Renovation TV shows — magic or myth

Renovation TV shows — magic or myth



Feeling inspired by renovation tv shows? Renovation expert Cherie Barber separates myth from magic and shares her top five things you need to be aware of, if you’re looking at giving it a go.


So we’ve all seen the renovation TV shows where contestants seemingly earn massive profits in a short amount of time. Amazing right!? They’ve inspired millions of people to go out and try their hand at property renovation, which is a great thing. What producers don’t always highlight though, is what can, and often does go wrong throughout the renovation process. Here are my top five things you need to be aware of, if you’re looking at giving renovation a go.


1. Variations

We’ve all heard people’s horror stories about completing a renovation of their own. Usually, these stories are about awful experiences with builders and costs blowing out beyond control. While there may be certain things which a builder can do to ensure costs stay close to the original quote, more often than not, the owners are usually the cause of issues arising. Go through every detail of your building contract and your architectural plans with your builder before construction commences to be sure you understand what’s to be built, the quality standard and what fixtures and fittings will be included. Changing things after this is where you’ll see costs blow out. It can be as simple as the placement of light switches or the width of skirting boards, every change will cost you.


2. Holding costs

While it’s glaringly obvious to me — after all my years in the renovation game — the cost of actually owning a property during a renovation is something not generally shown on TV. These costs involve the expense in the initial process of purchasing a property such as legal contracts and solicitors fees. Also, the mortgage holding costs of the property need to be factored into your budget from the beginning. Each day you’re renovating costs you interest. If you fail to factor in these costs into your financial feasibility you may just find at the end of the job you’ve got little leftover in your pocket. Worse still, you may run out of money to complete the job.


3. Rogue tradies

On TV, all the tradies are lovely and helpful. While the majority of tradies out there are genuinely fantastic to work with, some are not. I like to call these cowboy tradies. They’re the guys who turn up late, or not at all, don’t produce insurance or official accreditation when asked, or nick off with your money without completing the job. To avoid unnecessary stress or heartache, ensure you hire the right people, for the right price. I’m of the belief that you get what you pay for and this includes tradies. To weed out the good from the bad, try to obtain at least five quotes for every job. What this will do, is give you a good benchmark for what the true value of the job should be. At least one will be extremely cheap, and most likely a cowboy who will do a second-rate job. Others will be pricey and will be ripping you off. The quotes that come in somewhere in the middle will generally be closest to the real cost of the job and more likely to be from quality tradies who are going to get the job done well.


4. Budgeting

The challenges presented to contestants on renovation TV shows are designed to give them an opportunity to increase their budgets. This is great for entertainment, however in the real world, if you run out of money, you’re going nowhere fast. On my first renovation, I plucked a nice round figure out of the air when it came to estimating how much I needed to spend. I thought $100,000 sounded about right. Unfortunately for me, that figure blew out, costing me $150,000. Luckily for me, this wasn’t a deal breaker and I ended up finishing the project and making a great profit. What I failed to do was accurately calculate the cost of the renovation (called your feasibility) before the projected started. This is where most people go wrong. Before you’ve even bought a property, do the numbers. Carefully note down all the work you can see which needs to be completed when inspecting. This will give you an idea of the scope of work needed to upgrade the property and enable you to obtain quotes for the process. Then it’s a case of sitting down, crunching the numbers and seeing if the project stacks up.


5. Styling

It’s tempting to emulate the amazing finishes and furnishings we fall in love with while watching renovation TV shows. When it comes time to style your property for sale, keep it simple. While designer towels and costly cushions look great on TV, in real life, they are completely unnecessary and serve only to reduce your overall profit. Also, you may be unwittingly narrowing the appeal of your property to a particular buyer, and missing out on others simply be creating the wrong style of home which not everyone can envision themselves within. My advice; appeal to the majority, not the minority. When styling your property for sale, hire a professional property stylist. If you don’t have the budget for this, choose simple, modern and unfussy furnishings to really let the bones of your property shine. After all, no one is going to purchase your property simply because of a pricey print hanging in the living room.

So what are you waiting for? Now that you know some of the things to be mindful of, go out and give it a go!


Cherie Barber is the director of Renovating for Profit, a workshop training provider that teaches everyday Australians how to successfully renovate for a profit.

By Cherie Barber
Image by monkeybusinessimages/
From Renovate magazine Vol. 8 No. 5