Why do Renovations Look so Good on TV?

Well, the simple answer is, because those people are living through them, not you!

When The Renovator and I take some time to watch the tube, we often find ourselves favouring reno shows and shows about real estate. What can I say? It’s a sickness! We simply love it from all the angles! So, for this post, I thought it might be fun to tell you what shows we like to watch and why.

1. Our all time favourite is Restaurant Makeover. A designer and a chef renovate not only the restaurant, but the menu in just 6 days.

Find it: the Food Network.

Main reason we love it: it combines our two favourite things – Food and renovating!

What to watch for: Igor. The RM contractor always gives us a laugh. Like The Renovator, he believes anything can be done – if you have time.

What irks us: There are (as in the case of most design shows) a lot of egos on this show and I’ve had to leave the room a few times when certain chefs and designers throw hissy fits. Plus, it may be budget driven more than anything, but some of the materials they use aren’t super high quality.

2. Love it or List it. A realtor and a designer compete to deliver the couple’s dream home by showing new homes they could buy while renovating their existing home to make it what they need.

Find it: W Network

Main reason we love it: This shows the issues that people face. With tight budgets, what do you do to get the space you need? It’s also great to see what design options they focus on.

What to watch for: The floundering homeowners. Highly entertaining.

What irks us: In the episodes we’ve seen, the designer stays within budget, but the realtor is constantly going over his budget. Not really a level playing field.

3. House Hunters (& House Hunters International) features buyers looking for the right home while realtors do their best to find one in their budget that hits all the right buttons.

Find it: HGTV

Main reason we love it: It is amazing to see such a wide range of design options both domestically and oversees. We love the creativity we get from it.

What to watch for: Like in real life, seldom does any one house fit all the needs. See how these people make the tough decisions.

What irks us: Often the houses shown are above the homeowner’s budget. When you’re only showing three, at least find something that fits the criteria!

4. Reality with a capital ‘R’ is in Real Renos with contractor Jim Caruk – he shows renovating from the contractor’s perspective.

Find it: HGTV

Main reason we love it: This is the truth kids. This is what really happens in a reno and these are the issues contractors deal with every day. Jim Caruk knows what he’s doing and he does it well, but even he gets caught in the time trap every renovation faces.

What to watch for: The size and scale of these renos is amazing. Beautiful work and great tradespeople (usually) make for good visuals and learning.

What irks us: We can’t really think of anything that irks us about this show – the only thing we thought of was his laugh, but it’s not that bad.

5. And one for amusement is Flipping Out.A high-strung, narcissistic, prima donna, anxiety ridden, obsessive-compulsive, perfectionist who thinks everyone owes him, buys, renos and flips houses while tormenting his staff.

Find it: Bravo TV

Main reason we love it: For both of us, it’s not just Jeff’s ‘flip outs’ that we love, it’s the fact that we BOTH have had a boss who behaved like this! These are the  people that, no matter what you do, it’s wrong, you’re never good enough and you can never make them happy. Frighteningly, we’ve both heard statements come out of Jeff’s mouth that our past bosses have used on us! Makes us happy to be self-employed.

What to watch for: See how not to treat employees and how not to approach a reno when it comes to your attitude.

What irks us: well, it is kind of disturbing that this guy is so obnoxious.

You might be wondering where Mike Holmes is. He doesn’t make our list. In fact, he does nothing but irk us. While Holmes is all about making things better for people, his solutions are over the top and beyond any building code, which is unfortunate because it gives too many inexperienced renovators the idea that all contractors are out to get them. Yes, there are some bad contractors out there – I’ve had one myself. But there are good ones too – like the one I married, and that’s why I love being The Renovators wife.


Ronda Payne

A writer since she first held a pen, Ronda Payne – aka: the Girl with a Pen, is passionate about words. In 2007, she kissed ‘real jobs’ goodbye and began her true career as a copywriter, non-fiction freelance writer (magazines and other periodicals) and creative writer.

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