We're all guilty of watching an episode or two, or 50 or 60 of those fun Real Estate TV shows. Who doesn't love to see the nice young couple give their perfectly curated list to the well-styled Realtor in some picturesque town...then, for the next half hour watch them be driven to three homes, one that doesn't meet their criteria, another that's over budget, and one that is almost just right? All the while, we're guessing which house they'll pick. Will it be house number one, the house on which they'll have to perform a few renovations, but it's better than the terrible house they live in now? Or maybe, house number two, it's above their budget and outside their neighborhood, but checks every box on their list. Who knows? They may go with house number three, the one that hits most of the items on the list, but the husband doesn't get the man cave he wanted. We just have to keep watching to find out!
The thing is, as entertaining as it is, what they show us during that thirty-minute episode is maybe 10% of what actually happens in a home buying and renovation process. Read on to learn the four secrets of what really happens behind the scenes during these real estate TV shows.
The TV Renovation Costs Don't Compare with Real-Life Renovation Costs
First, you have the cost of the renovation projects. When we watch these couples walk around the
house that "just needs a new kitchen" or "maybe some bathroom updates", they always share their budget with us at the beginning. The budget is always some nice round number, we'll say $100,000 for the easy math. The house costs $90k, so it's always so convenient that there's just enough left over in the budget for just the right amount of the renovations. Who knew kitchen renovations were only $10,000? Yes, all of these numbers are made up and the points don't matter, just like Whose Line is it Anyway. But it's pretty much the same concept with the Real Estate TV shows. The costs associated with the renovation projects you see on TV are rarely accurate. First, it's rare that the particular episode you're watching is not a syndicated episode. So, you could be watching something that was filmed a decade ago. Everyone living on planet Earth in 2023 understands that everything costs more today than it did even a year ago. So, secret number one - Tripling the renovation dollar amount you hear on TV may get you closer to the actual cost of a "real life" renovation, but will not account for material, labor costs, and change orders.
It's About Storytelling, Not House Selling
Second, this one seems like a no-brainer but it can be so easy to get caught up in the narrative of the sweet couple who we meet at the beginning of the show, or of the Real Estate agent team who has been doing this Real Estate + renovation gig since they were had a two bedroom apartment and could only afford to eat one packet of ramen a day. That's the point though. It's entertainment. The show is heavily scripted and produced by storytellers and television show producers whose job it is to get ratings, not to sell Real Estate. It's a TV show for entertainment that's designed to make you want to keep watching until the end of the story. The big secret here is that nothing happens in real time. One second you'll see the couple looking at houses and the next they're being handed the keys to start the renovations or having their new home revealed to them. In reality, months have passed. The episode generally shows three houses being viewed. In reality, anyone who has ever shopped for a home knows that far more than three houses are viewed. In thirty minutes, the happy couple goes from living in one house, having no clue what they want out of a new home - to living settled in their new home. Oh that we could...
Buying a House Cost More than Just the Cost of the House!
Third, nothing is ever mentioned on the shows about any costs besides the costs of the home and the far-too-low cost estimates of the renovations. No one ever talks about acquisition costs, Realtor fees, legal fees, title insurance, closing fees, home inspections, property taxes, appraisal fees, attorney fees...the list goes on and on. If the acquisition costs of purchasing the properties are mentioned on the show, they're highly underestimated or are usually falsified and all rolled into one small number. Public records will not match the actual fees and are not replicable. The big secret here is that the typical process is that before production starts, the TV show has already acquired and is in control of the Real Estate. This can mean more fees and higher costs at the end of the day for that happy, young couple you see on the TV. They don't show that part in the episode though.
What About the Reality of Real Estate?
Lastly, that good-looking host or hostess that you see who also doubles as the Real Estate agent or renovation expert, they probably aren't the one doing the real work. There are many steps to a Real Estate transaction, and each step takes a ton of experience and time to add to the probability of closing escrow. The number of people involved in this process is far greater than the TV show lets on. These experts span from title companies to attorneys to the Real Estate agents themselves. The process can be two steps forward, one step back scenario, in which case the expertise of a Real Estate professional is needed.
It would be nice if home buying and renovation processes were as simple and as quick as they made it seem on TV. There are plenty of general contractors and Real Estate agents out there who would be able to get a lot more work done a lot quicker if that were the case. However, as with most things in life, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. So, next time you watch one of those real estate TV shows, remember these four secrets. But don't let it ruin the show for you. We can definitely still get some great ideas and inspiration from those shows!
If you need help from a real-life Real Estate expert in Scottsdale, reach out to us. We've been in the Real Estate business for nearly 20 years and have experience with buying, selling, and renovating houses. We'll do our best to make your experience as much like the TV show as possible.