The other night I took my wife out for a little Chinese food, because if we like to do anything it’s appropriate other cultures. You laugh but in like five years it’s going to be illegal for white people to eat ethnic foods. It’s okay though. If the Chinese food is good enough I will risk going to jail for it.
The restaurant had a giant TV going, and naturally I watched it instead of paying attention to my wife. The program was some generic HGTV show about some house that was being remodeled. The couple living there was at their wit’s end. The property was one of many similar houses in one of those cookie-cutter neighborhoods. There was nothing unique about it. The design allowed for a small patio in the front of the house, but it wasn’t big enough. It was the same with the floor plan. It was open, but not open enough. The kitchen was worse than crap on a cracker. And so on. These people needed a renovation and were willing to shell out $90,000 to do so.
As the contractors started to tear out the whole kitchen (don’t worry, the barely used appliances were donated to a local charity), a feeling of rage swept over me. This kitchen was nice. Yeah, it wasn’t nice, but it was still a very functional place that had clearly been renovated in the past 10 years. It had plenty of counter space. The ample cupboards were stylish. The floor was spotless. Nothing was even remotely close to worn out.
And yet it was being discarded with glee. These people couldn’t wait to be rid of their horrible space and the designer kept reminding them how much better life would be with a new kitchen and slightly bigger patio.
HGTV makes us spend money
All my best thoughts make it onto Twitter months before they make it here. My thoughts about home renovations are no exception.
Collective home "maintenance" costs would drop at least 50% if people stopped replacing perfectly functional kitchens, bathrooms, and carpet.
— Nelson! (@financialuproar) August 5, 2018
12 likes? That’s probably my 3rd best tweet ever. You lazy SOBs should start liking more of my tweets.
Here’s what happens, even to the best money managers out there. We start watching HGTV at some point. Naturally, the best of us don’t have cable, so maybe it’s at a friend’s house or at a hotel. Hot damn I love me some HGTV watching at a hotel. The wife and I can watch hours of people choosing between three different houses. Then you get home and start looking around your shitbox house and decide it’s time for an upgrade. $50,000 later you’re significantly poorer and only slightly happier.
Some people believe you need to spend 1% of you home’s value annually on maintenance. Others believe you should be setting aside anywhere from 3% to 5% of its value. I question both figures, to be honest, just based on my experience owning rental properties. All I know is basing it on a percentage is silly.
Think about it this way. Somebody who owns a million dollar house still has the same basic home maintenance issues as someone who bought a cheap place for $100,000. They both have to replace appliances every decade or so. The roof will last 20-25 years. Same with the furnace and hot water heater. These main expenses will be about the same no matter what the place cost in the first place.
Where the costs really start ballooning out of control is when we start replacing perfectly good flooring and kitchens. A $100,000 house can get away with a dated bathroom or faded carpets. A million dollar place can’t, at least when you’re trying to sell it. Therefore we keep these places up to selling condition, just in case. Or at least that’s the lie we tell ourselves.
Just don’t renovate
Renters already have this figured out. If they want a much nicer kitchen or more spacious bedrooms, they just move. Home owners have to worry about renovating an existing property or selling that property and then upgrading to another. It’s a much longer process.
Both groups will end up saving buckets of money if they do without some things. Moving is expensive, even for renters. By staying put in a reasonable place for a decade or two, both stand to save a lot of money.
HGTV has the exact opposite attitude. To be truly happy all you need to do is call some contractors and in a few weeks all your non-sexual dreams will come true. Reality is much different, of course. Many contractors will rip you off as often as they can. Hidden surprises often mean your project will cost much more than estimated. And once you have a shiny new bathroom the rest of your house will look like puke in comparison.
There’s an easy solution to all this. Just don’t bother. Gain happiness from the fact you’ll be putting away cash for a rainy day.
Poll all your friends. I bet almost all of them want to do renovations to their house. They just can’t afford it. This is what I like to call HGTV Syndrome. Avoid contact with it at all costs.