The Great Lie: Reality Television

With an onslaught of shows like ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ or heart-tuggers like ‘Teen Mom’, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between fiction and reality. No where is this truer however, than in the realm of home-improvement shows.  Shows like “Love it or List it,” “Fixer Upper,” “House Hunters,” “Flip or Flop,” “Property Brothers,” all seem to promise easy and enormous profits overnight - all while simply rocking a cute hard-hat and a pair of stilettos. 

Our experience however, has proved that good tv does not necessarily equate to good business practice. In warning to eager rehabbers and developers relying on reality shows for their intel , here is a reality check a la the Glanzmann Group. 

1. Their budgets are wildly unrealistic. 

    While every good business woman ought to crunch their numbers and keep figures as low as possible, the numbers provided by flipping shows are a far cry from reality (or in the very least, ours). The hard to swallow truth is that networks often partner with advertisers that provide free materials, and many contractors offer their services discounted rates in exchange for free publicity. Considering that a full set of Kitchen Aid appliances set us back over $13,000 (all while taking advantage of Black Friday deals), it seems unlikely that a complete kitchen remodel complete with quartz countertops, glass tile backsplash, hardwood floors, new appliances and updated cabinetry could total a mere $24,000. As the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

    Unless you are an Instagram star on the rise, account for things to cost more than the the budget outlined on TV.  And remember, that while the cheapest finish or laminate floor may look great on the small screen, reality is not quite as forgiving. If you’re planning on building a quality brand,  you need to build a quality home that will last- sadly, the price-tag associated with this can prove pretty hefty. 

2. Compressed Timeframes. 

    Perhaps our most painful lesson to date is that everything takes time- more time than you bargain for. Buying a house, designing a floor plan, waiting for permits, modifying a permit, agreements between you and your contractor, etc, etc - the list of time-sensitive processes is virtually endless and susceptible to massive delays outside of your control. Not so however, for our friends on the television. They manage to take processes that might normally take six weeks and compress them down to three days. 

    Waiting isn’t sexy and networks are fully aware of this fact. As such, you don’t see the weeks waiting for permits or the fact that escrow for a house is typically 45 days* - this has already taken place long before the cameras arrive on site. And if your contractor looks baffled when you expect him to finish redoing your house in under a week, remember that flipping shows have an impressive number of builders hard at work - around the clock (probably breaking some serious labor laws.)… While you might see 3-5 individuals working on screen, the number of scramblers is probably closer to 30. Moreover, chances are great that contractors are using products that allow for quick installation, rather than products that produce great results. If you want to save on time you’re going to need to give up those hardwood floors in favor of laminate flooring. 

    Sadly, we’ve had to learn the hard way about unrealistic timeframes -  our August demolition date was pushed all the way to December due to numerous unforeseen setbacks: switching contractors, permit changes, sewage issues, and general bureaucratic issues. While time delays are certainly not reason enough to abandon a project, they considerably affect the bottom line given holding costs such as mortgage payments, insurances, utilities, etc. Time is money - and in the house-rehabbing business, it’s very easy to spend more than you bargained for on both accounts.  

Ultimately, developing and rehabbing a home is a time and money exhaustive process. Rather than a step-by step guide, flipping shows should be used as a fun source of inspiration.  The chance is great that your experience will be wildly different from that on television, but as long as you approach with caution, success might very well still be at hand! At least we hope so….


*Typical Escrow takes 45 days in California if a loan is required. All Cash offers can be closed sooner depending on what contingencies the buyer and seller agree upon.