Canadian Contractor

Which TV renovation shows are the fakest?

Some well-known renovation shows have employed actors to pose as neighbors, buyers and more...

May 10, 2016
By John Bleasby

Cenate Pruitt of Atlanta, Georgia looks back on his home’s momentary spotlight in Curb Appeal as a mixed blessing. Pruitt told The A.V. Club about distortions such as fake passersby and neighbors, close cropping of camera angles to exclude an unsightly neighboring house, and ‘establishing shots’ of his neighborhood which were in fact filmed in another part of town entirely. “They play fast and loose with what a neighborhood is really like and who really lives there to construct that story.”

Shows like Curb Appeal are heavily scripted. Crews and designers show up weeks in advance to take photos and scout the situation. Pruitt and his wife had to rehearse walking in and out of the house to greet ‘designers’ while being given directions such as, “Act like you all know each other…. this is going in a different point of the show.”

Fifteen minutes of fame and three years of problems
It’s been three years since Curb Appeal featured Pruitt’s house. Numerous repairs have been required to control basement flooding. Most of the landscaping was impossible to maintain.

U.S. Consumer publication 'Consumer Reports' puts HGTV's 'Flip or Flop' (starring Tarek and Christina El Moussa) near the bottom of its ratings of renovation shows

In January 2015, the U.S. version of Consumer Reports ranked HGTV’s Flip or Flop (starring Tarek and Christina El Moussa) near the bottom of its ratings of renovation shows

Flowers died within months, crab grass overtook the golf course sod installed on their front yard, and plant beds washed away due to downspout issues. “I would guess we ended up spending $1,200 to $1,500 a year hiring people to come in and clean it up.” The producers were long gone at that point.


Pruitt claims to have expressed various quality concerns during the production, however he says the editing process reduced his remarks too those of ‘a moron.’ “It’s not about us, it’s about the talent: ‘Look how great the talent is and look how awesome a job they’re doing. And oh, by the way, these are the people that own the house.’ We were the guest stars in our own life. It gave me a new level of insight into how manufactured those are, how manufactured the drama is, and how selectively edited things are.”

Pruitt’s ‘payment’ was the estimated $20,000 value of the renovations, which he had to declare as income to Uncle Sam, since his contract deemed him the contractor.

Nicole Curtis' show 'Rehab Addict' gets a nod of approval from 'Consumer Reports'

Nicole Curtis’ show Rehab Addict got a nod of approval from Consumer Reports.

All the world’s a stage, including your house
On the other hand, some real estate agents seem to favour the shows, largely for the obvious home staging, something agent Ron Henderson encourages his clients to consider. In his blog, Henderson writes, “Consumers …can see the difference home staging makes.” He also feels Property Brothers and Love It Or List It are fairly realistic. (Love It Or List It it is currently being sued by a homeowner featured in a 2013 episodes.)

Even then Henderson acknowledges the showmanship. “In reality, there’s a producer just out of the camera’s view. He picks up a megaphone and yells, ‘OK, cue the buyers!’ and then they send in the unpaid actors.”

Mike Holmes
Obviously many professional home builders and renovators are not particularly positive. Unrealistic time lines and absurd budgets top the list of objections that can easily plant misleading expectations in the minds of potential clients. The only possible case for these shows being of any benefit to the industry is the general excitement they build for renovation and home improvement.

mike-holmesNot surprisingly, TV celebrity handyman Mike Holmes feels that industry pros should be watching. He told that despite the flaws, the HGTV shows educate homeowners overall and help them speak the language of the trade.

Mind you, Holmes comes under regular criticism  from professionals for his attacks on work done by unidentified preceding contractors, and has made that approach the trademark of Holmes Makes It Right, part of a TV juggernaut that has earned him a net worth that has been estimated at $25 million. Some cite Holmes’ attitude as fostering overall consumer suspicion of the contracting industry.

Hit or miss, good or bad, these types of shows are only growing more popular with spin-offs spawning instant celebrities along the way, with an impact every contractor must address with many potential clients.

What’s your opinion?

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4 Comments » for Which TV renovation shows are the fakest?
  1. Mike says:

    I have not watched HGTV in a long time, but when I did I was always struck by the heap of blame put on to neophyte contractors. When a customer gets three quotes and picks the low ball, what do they expect? In many of the Holmes episodes this is exactly what happened. Two quotes of 65K and one of 15K, homeowner picks the 15K from the wet behind the ears contractor and then blames the contractor for all their woes. I blame the homeowner and I blame Holmes for not pointing this out or showing the cost of the reno he does. This would help the industry.

  2. Did I report that I have a Mercedes 2500 cargo van with 4 wheel drive. I operate on the west coast and it rains all winter and the driveways are steep and turny and difficult to access sites. I had a Chev Express previously and it could not go off road much even with snow tires, then I tried a Ford Transit and it could not go anywhere which was not flat or

    The 4×4 model allows two wheel driving in good conditions and 4×4 when slippery , steep areas are involved. I would imagine it would be the only vehicle moving in the snow. Vans are notorious for poor traction but the Mercedes is the only 4×4 van available and it works well. Very kind on fuel consumption too.

    Mine is outfitted with a bulkhead behind the seats and has covered walls and a strapping rail system on the floors and walls to prevent goods from sliding around. I put on the Bluetooth for phone calls on the move which is extremely valuable and a rear view camera for backing into parking and to pick up the trailer hitch without a guide. The 6 foot headroom is a major happiness.

    Sure beats walking down 200-300 foot driveways with all the tools and building products and I no longer get stuck and need a pull out by someone else

  3. David says:

    Holmes is not wrong… Just went through $200k Reno….screw ups ( ordered & partially installedpropane water heater instead of gas, tile work was so poor in one bath, I made him rip it out, as going to ignore asbestos until sub brought it to my attention. New Stairs to basement left until last& now require structural changes to install….&this contractor was highly recommended by multiple sources!!
    Problem is no barriers to entry& minimal licensing, if any.
    If you can afford a few lease payments on a 1/2 ton truck & buy/borrow/rent some tools you are a “contractor”
    The guys whom I have had work for me that mean-mouthed Holmes were inevitably the biggest incompetents & BSers

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