Reality check on reality TV

Construction Couple

This year’s The Block TV show was a huge success, culminating with the Gold Logie for its host, Scott Cam. As you recall, all four luxury apartments in O’Grady Street, Albert Park, sold under the hammer for way beyond their reserves, with rookies Steve and Chantelle taking out the top prize with a sale price of $2.47M — $636,000 above reserve.

I’m a big fan of The Block and have been involved in it since it started in 2003. It’s the highest rating TV series ever and has been produced in many other countries, including the US.

This year I was a guest judge on the contestants’ final challenge — the seven-day renovation of the two houses.

It’s always fascinating to see what they come up with and they did a great job converting two original homes into modern residences. There was definitely a lot of value added to those properties in just a week.

I really appreciated The Block’s warehouse conversion project this year. I love a property with a bit of character and history and the building in this year’s program, Dux House, is a beautiful former cinema and church. They chose a New York loft theme for the renovations and it worked beautifully.

The best part about The Block is the inspiration it gives to home viewers. We get to see how the contestants’ ideas play out, as well as all the latest fixtures and fittings and the hottest styling trends.

The show also reminds people of how renovations can transform a home and add real value when they’re done well.

The downside of The Block is it can set up some unrealistic expectations for would-be renovators.

Remember, it’s a reality TV show. So here’s your reality check.

First of all, this year’s contestants all sold their properties for more than $500,000 above reserve. That’s not normal. Many local agents have commented on the reserves being too low and that the sale prices were actually in line — if not a little under, other comparable sales in the area.

Secondly, often renovation projects go over time, over budget and they’re not as easy as they look on TV.

A 2013 CommBank survey of 1,000 recent renovators found only 46 per cent believed the re-sale value of their property had increased by more than the value of their renovations. About 60 per cent had to make compromises due to cash shortfalls and most projects were several weeks late.

The good news is that all of this can be avoided if you plan things well and get some good advice. And you can definitely make money from renovating if you make good choices along the way.

Go to a reputable architect for structural changes and an interior designer for furnishing ideas. Speak to an agent, especially if you’re renovating to sell. They’ll be able to tell you what the typical buyers for your style of property value most. And if you’re lacking in time, get a project manager to do it all!

This year’s The Block was more of a re-build project than renovations. If a cosmetic upgrade is more to your style and budget, here are my Top 5 tips for adding value with limited finances.

    1. New paint and carpet or floorboards
    2. New bench tops and good quality stainless steel appliances for the kitchen
    3. Install a frameless glass shower, new vanity and tapware and re-enamel the bathtub
    4. Tidy up the garden, choose evergreen plants and use a simple mulch to keep it neat
    5. Install skylights to brighten up dark interiors

And remember: be careful not to overcapitalise if you’re renovating to sell.

JohnMcGrathBookIn The Ultimate Guide To Real Estate, John McGrath — one of the Australia’s most innovative and successful real estate experts — shares his vast knowledge of the Australian property market. To purchase your copy of his best-selling book, visit the Total Real Estate Training website.