Confessions of a Remodeler: Part One – The Shows

Part One: Confessions of a Remodeler – The Builder Shows


Well, I can’t say I am completely against the format when it comes to Builder Shows, because I actually did one myself almost fifteen years ago when I launched “Around Your Home” a locally broadcast Home Show on the old WB Channel.

However, we kept it pretty real. In today’s programs the time frames for the level of production they display and the suggested costs they suggest are utterly ridiculous. Those issues are a problem for “real reality”, if there is such a thing; because I believe it has tainted the industry for an entire generation. The unwitting public is led to believe that the “critical-path timelines” and cost of certain products are a fraction of what they actually are on the open market in the building industry.

A better reference point is the recent Home & Houzz Study that surveyed an immense amount of customers over a vast period of time (3+ years).

Houzz basically just relays the data & facts. Kind of like traditional journalism used to work before the advent of PC Technology.

It is a vast document, too voluminous to get into here at the moment. But, our company has also labored to produce some sort of algorithm or percentage of work in a budget format as it relates to the purchase price of a home. And, over the last 3 to 5 years it has equated to about 10% to 15% of the purchase price in total remodeling costs. This, if the home is a total remodel and is in relatively good repair and just needs updating.

So, if the purchase price of the home is $300,000 (which honestly is a much lower price point than we usually work within) then a remodel that doesn’t venture “into” drywall replacement other than basic patching and paint seems to be running about $60,000 +/-. So that might be a “rule of thumb” to follow that won’t get you too far into an upside down equity situation.

If it is some sort of “flip” all bets are off and that is another animalook altogether. I am referencing “end user” homes that clients are renovating for their own use.

Again, our projects very often run into the millions of dollars and many times are full renovation and remodels that involve Full Permits w/Engineered Framing Changes. Plus, complete Electrical, Plumbing & Low Voltage Redesigns, etc. But, for what our company calls a “scratch & dent” construction job, whereby we renovate from the existing drywall – out, fifteen to twenty percent seems to be about average.

The other aspect that the shows don’t depict accurately, whether deliberately or not; is “critical path time-lines”. We are kind pre-conditioned now as a society to want instant gratification because we see full remodels completed with a “reveal” in a half hour including commercial breaks. Whereas in true reality these jobs have played out over weeks or even months.

I guess people are most shocked when we engage in a discussion about building a custom home. From start to finish it is generally two years and many projects can run three years or longer. Building a custom home for most clients is something that you may do once in your life or maybe twice. It is isn’t a “flipping” game. It is a tremendous amount of work and should track more like a work of art rather then an antiseptic business proposition.

At any rate, by all means enjoy your shows. Just remember they are used mostly to showcse some creative ideas and products. But, when the rubber meets the road with regard to Time-Line, True Cost and Quality. The shows belong more in the Fiction or Telenovela category rather than Reality TV.

I am no proponent of censorship but in a lot of ways I think the “The Shows” per se can do more damage than good, if the viewer is not informed and advised properly by a local professional.