Reality television makes its way into every facet of society it seems these days. Too often this “reality” television isn’t exactly reality either. These programs put cameras anywhere and everywhere in order to tell a story, often a manipulated one. As far as Real Estate is concerned, many of you have probably come across an episode of, House Hunters, Million Dollar Listing, or the countless other shows that come across your channel directory every day. They are on, I kid you not, all the time. These shows show a dramatized version of what both the home buying process, and a career in real estate entail.
For those of you who have unlikely not seen the show “House Hunters”, which I invite you to watch or skim through here, it portrays the home buying process as simply the following: tour three homes, go to lunch, and then decide on one of them. In this episode they go get frozen yogurt, but you get the point. The significance of Realtors portrayed within the show are minimal to none, and they are seen, in my opinion, simply as glorified tour guides. The show is personally difficult to watch. It is basically just two people going through a house and making ridiculous comments wishing for different paint colors, granite countertops and outdoor space!
The program also illustrates the home acquisition process as simply choosing a home to live in as if there were no other people interested in the property. Negotiations between agents representing the sellers and buyers are never shown or even discussed. Again, they simply choose a house from a group of three. Home inspections and the several miniscule details involved in a real estate transaction are discarded.
Upon doing some research, I came to learn that I was not the only one who had a problem with “House Hunters.” In fact, I came across several articles, whether they are reliable or not, that is for you to decide. They claim that many of these people featured in the show already purchased a home and the entire home purchasing process on the show was fake. They also claim how two of the three properties toured in a episode are usually not even contenders. See here, here, and here to see some of the allegations against HGTV’s show such as people can only be on the show once they have actually purchased a home. The Huffington Post reached out to the network in light of these claims and they had this to say:
“We’ve learned that the pursuit of the perfect home involves big decisions that usually take place over a period of time –more time than we can capture in 30 minutes of television. However, with a series like “House Hunters,” HGTV viewers enjoy the vicarious and entertaining experience of choosing a home — from establishing a budget, to touring properties and weighing the pros and cons of each one. We’re making a television show, so we manage certain production and time constraints, while honoring the home buying process. To maximize production time, we seek out families who are pretty far along in the process. Often everything moves much more quickly than we can anticipate, so we go back and revisit some of the homes that the family has already seen and we capture their authentic reactions. Because the stakes in real estate are so high, these homeowners always find themselves RIGHT back in the moment, experiencing the same emotions and reactions to these properties. Showcasing three homes makes it easier for our audience to “play along” and guess which one the family will select. It’s part of the joy of the “House Hunters'” viewing experience. Through the lens of television, we can offer a uniquely satisfying and fun viewing experience that fulfills a universal need to occasionally step into someone else’s shoes.”
While these shows may be entertaining and mindless to watch, if taken too seriously, they can create problems for buyers, sellers, and agents. This is explained in a fantastic article by Jay Lieberman of inman.com. His article, “How reality TV is causing headaches for real estate agents,” discusses how these shows are creating unrealistic expectations and standards for listing, buying, and selling property. He too discusses how these shows make the home buying process look much easier than it is and that there are always a plethora of properties to chose from. He talks about how interactions between agents is not always done at a nice restaurant or coffee shop and that being in this business takes very hard work. One of the funniest parts of the article to me is when he discusses the open houses that are often featured in shows such as Million Dollar Listing. The extravagant and at times drama filled open houses are not common practice or reality in the industry.
I am by no means trying to say that these programs are evil. They just should not be taken as a way of educating oneself on the real estate industry, just as the Kardashians are no way of educating oneself on family life. I think attaching a professional industry like real estate to reality television makes it appear more legitimate. This poses risks because viewers might assume it is completely accurate. If you view these shows, enjoy them! But please do not use them as a source of intelligence or rely on them in understanding how the majority of real estate professionals operate across the country. Do you have a favorite reality TV show with regards to real estate? Let me know, because this is an open house of real estate.