Renovation reality shows are all the rage at the moment.

You only have to turn on the television to see teams of couples, cousins, siblings or whatever dressed in matching singlets and hard hats and going toe to toe to deliver the best upgrades to kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms and entire properties; all while tension is added by speculation from a burly tradie type and a panel of judges.

These shows make sense from a marketer’s perspective.

The Australian love of property is matched only by our belief (misguided or not) that we are pretty handy with the tools and could probably stand to have a crack at DIY home improvement.

But don’t get carried away, especially if you’re working within certain time and budget constraints.

Even more so if you are looking to buy, renovate and sell for a profit, rather than just improve your own home, in your own time, for your own enjoyment.

Remember that what you see on TV is make believe.


For starters, the properties purchased on reality shows are bought at value in a favourable market.

It is a lot easier for a television network to buy a block of flats and subdivide them than it is for an individual buyer and to make it worthwhile, they avoid trying to buy in overheated cities.

Secondly, people do helpful things on reality television that they don’t do in actual ‘reality’.

For example, hardware companies don’t come around mid-reno and donate you a gift voucher.

Builders don’t come back in the middle of the night to catch up on work and then surprise you in the morning as you cry and say “oh my god” a thousand times.

No, you are well and truly left to your own devices.


Tradies may not turn up on time or at all, bad weather can cause delays, you might cause damage or unearth a pest problem.

Your budget can and will be stretched and you will probably need to revise the time to completion at least once during the project.

When buying a fixer-upper, you want to get a good price and pay either market value, or a little bit less.

You can often get a bargain on a damaged home.

This is fine if the damage is superficial, such as burn marks or overgrown gardens, but make sure there’s no structural damage or your budget will suffer once again.

Also, make sure your project is in line with market demand.


If everyone in the suburb is looking for a three-bedroom family house, there’s no point putting up a one bedroom villa.

Ensure there are buyers that will want to purchase your finished product, or at least some potential tenants to pay rent if the market has gone flat by the time you are finished and you need to wait until selling conditions improve.

Tim McIntyre is the senior real estate reporter for the Daily Telegraph and

Over the past decade, he has attained widespread knowledge of Australia’s many unique property markets and is an authority on all things buying, selling and investing.

His commentary appears every Saturday in the Daily Telegraph Real Estate lift out, as well as online at