Last week the Wilson family welcomed baby No. 4, and with his arrival came multiple late-night daddy-son hangouts watching HGTV in the hospital room. The HGTV-athon continues at home, with network favorites like “Fixer Upper” and “Property Brothers” also available on Hulu.
HGTV is amazing for people looking for a new home or hoping to redesign any aspect of their current property. It’s also pretty good for a guy who writes about real estate on a weekly basis but doesn’t actually know much about design and construction.
As with most media empires, certain trends and values reveal themselves across the HGTV programming slate. It’s obvious the network is in the business of pleasing advertisers — most of which are companies that directly benefit from home construction, do-it-yourself projects and real estate buying and selling.
The information is both valuable and entertaining … so long as you’re aware of the exaggerations and false assumptions they promote. Knowing what’s popular in design elements for home buyers can make a huge difference for people preparing to sell their home, so long as you don’t overspend on things that won’t provide much return on investment.
After hours and hours of late-night viewing, here are just a few of my takeaways that relate to the North Idaho market.
expensive and time-consuming
The biggest exaggeration on HGTV relates to just how magical a redesign is to a selling price. With just a few short weeks of construction, and several thousand dollars, the network suggests even the ugliest home on the block can turn into the hottest ticket on the market.
While a well-staged home and updated fixtures and appliances add curb appeal to a listing, it isn’t the only thing buyers look for in a home. Location often matters more than the home itself, and even a completely revamped interior won’t overcome the basic needs of buyers (certain number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, fenced backyards, etc.).
I’ll give HGTV credit for one thing: They don’t ever present remodels as inexpensive. Most of the overhauls on shows like “Fixer Upper” are incredible — but they come at steep prices. If anything, it gives viewers ideas to pick and choose from in their home, because most people simply can’t afford a $70,000 total remodel.
HGTV also emphasizes the importance of utilizing experts for professional work. While some homeowners can handle a myriad of do-it-yourself projects, many know just enough to get themselves in trouble. The cool and casual demeanors of the HGTV stars don’t help the perception. Just remember there’s a whole crew of workers behind-the-scenes getting dirty while the hosts do a few short takes of hammering nails and nailing quips.
Bottom line — unless you have an extensive history of doing something, you need to count on a lot of extra time and patience to do something right. I’ve learned personally the value of measuring my time against the cost of hiring an expert. Your time may be more valuable spent somewhere else.
It seems like a major goal of HGTV network in general is educating the public on awful design choices — chiefly the presence of popcorn-textured interior ceilings and carpeted bathrooms. Never put carpet in a bathroom. It’s disgusting for reasons that should be obvious.
Carpet, in general, seems to be on the major outs with HGTV, with real wood flooring as the top choice and heavier-duty laminate lookalikes as the more economic option. Hardwood floors look nice, but carpet just makes sense for families in a lot of different rooms (just not the bathroom).
The big problem with popcorn ceilings is the potential for asbestos in older homes. Outside of that risk (most homes built after 1978 won’t have this problem), it tends to be regarded as an outdated design choice — basically it’s old and cheap-looking.
As for the positive pushes around the home — trendy backsplashes behind kitchen countertops are mentioned all the time on the network, and open-concept designs seem to get all the love from buyers and designers alike. Walled-off dining rooms and kitchens are for your grandparents and nobody else, apparently.
Some design elements are easy enough to incorporate, while others are things that can’t be helped without a huge remodel budget. You can’t magically create a giant walk-in master bathroom or closet without creating new space or sacrificing it somewhere else. In fact, unless you have a nice size master bathroom already, it might be pretty obnoxious watching HGTV at any given time of the day.
As someone who recently purchased a new home and had to weigh a lot of different pros and cons (location, master bath size, entryway, basement, etc.) within a specific price point, the best advice I often tell myself is — “Try to ignore the American tendency of comparing the greener grass on the other side.” Unless you have an unlimited budget, no home is perfect, and Joanna’s keen eye for design on “Fixer Upper” can make even the “perfect” home seem inferior.
Protect the marriage
The biggest drama on any HGTV program typically involves tension between couples — usually husband and wives clashing about the elements they want in their new home on “House Hunters” and the various spin-offs and copycats. The tension is more playful between Chip and Joanna on “Fixer Upper” (Fun fact: Everybody loves Chip and Joanna), and the Property Brother twins typically only spar for laughs.
I always cringe a little when watching show “contestants” clash on these shows, as the woman is often depicted as “shrill” while the man is “clueless.” People obviously have their own personal preferences, but the shows can overemphasize innocuous disagreements. One guy on “House Hunters International” railed on and on about two-sided sinks, suggesting that he wouldn’t buy a property just because the sink was wrong. If the dude is willing to spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars on a vacation property, I’m pretty sure he was cool with simply replacing a sink.
Of course the biggest drama on HGTV involves the off-camera tension between the husband-wife hosts of “Flip or Flop.” The show has continued filming with both stars despite their apparent separation, but the show has always exaggerated the design and financial disagreements between Tarek and Christina. Even before the tabloid drama, “Flip or Flop” always felt like the phoniest depiction of home construction and real estate on the entire network, and, while I’m not accusing anybody of anything, some of the profits from their house-flipping flim-flams seem a little too good to be true.
With or without the reality show false drama, I suppose the message remains the same — Don’t let home remodels and real estate ding and dent a relationship. Floor color and sinks don’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of life. I’ll take a healthy baby on my lap at 2 a.m. over a spacious master bathroom any day of the week.
Tyler Wilson can be reached at most hours of the day and night at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact him for Neighborhood of the Week ideas. Realtors, please reach out and share new and exciting developments in real estate around Coeur d’Alene, Hayden, Post Falls, Rathdrum and the surrounding areas.