We can’t seem to get enough of reality TV — especially when it comes to house hunting. I admit that when given the chance, I can happily sit and watch episodes for hours on end. As a full-time REALTOR®, I also have a front row seat to the show in real life. While there are many truths behind what you see on-screen, the actual experience for home buyers can be dramatically different than what’s portrayed on these popular shows.
1. The House Hunt Can Span Several Months
Obviously, the entire buying process can’t be squeezed into a one-hour segment. Networks pack the most punch in each episode by drastically simplifying the transaction. There is a lot going on behind the scenes related to financing, inspections, contracts, title work, appraisals, etc.
Shows that follow buyers searching for new homes often highlight just a few properties as contenders. In reality, you may have to look at many options before you feel comfortable narrowing things down. I’ve had clients look at several dozen properties throughout the course of a year. On the other hand, you may not be faced with this dilemma at all. I’ve also had buyers purchase the very first house that they saw.
2. Mortgages Play a Much Larger Role
Viewers love seeing home shoppers in action. The character development and interesting properties are the makings of good entertainment. Most people tune out as soon as someone starts talking about loan amortization, basis points and principal payments. Nothing would tank a show’s ratings more than a topic as boring as home loans. However, don’t be fooled: Buying a house requires some serious financial backing and securing a loan is a major piece of the equation.
3. You Don’t Have to Fight With Your Partner
TV Networks tend to cast couples that don't see eye to eye with regard to wants and needs for their future homes. For viewers, watching the arguments play out can be the best part of the show.
Sure, there are times in real life where emotions run high when couples disagree during the home buying process. I have witnessed my fair share of marital spats at property tours. But more often than not, family members are on the same page about their high-level priorities. While a little bit of bickering is common, having a full-out family feud over finishes is certainly out of the ordinary.
4. The Business Aspect Isn’t All That Glamorous
Watching house hunting shows may give you the false impression that important strategy sessions are discussed at a restaurant or a café. This isn’t usually the case. A public setting is not the best place for a formal meeting. It can be distracting when you’re trying to review important information. Plus, you may not want others listening in on your conversation.
Putting together a fully executed agreement can span a few days when there are several rounds of counteroffers. This can be the most stressful aspect for both the buying and selling party.
When it comes to negotiating, it’s not always a one and done deal. Reality TV under-exaggerated the anticipation that buyers feel as they wait for a response from a seller. Putting together a fully executed agreement can span a few days during which there are several rounds of counteroffers. This can be the most stressful aspect for both the buying and selling parties.
Some negotiating can happen face to face, but the majority is done over the phone or by email. With the popularity of electronic signature software, most contracts can be signed virtually, meaning buyers and their agents no longer need to meet in person.
5. Your Real Estate Agent May Not Be the Best Source for Renovation Costs
On TV, real estate agents are often depicted as experts in a wide range of roles, from quoting renovation figures to sketching out kitchen layouts. While you may meet many agents who have experience in several aspects of real estate, you will be hard-pressed to find one that hits on every area of the general contracting spectrum.
It’s important to understand the services that your real estate agent provides, which are generally related to helping you understand your local real estate market, finding a home, negotiating contracts and keeping the closing on track. Performing home inspections, budgeting for renovations and providing legal advice typically fall outside the scope of a real estate agent’s job. Your agent may be in a position to provide some basic guidance, but bringing in the right specialists is key.
6. It’s Not Always a Happy Ending
Despite drama and hurdles, is seems like TV buyers always make out in the end. Whether you’re watching a house hunting show or a renovation series, you'll notice that all of the loose ends tend to get wrapped up in a nice bow by the conclusion of the episode. The good news is that most buyers experience happy outcomes in their home searches and renovation projects, but it’s not a guarantee. Buyers’ offers get rejected, homes fail inspections, financing falls through — these are the daily realities that don’t fit the formula laid out by networks.