With House Rules having just finished its fifth season and The Block about to start its 13th, it’s time to address the elephant in the room.


The truth behind reality renovation TV shows.


Shows such as The Block, House Rules and so many more on Foxtel and overseas, create a false reality for wannabe renovators. In most cases, it’s simply not possible to build a bathroom or kitchen within a few days, let alone renovate an entire house within one week.


What viewers are not shown is that these TV shows are all smoke and mirrors. They promote cosmetic fixes, almost never address structural issues, planning or permits and sometimes even introduce problems that weren’t there before! You’re not seeing the paint jobs up-close, the plumbing or the wiring. A quick build or reno is bound to cut corners, especially with a tight budget.


If you’ve ever hired tradies to complete maintenance or building work around the house, you’ll know how long it can take to even get a quote! Once you have the quote, there are then the legalities to consider. In Victoria, a lot of renovation work, except for basic cosmetic improvements, requires building permits. In addition to these, heritage overlay properties may require planning permits for even basic changes. All of these permits can take a substantial amount of time to be issued – none of which is shown in the 60 minute episodes aired each week.


There are two big problems with the current format of reality renovation shows:


  1. People are now expecting a champagne renovation on a beer budget from their tradies and within a short timeframe to boot! Whilst these programs are great entertainment, they give viewers a false perception of the costs involved in property development and renovation, such as finance costs, holding costs and council fees.Companies and tradespeople are also doing incredibly helpful things on these reality TV shows that they don’t do in real life. Sorry, hardware companies don’t come around mid-reno and donate you a gift voucher and you won’t find a tradie who will show up at night to help finish projects! In the real ‘reality,’ you’re on your own, tradies may not turn up on time or at all and money can run out in you’re not careful.


  1. People are thinking they can DIY their entire reno and are bypassing tradies altogether which is dangerous and, at times, illegal. Anything involving plumbing or wiring should be considered off limits. It’s important to note warranties and insurance for many products may be void unless installed by a licensed trades person and, in most instances, you need a compliance certificate to make a claim. Tiling and painting can be done DIY, but be realistic about your skills and the value of your time before getting stuck into it.


Are these kinds of renovations really adding value to your home?


It’s easy to be fooled that with a weekend’s work and a couple of thousand dollars, you can add $50,000 worth of value to your home. But it simply just doesn’t work like that!


Quick and cheap renovations could actually be doing the exact opposite! They can easily wipe tens of thousands of dollars off your home’s value when it comes time to sell, cause potential health risks and make your home structurally unstable.


It’s easy to see the difference between amateur work and work from a professional tradesperson – if we, as real estate agents, can tell the difference, building inspectors can definitely tell the difference!


It’s crucial to seek expert advice before starting any renovation and you should always use the correct materials and methods, particularly when working in wet areas. For example, putting new tiles over old tiles in a shower can trap moisture in the sub-floor area, which is conducive to termite infestation and can lead to structural instability.


If you’re renovating to sell or lease, make sure your project is in line with market demand before you even think about picking up the tools. If everyone in the suburb is looking for a three-bedroom family home, there’s no point putting up a one bedroom villa! Ensure there are buyers that will want to purchase your finished product or potential tenants to pay rent.


And if you’re just renovating for sale, you’ll probably find that much of the time it’s best to do nothing at all!


Now of course like anything, it’s not all bad!


There are some positives to these reality renovation TV shows.


They do a great job of encouraging home owners to improve their home and garden! And Although the programs are sponsored, they still provide viewers who are thinking about building, renovating or even just redecorating, with up-to-date inspiration, trends and new product information. They’ve also motivated more Aussies to get up from the couch and get moving around the house!


There are still many things you can do (when done correctly and with some thought) that can add value to a home. We just recommend watching them with a grain of salt.



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