Reality TV renovation shows always seem to have very low budgets for the amount of work. Why is that?


This question is an astute one, but it is asked far too seldom by the legions of fans of TV remodeling shows. In my new book Remodel! Without Going Bonkers or Broke, I included a section in the Mythbusting chapter called “As Seen On TV”. Here is what I wrote:

As Seen On TV

These days, remodeling is everywhere! People are repairing, adding on, rehabbing, flipping, and DIY-ing on just about every channel on the TV. Which leads to our most widely held and most dangerous myth: it can be done “that cheaply and that fast” for me too, just like I saw on TV.

The truth is, TV has just thirty or sixty minutes to show you the entire remodeling process from the initial idea through completion. So they simply don’t show you everything. And they don’t tell you everything either. By omitting the facts, they promote the myth. And when it comes to the price of the work and the speed of performing the projects, they often . . . well . . . um . . . they lie—though more by omission than by intentional deception.

In reality, with regard to project costs, the hosts that perform physical labor on TV projects are typically paid by their TV contract, and NOT by the homeowner. Many times, the subcontractors on TV shows do not charge at all, or they deeply discount their fees in exchange for being featured on TV. And very often the manufacturers whose products are prominently featured on the shows donate or drastically reduce the cost of their products. So even if these TV shows total up the “bills,” the total can be very misleading, and it’s almost always on the low side.

Additionally, when it comes to how swiftly a project gets performed on TV, remember the saying “time is money.” If the TV production company has to have a film crew and support staff on a remodeling site for twelve weeks instead of five or six weeks, imagine the significant additional costs. To counteract that, they often line up workers and subs in two or three shifts (around the clock), and in some cases even over weekends, in the effort to reduce TV production time significantly by shortening the project duration. This is a major cost savings for the TV show production company. They also don’t include the premium costs for overtime in the final TV show remodeling cost tally. If those fees had to be paid by the homeowner, it would drive the cost of the project ridiculously high and be unaffordable.

Simply put, the entire timing of the work is condensed, and the extra fees to accomplish that are paid by the TV production company. You cannot expect similar project durations like you see on TV when it comes to a project at your home. Nor can you expect the price to be as low as you’ve seen on TV, since you (and not a TV production company) need to pay the remodeling team to do the work and supply the products.

Finally, with regard to TV remodeling, they seldom show the entire process. Planning, preliminary design meetings, work by architects, obtaining permits, and the like are simply skipped. During the two minutes of commercials between the decision to buy a particular house and the start of demolition, a minimum of two to three months’ work had to take place in real life.

The fact is, they don’t show many of the preliminary tasks prior to the start of demo and remodeling simply because it doesn’t fit neatly into thirty minutes and it takes away from the face time with the host. Besides, it’s a slow and costly process that is not very glamorous. And TV is all about speed and glamor.

The bottom line is this: in real-life, it takes longer and costs more than the projects you’ve “seen on TV.”

Read about additional remodeling myths, and learn the best way to remodel in the book Remodel Without Going Bonkers or Broke.