Over dinner the other night, my wife Barbara was telling me about her sister’s home renovation project. She was waiting for a general contractor to provide an estimate to install new hardwood flooring throughout.
“What’s the problem?” I asked. “Should be about $400 and take a couple of hours.”
I knew this because, more often than not, when I walk into the living room, Barbara is watching HGTV. HGTV has only two shows. It’s either people looking for a house or people renovating a house.
The show’s all have different names, of course, but they’re essentially the same programs. In the “looking for a house” category, we have House Hunters, Beach Hunters, Beachfront Bargain Hunt, House Hunters International, House Hunters Off the Grid, House Hunters Pop’d, House Hunters on Vacation, Island Hunters, Lakefront Bargain Hunt, Castle Hunters, Tiny House Hunters and many others that imply you’d be better off with a safari guide than a real estate agent.
There are even more renovation shows: American Rehab: Buffalo, American Rehab: Detroit, American Rehab: Virginia, American Rehab: Charlie Sheen, Big Easy Reno, Bungalow Reno, Cabin Reno, Reno Casino Reno, Fixer Upper, Flip It to Win It, Flip or Flop, Flipping Virgins, Flipping the Block, Flipping the Heartland, Flipping the South, Flipping the Bird, Love It or List It, My Big Amazing Renovation, My Big Family Renovation, My Flipping Family, Property Brothers, Property Brothers at Home, Property Brothers at Home on the Ranch, Property Brothers Redo a Closet and Then Come Out of It; Rehab Addict, Renovate to Rent, Renovation Raiders, Renovation Realities, Renovation Road, Renovation Unscripted, Rescue My Renovation, Your Big Family Renovation, and, well, you get the idea. In fact, you probably got the idea about 20 titles ago. (I may have made up a few of them.)
In all the renovation shows, the experts overhaul a run-down house, then decide what to do with it when they’re finished. They (or their clients) can flip it, leave it, list it, love it or even live in it. It’s always fascinating to see the make-over, especially for Barbara and me, since we lived through a massive kitchen renovation.
We’re always amazed how the renovations on HGTV differ from our own experience. For one thing, they seem to take much less time. We knocked down a couple of walls, replaced some windows, redid the ceiling, put in all new fixtures, flooring and appliances, installed new cabinetry and created a humongous stainless steel-topped island. (I should clarify that when I say “we” I mean that we stayed out of the way while professionals did the work.) The job began in July and ended just in time for us to host Thanksgiving dinner. (If you want to read my series of posts about this, you can start here.)
So our renovation took about seven months. I believe the folks on HGTV could construct a small city in that amount of time. Including a subway system.
“Well,” one of the handsome Property Brothers says to the “client” upon revealing the newly renovated house, “we redid the kitchen, knocked down five walls to create an open floor plan, finished the basement, turned the master bedroom closet into an en suite bathroom, broke through the back of the hallway linen closet into the master bedroom to create a new walk-in closet to replace the one we turned into the en suite bathroom, extended the second floor a bit to add a new linen closet, constructed a staircase to get from your new deck to the backyard which we have lavishly landscaped, and built a dining room table from the wood we collected when we tore out the old floor.”
“Unfortunately,” the other, equally handsome Property Brother says (they’re twins), “one of the walls we knocked down turned out to be load-bearing, so we had to rebuild the part of the second floor that fell into the living room, but that gave us the opportunity to make this really dramatic cathedral ceiling. It did get us slightly off schedule, though, and we needed four days for the entire renovation instead of three.”
“And that,” adds Property Brother #1, patting the “client” on the back, “is only because you helped out by perfectly placing the throw pillows on the couch.”
“We also went a bit over budget,” says P.B. #2, ”because it turns out we had to replace the entire roof. However, we think the renovation costs of $30,000 will be well worth it when we list the house.”
Wait, what? Did I miss the part where they said the show takes place in 1917 so that their $30,000 is the equivalent of $564,016.41 in 2016 dollars? Are they doing the work someplace where labor and materials are very cheap, like in rural Shanghai?
I ask my real estate agent wife about this. “How is it that they can do all that work in a few days for $30,000 when just our kitchen took seven months and, um, a lot more money?” (Honestly, I lost track of our budget during month six.)
Barbara does not have a good answer for this.
I imagine these HGTV shows cause problems for real-life contractors who have to deal with real-life people. When they present their estimates, they probably hear responses like, “But Tarek and Christina on Flip or Flop could get that done for $37.98. Plus Christina is a lot hotter than you are.”
In any case, they haven’t started laying the hardwood floors in my sister-in-law’s house, but once they do, I’ll be sure to show up that afternoon to admire them.
See you soon.