be done according to the money that is available. Start talking to contractors and ask them for estimates. Are they affordable? Or would some of the things be good as a DIY?

At first we were going to paint our whole house. The more I researched it I realized pregnant women should not paint and I did not want my husband to do it all by himself. We started asking contractors and found an affordable and awesome painter. She was way under what we thought it was going to be. We elected to do some of the shelving and closet design ourselves because it did not seem as complicated or time consuming. Find out what works for the situation.

8. Always have EXTRA FUNDS for issues that will definitely come up, especially when ripping up walls or flooring. That is one thing the shows definitely get right. Issues will come up that affect the budget and will change the schedule. When we were planning our house before we moved in we did not know what issues we would encounter. When did we find these issues? When we were ripping up carpet to put in flooring the next day, and found mold. When we took out a window and found the sill down was rotted out. When we moved in and found lots of pests (carpenter ants, wasps, and mice) and had to call pest control. When we went to clean our dryer vent, but instead we found it improperly connected and had to replace the whole thing. When we painted our house and realized our ceilings were not white, but cream. All of these issues we uncovered and took more money out of our pocket.

9. MAKE A BUDGET. After we found out what we wanted to have happen we budgeted our funds. This helped us make clear goals about when we could do things and save up for what we wanted done.

10. BE PATIENT AND FLEXIBLE. This is probably the most important thing I have learned during the renovation. Unless there are unlimited funds there is no way to do every thing all at once. And projects will have to be moved around. We need our trim to be painted, our doors replaced light fixtures replaced. But we have also done so much, replaced our flooring, replaced some windows, updated our venting system, and painted our whole house.

Good luck with your renovation and remember even if you can not do it as fast as the shows, you can transform your house and make it your home. I can not wait to share with you everything we have done to our home!