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Surviving the reality of reality


Published: 07/23/2012

by Mark Noonan

Turn on the TV and your favourite world-class chef is putting the final touches

 on a feast fit for a king, or at least your Saturday evening dinner guests. One more

 tap on the channel selector and the good old boys from the sunny south are dropping

 in a big block engine and putting the final touches on a perfect classic restoration.

 Moreover, it all happens in 60 minutes or less.


What does this all mean? It means that as a society, we have arrived. When we

 can take what were our basic daily human challenges and turn them into nightly

 entertainment for the family, it must mean that we have too much time on our hands.


I hope that this is a good thing, as long as we remember that it is Hollywood that is

telling the story. There is not one of us that could not be that culinary wizard if we also had six sous

chefs helping us with it all. As for mechanics, we all know it can take half a day of

fighting rusty nuts just to change a tire, so who is fooling whom with these fastpaced

TV shows?

As a home renovation specialist, I do not know if I should feel excited or nervous

that renovations have gone mainstream and caught their own little wave of

Hollywood’s attention. Miracle makeovers, expertly planned and managed by your

neighbour, no less, are completely created to your full satisfaction in less than 30 minutes.

Or better yet, a classic restoration in the trendy part of town is trusted to a contractor

who arrives at the site on two wheels instead of four – while never missing

a hair appointment, nor ever getting his hands dirty. I still cannot figure out

where he carries the chop saw. Then there is the newest and most

popular angle – contractor bashing. It is a full-contact sport. It all starts by picking the

cheapest, most unreliable renovator we can find. We let him into our

home just to ruin it. Then we call in the expert of all experts, the real deal,

the guy with hulking biceps who’s going to make life perfect before the end of the show, all

at no additional cost. It is  almost too good to be true, is it not? Yes, it is too

good to be true.

Folks, home renovations are one big, complicated mess that usually

take 30 days or more to complete, not 30 minutes.

What makes the difference between a nightmare and

a perfect renovation? Surviving the reality of reality, and that means

proper planning and proper executions, with no shortcuts and no

compromises. How many of us go out and spend top dollar on that new car we have always

wanted, or perhaps the plasma television with surround sound? No matter what the

spending option is, price is not the deciding factor – it is the fun factor that guides

our spending habits. It is that lifestyle we are seeking that determines where our dollars

do our bidding. Life’s good; a good lifestyle is better.

So why is it that this same spending philosophy does not carry over to home

improvement purchases? When it comes to adding on a new roof, new windows, that

long-needed bathroom or a perfect new kitchen, we want to squeeze out the lowest

cost at the expense of all other project considerations. This is typically how we

shop for home improvements in North America, and frankly it makes no sense.

Your home will be the single biggest pur purchase you ever make in your lifetime and it will ultimately

be considered your single biggest asset once the mortgage has been exhausted.

So if your home is worth $350,000 and you are considering, say, a new

bathroom at a cost of $17,500, this upgrade represents only a 5% investment

in your single biggest asset. Sounds like a good business decision, right? Then

why do so many of us try to hammer the cost down by $500 or maybe even $1,000? We have seen what

we want and it is $17,500, but we keep looking until we find a willing renovator

who can do it for less. That is how we author the script for our own reality show.

The reality is that things really cannot be done well for less money. You can

always find a cheaper price, but be assured that compromise and sacrifice will

be the hallmark of the finished project.

Ultimately your satisfaction with the renovation will be tempered by your disappointment

in your choices. Avoid this. Understand what it takes to enjoy a really good renovation. Look to

make the right decisions, all the while respecting the investment value of your

home and the lasting value of the improvements to it.


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