01 Nov 2017

Our obsession with property shows is driving complex reno demand — and potential disappointment

AUSTRALIA’S obsession with television property shows is driving a surge in demand for increasingly complex renovation jobs, industry sources reveal.

And while professionals welcome the boost in business, they are also having to deal with some unrealistic demands from customers hyped up by seemingly instant on-screen transformations.

“These shows drive demand and inquiries. And more ambitious ideas,” said Sydney designer Amy Morrison, who works on Foxtel’s latest foray into the renovation genre, Love It Or List It Australia. “Part of the job is about managing people’s expectations.”

Builders report up to a 20 per cent increase in inquiries when renovation shows are running. And data from trade sourcing website hipages shows a lift of up to 10 per cent around shows like Channel 9’s The Block and Channel 7’s House Rules, which both regularly draw more than one million viewers per episode.

Neale Whitaker is co-host of Love It Or List It, where he battles with fellow host Andrew Winter to either convince homeowners to stay and renovate or cut their losses and put it on the market.

After more than a decade working on The Block, Whitaker said it’s clear in his mind how renovation shows are driving our continuing interest in renovation.

“There’s no doubt that a big percentage of people have been galvanised into doing their own renovations (after watching),” he said.

For tradies and builders, this increase in demand has it pros and cons.

“We have all heard about the backlash from the renovation shows from the trades that they set unrealistic expectations of how long it takes to get the job done,” Whitaker said. “And that’s a genuine concern but, at the same time, those trades are busier now than they’ve ever been.”

Owner of Kitchen Design Victoria Mick Popov said he sees about 20 per cent increase due to renovation shows.

“It’s subtle but you do notice it,” he said. “There’s definitely an extra level of inquiry.”

His company does about 200 “mum and dad” kitchen renovations a year. While some homeowners are interested in the functionality of the workspace, most are focused on surface impressions.

“They are more certain about what finishes they want — it’s very much about appearances,” he said.

This has lead to more people specifying stone benchtops over products like laminate, while opaque glass is a popular choice for splashbacks. And more men are becoming invested in the look and feel of their kitchens.

“Years ago, I would have said it was the wife doing all the research but men are getting more involved now,” Popov said. “It’s about 60 per cent women and 40 per cent men.”

Owner of Brisbane-based P2P Construction Solutions, Rod McDowall said he is concerned about the unrealistic nature of the current crop of reno shows.

“Those shows are entertainment but people believe about 80 per cent of what they see on TV and the timelines on those shows are completely unrealistic,” McDowall said. “People think there is a two or three week lead-in to complete work but it’s more like two or three months. People think you can install a bathroom in three days.”

Whitaker said his latest project will have a more down to earth approach, focusing on real life dilemmas.

“This show are very much about solving problems,” he said. “It might be that the owners have six kids sharing one room or that there’s not enough room to seat everyone at the table for dinner.

“This is not about showing off the latest state-of-the-art kitchen.”

Brisbane designer Luisa Klinge, who also works on the show, agrees: “People can get unrealistic expectations of time and expense.

“Love It Or List It is a great format to show a true renovation sticking to an actual reasonable budget.”


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