Home makeover reality shows are popular because they offer viewers deep insight and meaning. These shows also provide a serotonin boost that one gets upon seeing someone improve their life, whether it’s just their kitchen or their whole lifestyle they're upgrading.
It’s all so inspiring… until you find out that producers manipulate the situations and the characters’ reactions. While the casual viewer might not care about this, the people who appear in these shows may take issue when they find out that they were being manipulated for the sake of boosting viewership. This is especially true with home renovation reality shows, some of which became the subject of lawsuits due to manipulation, shady contracts, and “makeovers” that were purportedly awful.
You’ll never watch a reality show the same way again!
Dream house? Dream on
Reality TV is notoriously known for manipulative editing and fabricating drama to enliven the narrative. News flash: the emotions that some characters show in these shows are often just for show.
Take, for instance, Property Brothers, a Canadian reality TV program that features twins Jonathan Scott, a licensed contractor, and Drew Scott, a real estate agent. The premise: the brothers find a fixer-upper for homebuyers, which they can remodel and turn into someone’s new dream home. In an episode of the series, couple Paul and Mindy King agreed to be the homebuyers and lived to regret it.
For their segment, the Kings were told that they were going to get first-rate fixtures at cheap prices. Instead, they ended up getting a four-bedroom ranch-style house filled with structural problems that pose health hazards.
Because it would not have been fun for viewers to watch the new homeowners appear underwhelmed at the shoddily constructed house, Paul and Mindy were directed to show joy at the redesigned structure. The scene where they appear elated can be seen in the episode’s final reveal segment.
However, according to Mindy, they weren’t happy at the noticeable construction flaws but were coached to look happy, which took four takes to get right.
They sued Cineflix Media, the show’s producer, and Villa Construction, the contractor involved in the program, citing fraud, misrepresentation, and faulty workmanship. But suing those involved in the show was just the beginning of their problem. Cineflix countersued and accused the Kings of filing suit to garner attention and make money.
The Kings initially liked the show, but they probably no longer do.
A big flop
This home makeover is definitely a flop.
Nevada couple Brent Hawthorne and Billi Dunning had an issue with the home they got for appearing in an episode of Flip or Flop Las Vegas whose premise is similar to Property Brothers. Long story short, Brent and Billi were awarded $50,000 and a repurchase price of over $280,000 for their complaints. Their troubles did not end there, however, as they were sued by program hosts Bristol and Aubrey Marunde for allegedly violating the confidentiality provision of the settlement agreement.
In the countersuit, Ms. Dunning and Mr. Hawthorne were accused of causing the hosts “irreparable economic and emotional harm to their personal and professional lives”. The opposing lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
Should you agree to star in a home makeover show, you’ll likely have to sign confidentiality agreements, which you should take seriously. But if you’d rather not go through the legal hassles involved when you end up with a hastily made house, stick to watching home renovation reality shows instead of appearing in them.
More reality TV legal shenanigans here: If your job is to star in a reality TV show, you might want to lawyer up
Don’t Love It? Sue it
This should probably be the name of the show Love It Or List It, an HGTV home design program in which homeowners have their home redesigned and are given the option to get it listed. If the homeowners love the home, they can choose to keep it. If not, they can have it listed and then buy a new house. It sounds simple and fun for the homeowners, right? Not so for at least one couple.
In one episode, couple Tim Sullivan and Deena Murphy opted for the List It option. The problem was that they couldn’t sell the property because the show’s contractors “irreparably damaged” their home. According to their complaint, the couple had to spend $140,000 for repairs, but it wasn’t enough to fix the damages. They complained about the windows that were painted shut and the use of low-quality products to redo some parts of the house.
The couple received an undisclosed settlement, but they were countersued for libel, slander, and product disparagement.
According to HGTV's statement to the New York Times, they want the homeowners who appear in the shows to be happy and that the homeowners and contractors enter into contractual agreements for renovations. But just because there’s a contract doesn’t mean that people will be true to their word and/or honor the written agreements. This is why lawyers exist.
If you ever find yourself in the middle of a personal injury or family law case in Washington State, Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are the attorneys to call.