How Your HGTV Obsession Is Setting You Up for Homeowner Heartbreak

Spoiler alert: Those HGTV shows do not depict reality

Editor’s Note: This is from our October 2017 L.A. Real Estate issue. For the rest of the L.A. Real Estate package, check out the issue.

Confession: I’m worried about my wife Patricia’s mental health. There have been nights—when she’s not working late at her job as an interior architect—where she can be heard talking to herself, sometimes mumbling under her breath, other times shouting in crazed outbursts, but always while watching TV—HGTV, to be specific.

“You can’t do a Calacatta Gold countertop for that!” she’ll hiss. “Maybe…maybe Caesarstone, but even that’s doubtful. Are they getting free material? Free labor? I hate these shows!”

To be clear, she also loves them. Much as cooking programs have helped improve America’s palate, shows like Property Brothers and Love It or List It have done similarly for home design and remodeling. But whereas prepping a swanky meal in your own kitchen might cost you a Benjamin, renovating that room could set you back by thousands of them. And that’s where the trouble lies for my wife and her starry-eyed clients.

“It’s wonderful if a show inspires someone to tackle a project,” she says. “And it’s great if that show has taught them about wainscoting and Wolf ranges. But turning a remodel around on a dime, and seemingly for a dime, is not how it works in real life.” What she’s saying is that these shows tend to raise expectations, and people get upset when they come face-to-face with the reality of Southern California—fixing up a house isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap.

A prime example is her client with a traditional home who wants the floor-to-ceiling molding he’s seen on HGTV. “The cost of the material is reasonable,” says my hair-tearing wife, “but the carpentry labor is killing him.” Then there are the label-conscious homeowners who insist on Ann Sacks concrete tile and Italian oiled-oak flooring but balk at the price and ignore warnings about costly upkeep. As Patricia has been known to say (at least to me), “You wanna drive a Ferrari? You’ve gotta pay for and service a Ferrari.”

So in an effort to regain my wife’s sanity, a word to the TV-watching wise: Go ahead, get inspired by design shows. Gather those ideas on Pinterest. But before the first sledgehammer is swung on demolition day, do your homework. Know what you want, what it costs, whether you can afford it—or even need it. And plan ahead because the cost will rise and delays are inevitable. Don’t expect your chef’s kitchen to be completed before the next commercial break.

RELATED: Here are Five L.A. Neighborhoods Where $960K Can Score You a Great Home