The Reality of Reality TV Home Shows

Updated: Mar 22, 2019

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of your favorite home shows? Or How "Real" they really are? Keep reading...


As a former Television producer, who produced many hours of home makeovers, room makeovers and you name it makeovers I think it’s time to shed some light on the HGTV world we all live in now. As a TV producer turned real estate agent I am totally obsessed with every kind of decorating show, house hunting show…basically if you name it-I probably watch it.


I can happily sit and watch episodes for hours on end, and truth be told, it’s usually on in the background even when I’m working from home. They are a bit addicting. From 'Fixer Upper' to 'Million Dollar Listing' to 'Flip or Flop' and 'Love it or List it'-the list is endless. I mean Joanna and Chip are selling goods at Target with what seems like a cult following and are starting a network- I think they are taking over the world!


As a full-time REALTOR®, I also have a front row seat to the real life show. While there are many truths behind what you see on these shows, the actual experience for home buyers can be dramatically different than what’s portrayed on these uber-popular reality shows.


House Hunting

Buying a home takes time. On these shows most of the buying process is squeezed into a one-hour episode. The Producers pack the most dramatic moments into each episode by drastically simplifying the entire home buying transaction. Think about it- you search for the right home, make an offer, wait to see if your offer gets accepted, go into attorney review here in NJ, schedule a home inspection, get an appraisal, work with your lender on financing ….and on and on and on. There is sooooo much going on behind the scenes that your agent is dealing with too.

Shows that follow buyers searching for new homes often highlight just a few properties as contenders. In reality, you may have to look at several options before you fall in love. I’ve had clients look at dozens of properties before making the final decision. On the other hand, some find 'the one' after only 3 homes. So my point is, the process is not as simple as it looks on TV.


The Relationship with Your Partner

A producers job is to cast the show with the best guests. That means drama and emotion almost always come into play. So, these shows tend to cast couples that don't see eye to eye on what they want and need in their future home. There’s a reason Jerry Springer and Maury have been on the air for over 20 years! Just sayin....


For viewers, watching the disagreements and arguments between couples and families can be the best part of the show. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying in real life emotions don’t run high when couples disagree when buying a home. But more often than not, after I meet with my buyers, we make sure we are ALL in agreement on wants and needs prior to hitting the pavement to avoid such issues. Luckily a family feud over cabinet finishes is far from ordinary in my real world.


What About The Mortgage?

Imagine a show about interest rates and FHA options? Snoozefest! Viewers would much rather see the different types of home options and watch the characters in action than hear about principal payments. Talk about a ratings disaster too! However, buying a house requires some serious financial security and securing a loan with a great lender who will work with you through the process is a major piece of the puzzle. Hav you ever seen this part on a show? I think not!


A Real Estate Agents Real Job

On TV, real estate agents are often seen drawing renovation plans for a new bathroom and quoting renovation figures. While many real life agents have experience in several aspects of real estate, there is no agent on earth who can cover every single aspect of home buying, including renovations, mortgage approvals, and general construction too.


It’s important to understand the services that your real estate agent provides, which are generally related to helping you understand your local market, helping you identify your needs/wants, finding a home, negotiating contracts keeping the closing on track, and a myriad of other tasks.

Most agents leave the legal advice for the attorneys, the loan process to the lenders and the inspection to the authorized and professionally trained inspectors. Your agent will guide you through the process and hopefully hold your hand every step of the way, but will also bring in the right specialist when needed.


Real Estate Usually Isn’t All That Glamorous (But Neither is TV Production)

Some shows depict the real estate industry as glamorous. Strategy sessions at fancy restaurants or at cafés, wine with lunch, home tours in the big Rolls but this isn’t usually the case. I mean a public setting is not the best place for a formal meeting about the biggest investment of most peoples lives. Do you really want others listening in on your conversation?


Reality TV totally under-exaggerates the anticipation that buyers (and their agents) feel when they wait for a response on the offer they submitted to the seller. This is a nail biting time that is difficult to depict on TV. Not to mention there can be several rounds of counteroffers. This can be the most stressful aspect for both the buying and selling sides.


Some negotiating may happen face to face, but the majority is done over the phone or by email. Most contracts are also signed virtually, meaning buyers and their agents don't need to meet in person for this particular part.


It’s Not Always a Happy Ending

Despite the drama and what seems like countless issues and hurdles to overcome, TV buyers ALWAYS make out great in the end. No matter what type of show it is, house hunting, listing, renovation series, or decorating you'll notice by the end of the hour everything is tied up into a pretty red bow. That’s their job! Who wants to watch a show with an unhappy ending? The good news is that most buyers in real life do experience the same happy outcome, but there’s no guarantees for sure. You can have your offer rejected multiple times, inspection issues can kill a deal, a home doesn’t appraise, financing won’t work, etc. These are the real realities of home buying.


In addition, I feel compelled to point out that producers of these shows work really hard to ensure a good show. In reality, most real estate agents will also work really hard to ensure a smooth transaction for their clients. BUT, most buyers on these HGTV shows PAY for their own upgrades like you see on 'Property Brothers' and other shows. They don’t get it for free. Most people, including myself, live in an HGTV world, where we want everything to look like Joanna Gaines just decorated it, but remember nothing is free! Spoiler alert: The awesome décor you see inside the homes she designs, the TV buyers need to pay extra if they want to keep it!

BTW-if you’re a home buyer, you don’t pay for your agent out of your pocket- the seller does:)





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