There is a lot of dirt swept under the rug when it comes to television shows about flipping houses. While these shows on channels like HGTV and the DIY Network are some of the most watchable reality TV programs, clever editing means the "true" stories aren't always what they seem. As a result, any people have been lured into the house flipping game with the promise of quick turnaround times and huge profits, only to lose their life savings.
It can be tricky to figure out fact versus fiction when it comes to house flipping shows. Some seem to realistically portray the hardships of home renovation more than others, but who can you trust? Turns out almost no one — both HGTV and the DIY Network hugely misrepresent what it's like to flip a home.
The amount of work and skill that goes into finding a house to flip, renovating the property, and selling it for a profit is constantly underplayed in shows like Flip or Flop and Masters of Flip, where production teams and movie magic make the process look like a simple. The reality is much harder.
Most flipping shows emphasize quick turnarounds, but in reality, the process can take months. According to Patrick Hurst, whose building company was contracted for an episode of DIY Network's House Crashers, the time frames are incredibly rushed.
He claims that in shows with fast turnaround times viewers may only see three workers on camera, but there are actually thirty working frantically onsite. "Oftentimes contractors are working around the clock, which is not common practice," he says.
In the real world of flipping, there are four stages at which you'll likely invest a large amount of time into the property. First, the buyer must shop for and purchase the house, which can take months. Second, they have to renovate the entire property and complete all fo the necessary inspections. Third, they have to sell the house, another potentially lengthy process, especially if the flipper is selling it themselves. Flipping a house can become a full-time job and can take so much longer to complete than flipping shows portray.
The most frightening aspect of each house flipping show is that the renovation has a happy ending. Although there are a few exceptions, the majority of house flipping stories on television close with the flippers making a profit and happily moving on to the next project.
In reality, many new investors throw all of their savings into flipping a house thinking that they'll make fast money only to lose it all. Flipping houses requires a lot of knowledge and commitment, and if you don't start from the right place things may not go as planned.
Setting a budget is an important part of the house flipping process. It's necessary to thoroughly research potential expenses, which is massively helpful when you come across problems you weren't expecting.
Most house flipping TV shows simplify the budget process for the sake of telling a compelling story. When considering budget it's important to include more than just basic materials, labor, and the price of the house itself. Flippers must also account for less obvious fees like interest on a home loan, taxes, closing costs, HOA fees, and utilities. A handful of flipping shows include expenses like these in their budget breakdowns but many leave them out.
It's true that flipping shows often address the problem of discovering an unforeseen challenge or expense while remodeling a house. Perhaps the home needs a new foundation or the wiring isn't up to code. Typically though, these moments are used as turning points and sources of drama in the episode without emphasizing the message that it's essential to spend below the maximum budget to leave room for error and prevent heartbreak at the end of the project.
But renovating an old home comes with a much larger set of challenges than flipping a newer home. Those expensive problems can include outdated plumbing and electrical work, toxic materials such as lead and asbestos that must be safely removed, and old fashioned layouts that don't suit modern lifestyles. In addition to those issues, if you're trying to restore the house back to its authentic state, there's a possibility that the materials are no longer available.