Real estate drama, especially of the home renovation variety, is all over television right now. You probably recall the PBS classic, This Old House. Now there’s also Extreme Makeover, Flipping Out, House Hunters and an entire network devoted to the topic, HGTV (Home and Garden Television).

The latest addition (pun!) to the lineup is Catch a Contractor. Obviously inspired by the pederast-punishing hit, To Catch a Predator, the show’s host surprises unsuspecting and ostensibly unscrupulous contractors and outs their shoddy workmanship on national television.

The new show capitalizes on the drama inherent to home renovation projects, where expectations are typically high — and often met with a disappointing and litigious reality. The New York Times recently published a debate between six experts inspired by the new trend in real estate reality TV.

Here are the best insights from their conversation about the roller-coaster ride of home renovation:

  • there is some truth to every horror story — don’t expect your renovation to go perfectly, ever;
  • day laborers are often hired by contractors for little pay, no loyalty and thus have a poor work ethic — find out about how the contractor staffs their jobs;
  • contractors are not designers or architects — remember you have to pay extra for these professional services;
  • contractors are people too ­— if you don’t also have a designer acting as a liaison between you and the contractor, consider hiring based on personality as much as on the bid; and
  • (our favorite) don’t rationalize overspending on home improvements by calling them “investments.”

This last piece of advice is key to end-users, everyday sellers and flippers alike. While home renovations may nominally improve your home’s value (read: asking price) comps are the driving force behind most real estate appraisals.

Thus, take a sober look at how much value will be added by the project before you call the contractor. Otherwise spend the stress and money with the understanding you are doing so to improve your lifestyle, not your “investment.”