Reality TV is making for disappointed homebuyers

From house hunting to house flipping and house renovating, homebuyer reality TV shows abound. But reality TV is not reality, and real estate agents say those shows are causing unrealistic expectations among potential real world buyers.

From how a home should look, to how smoothly remodels seem, to even the house buying process itself, paint a different picture than the real world. Especially for buyers looking in today’s competitive market.

“Specifically, in ‘House Hunters’ when they see three houses that they are supposed to choose from. That is actually much higher. Buyers are really seeing an average of 10 houses in person, and many more online,” said Brandi Snowden, director of member and consumer survey research at the National Association of Realtors.

Its survey of Realtor members found 71% of respondents said TV shows that depict the buying process impacted their business by setting up unrealistic or increased expectations.

Another 61% say TV programs set higher expectations for how homes should look, and 68% report buyers have been disappointed by how real homes on the market appeared, compared to those seen on shows.

Reality TV home renovations also set unrealistic expectations.

“These TV shows make it seem like it’s a really easy and quick process to remodel or renovate and flip your home, but that might not be true in real life,” Snowden said.

Costs for renovations are sometimes misrepresented because of shows subsidizing labor or getting better materials. Renovations, even small ones, don’t happen overnight.

“The magic of television can make a home transformation look like it happened in a quick 60-minute time frame, which is an unrealistic standard,” said NAR president Charlie Oppler.

Flipping, or buying a home, fixing it up and reselling it for a profit, is still a goal for some buyers. The NAR says 42% of its members report more buyer interest in the last five years, while 45% have seen no change.

Fifty-nine percent of NAR members report an increase in the number of buyers who planned to remodel a home in the last five years, with typically 25% planning to do so within the first three months of buying the property.

Reality TV home buying and renovation shows aren’t all bad.

The NAR reports 27% of its members think those TV shows result in more educated homebuyers and sellers.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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