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Debunking Fixer Upper Myths

You may be a fan of HGTV home renovation shows like Property Brothers, Love It Or List It, Fixer Upper, and Flip or Flop.  If you’re unfamiliar, each series features home renovation projects. They are incredibly entertaining and have quite a following. Readers of Today’s Buyer Rep‘s newsletter stated that home buyers are more interested in fixer-uppers today because of these shows. However, they tend to perpetuate unrealistic expectations for real-life home improvements on real-life fixer-uppers.

So much of these shows are scripted and edited to run smoothly— just like any other reality TV show. Just think back to each episode of any one of the shows I listed. Somewhere in the 30-minute episode, there was a “bad news” scene, am I right? A scene to add a little drama to the episode but, of course, the problem gets handled in an instant (after all, there are only about 22-minutes of actual airtime).

These shows make it seem as though “it’s easy to find a good fixer-upper.” All you have to do is look at three and choose the one you like best, right? Unfortunately, it’s not so simple.

It’s easy to find fixer-upper, sure, but finding one with good bones can be difficult. Not just in the hunt, but also when competing with investors. The more educated you are, the better chance you have.

HGTV gives off the impression that renovations come together quickly. Real life details, like waiting for inspectors and contractors or waiting for deliveries, are kept out of filming. The “boring details” are near forgotten, but they happen in all projects. Timelines are extended based on a number of factors.Another myth is that design updates are easy to capture. Men and women alike have a number of style preferences and wish to impose them on their homes. Styles constantly change, however, and every style will eventually appear dated (especially if a trend catches on and becomes overdone. Just think about how many living room upgrades you’ve seen that look exactly the same). This instills a need for frequent updates, adding to your overall budget.

Some buyers are so eager to add a certain element to their home that they forego important details in the architecture of the home. Again, either adding to the price of removing those details or executing the update poorly and having to pay for the architecture updates in the long run. Some changes may be cheap but, in this case, we’re discussing full upgrades.

So, as you can probably guess, the most common myth is that a fixer-upper will save you money or earn you more money. Of course, this varies project to project. However, HGTV perpetuates this myth by showing skewed numbers as their final budget. Many of these series use decorating and cosmetic elements that are removed after filming, so the final budget doesn’t reflect these items. Imagine how much larger of a number would be shown if it did! Ouch!

It doesn’t have to be a large dent in your budget, though. Staying informed about new trends and home renovation options will keep you renovation savvy. There are multiple financing options to look into as well, such as home equity or home improvement loans. You can also create a network of professionals in the field. Find people you trust who can give you solid estimates. Make sure you are getting thorough inspections and are reviewing all property disclosures to avoid your own “bad news” scene.

A local Portland Certified Kitchen Designer, Eric G, hosts the segment “More DIY” on Fox 12 and radio show “Around The House with Eric G” where he helps Oregon and Washington residents tackle their renovation projects. He has even been featured on HGTV! However, he keeps it real. You can find more information on that here.

Once you start looking for inspiration and facts, you’ll find more and more resources available to help you.


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