Are HGTV’s Remodeling Shows Realistic for Hawai‘i Homes?

It’s not always as easy as it seems on TV, especially in a market like ours.
Morimoto residence


The popularity of HGTV’s home improvement and remodeling shows has likely encouraged many D.I.Y.-ers and real-estate investors. The shows have helped potential homebuyers feel they really know what they are looking for when they shop for a new place. Between HGTV shows and extensive listing information now available online to everyone, many homebuyers come to their agents with specific homes in mind. That can result in a speedier, more efficient process—a win for everyone involved.


Kendel Residence


Another positive result of fixer-upper shows: Buyers are able to better envision a home’s potential, looking past cosmetic flaws to see what the home could be with new floors, paint and appliances.


Dale Hope home


However, there are some downsides, too. On TV, it takes a commercial break to negotiate a sale. In reality it often takes days, weeks or occasionally months to reach an agreement. There’s also a disproportionate number of tear-downs and fixer-uppers on TV. In strong real estate markets like ours, there are distressed properties, but they’re rarely a steal. And it’s not quite as simple as loving it or leaving it—a simple makeover won’t gain you tens of thousands of dollars on your sale price. It’s more strategic than that, and you usually need a contractor and real estate agent to help you weigh the cost versus the payoff.


Waikiki Kitchen


We asked a Realtor if he felt that shows helped or hurt home shoppers and their agents. “HGTV has given great exposure to the entire ecosystem surrounding the real estate industry,” says John A. Harris, Realtor and broker/owner at RE/MAX Honolulu. “From buyer selection of houses to home improvement to knowledge surrounding potential home investment and ‘flipping,’ HGTV and other similar media outlets have captured the imagination of many enthusiasts.” In Hawai‘i, though, the degree to which owners can improve a home for sale through renovation and/or rebuilding might not be as dramatic as they hope. “There is always room for a value-adding homebuyer to earn money through a carefully engineered home renovation/flip, but the returns are limited and the most successful are those who already have access to a network of talented (and inexpensive) trade contractors.”