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Mike Holmes reveals the key to home improvement success

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When a home renovation project doesn’t go quite as planned, it’s helpful to check in with Mike Holmes. 

Contractor, businessman, philanthropist and host of home improvement programs “Holmes on Holmes,” “Holmes Inspection,” HGTV’s “Handyman Superstar Challenge,” Fox TV’s “Home Free” and now DIY Network’s “Holmes: Buy It Right,” Mike Holmes is known for his no-nonsense approach of home building, repair and improvement.

On “Holmes: Buy It Right,” Holmes helps couples find the home of their dreams. He teaches them to use their heads (and in some cases their hands) and equips them with the knowledge they’ll need and the awareness to ensure that nothing is overlooked. DIY Network airs marathons of the series on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m.

In this recent interview, Holmes explains how a contractor from Ontario, Canada, became one of TV’s go-to guys in the world of home improvement.

TME: Not every contractor would be as comfortable on-camera as you are. How did that happen?

Holmes: That’s a great question. I’ve been doing this all my life. My dad was a “jack of all trades – master of none” and I didn’t understand that. At 19, I was running a company with 14 employees and it just continued. 17 years ago, I met this guy at HGTV and I started talking to him about the shows on the channel. I didn’t like them – I thought they were full of crap.

TME: What did you see that made you think that?

Holmes: They were just giving out bad information on the air and I couldn’t believe it. I went on and on about it for half an hour - with the veins poking out of my neck - about the kind of shows they should have on the air. I realized I had been talking too much and said “I’m sorry. I have to go.” He jumped up and said “I want a pilot right away.” I laughed my head off. I said “I’m not a TV guy. I’m a contractor.”

TME: My fiancé and I watch a lot of home improvement shows and I sometimes wonder how real they really are. We’ve never questioned your shows.

Holmes: The reason my shows work is because they are probably the most real shows you’re ever going to see on TV.  I don’t act. I speak my mind. There is no script. I walk through the house and I’ll say “This is wrong. Let me tell you why it’s wrong and here’s what we have to do about it.” I’m very passionate about educating people about how not to fall into a trap and what they need to pay attention to. Maybe that’s why it works. My shows relate to everyone. Everyone has a story one way or the other. Either they were screwed by a contractor or know someone who was. They might have done something wrong when buying a home. There are different aspects of the shows that everyone can relate to.

TME: When it comes to most home improvements or fix-it jobs, I honestly have no idea where to begin and I admit it. What are some of the most common mistakes that people like me make when we try to tackle things but are really in over our head?

Holmes: Here’s something that TV has done over the years: people watch a show and just assume they know how to do it themselves because they saw it on TV. They want that beautiful bathroom, kitchen and deck or whatever, but everyone has a busy life. They need to slow down. It takes everyone time to work and to save for a renovation or for a brand-new home. It’s the single most expensive investment of your life.  Just slow down and learn as much as you can before you tackle anything. That is the key to success. Most people will hire the first person who comes to the door.  They’re just looking for a heartbeat. “Oh, someone answered their phone. Somebody actually showed up.” It’s really important that you hire the right person for every job you have. Unless you really do know how to do it by yourself - and most people don’t.  Educate yourself first and that will go a long way.

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