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HGTV Fixer Upper

I’m not gonna lie… this week almost brought me to my knees. With three brand-new listings requiring contract negotiation, photography, marketing and listing and a host of new ads that needed spiffy layouts and catchy copy, I joked to my beloved crew of assistants that we were either going to be six feet under or in the looney bin by Friday. Now, don’t get me wrong… I AM NOT COMPLAINING! In fact, I’m thrilled that the Middle Tennessee market continues to thrive and that you – my faithful readers and home sellers – have entrusted me to help sell your most significant investment. It was just a super crazy week, one that desperately called for some couch-potato downtime with a glass of my best cabernet and some flat-screen therapy in the form of my favorite HGTV shows. As promised, I’m going to spend the next few weeks analyzing some of their most popular shows, examining why they’re so addicting and providing a little reality check for myself and my clients who are lured into the quick-reno, low budget lure that these shows promote.

I’d always intended to write this first post about HGTV’s flagship show, House Hunters. When you think HGTV, you think of this show with its international or beachy or mountain top or urban homes. You put yourself in the enviable shoes of those homebuyers who have three fantastic options to choose from, seemingly very little drama and mile-high budgets.

Best of all, they always seem to end up in the home of their dreams. And, I promise, I will write about House Hunters – from the perspective of a twenty-plus year veteran of real estate wars, there is much to like and dislike about this show. We’ll get there! But, last night, I found myself on the couch with piles of sweet pups all around and I tuned into a mini-marathon of Fixer Upper. Just like that, my mind was racing with some thumbs up and thumbs down tid-bits that I’m dying to share with you.
If you haven’t ever seen this show (Really? Have you been living under a rock?), let me provide a brief synopsis. One of the cutest couples you’ll ever virtually meet, Chip and Joanna Gaines, live, work and rebuild homes in Waco, TX. Their trials and tribulations are captured in sweet and sassy sound bites as they help clients choose one of three homes, then go about renovating the home before revealing the new masterpiece to their clients, the new homeowners. Joanna’s the brains and Chip’s the brawn, relishing in the demolition process and following Jo’s design lead. The Gaines’ also own a fabulous home decorating and design store called Magnolia Market where they carry many of the items that are featured on the show.

So, yes… I, along with millions of other home-loving Americans, adore this show. But, as a Realtor, I’m often met with client’s unreal expectations about how much their home is worth or how much more they can list their home for if they transform the space a la HGTV style. So, I think it’s time for a reality check and I’m going to start with Fixer Upper.

Chip and Joanna often work with clients who have a max budget of $200,000 or less. With that money, their clients expect to not only buy a home – a fixer upper, of course, but then have several thousand dollars (often as much as ½ of their total budget) to put into renovation and restoration. REALITY: You’re going to be hard pressed to find a home in our market for under $100,000, even if it needs a lot of work. Remember, Chip and Joanna work in Waco, TX. I’m sure it’s a delightful community, but here in Middle Tennessee the median home price is just a bit higher. But, don’t’ despair… you can absolutely find an affordable home here, you just need to work with a smart and saavy Realtor and I just happen to know one!

If you do buy a fixer-upper, be very, very clear about your expectations. Make sure you’re working with an established and trusted contractor and designer who can give you realistic expectations about budgets, construction timelines, etc… On the show, Chip and Joanna are a two-man team, but if you watch carefully, you’ll see that they have a bevy of subcontractors who work for and behind them. These people don’t work for cheap, but when they’re featured on a hit show, they’ll likely offer their contractors a deal. REALITY: You don’t have the same luxury, so your renovation budget is going to be higher than what you see on the show.

Chip and Joanna tackle entire homes… kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms! They pull down walls and resurface floors. They add new hardiplank siding to exteriors, rip out and replace landscaping. They build pergolas and fire pits, they expose antique brick walls and shore up foundations. They truly do it all. REALITY: Whether you’re buying and restoring a home that you’re moving into or renovating a home you’re hoping to sell, it’s best to focus on key rooms. Tackling an entire home is both too exhausting and expensive for us normal folks. Understand that kitchens and bathrooms are money-makers and make sure you’re using your renovation dollars wisely in those important spaces.

After Chip’s revealed and restored that oh-so-cool shiplap, installed those gorgeous soapstone countertops and mounted miles and miles of subway tiles, Joanna swoops in and turns the new construction site into a home. She’s pretty amazing and has an incredible vision. The finished products are always show-home worthy. REALITY: The rooms they show you on the big reveal are staged spaces intended to look gorgeous and induce those oohs and ahhs from homeowners and viewers alike. The homeowners don’t actually get to keep those gorgeous white linen-tufted club chairs or all the etched votives that line that new reclaimed barn wood mantel. Unless Chip and Jo are gifting their clients with a custom piece (and often, they do), all that stunning furniture and bric-a-brac goes back to Jo’s store. So, the good news is that you can buy her stuff…the bad news is that you can’t expect to achieve that same level of beauty in your own home without some significant cash outlay. But, Jo’s vision and the audience’s response to her decorating style is a testament to how important a good staging can be. Lucky for you, I just happen to know and can heartily recommend an excellent stager who will help you reimagine your home to get top-dollar offers.

Even though I have to call “bologna” on some of the things I see on these shows, I still love them, still use them as mental massages and still think that we can all learn a lot from these design shows. Just keep it real, friends and use them as inspiration, not a hard and fast to-do list. Your Realtor will thank you for it!

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