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The Realities of HGTV and Real Estate

The Realities of HGTV and Real Estate

You would scoff if someone told you to watch "The Big Bang Theory" to become a physicist or watch an episode of "Game of Thrones" instead of studying for a medieval history test. But somehow, everyone seems to think it's perfectly fine to use HGTV as a how-to guide to buy and sell a house.

So, what's true and what isn't when it comes to some of the channel's most common themes?

Here's a list of the biggest misconceptions people have learned about real estate, thanks to HGTV.

You'll find your dream home by looking at only three houses.

In real life, you may have to look at 20 houses or more before you find one you like. The show "House Hunters" is infamous for showing buyers who only look at three houses, fall in love with one of them and then move in immediately. In fact, the process takes much longer and is far more complicated.

Ask almost any real estate agent and you will hear multiple stories about buyers or sellers who have been disillusioned by the process, thanks to HGTV. While the channel does help by educating viewers on home buying in general, it's just not possible to accurately depict what really goes into finding and buying a home within the span of 30- or 60-minute television program.

The condition of the local housing market will also play a huge role in the numbers of homes available which might make your search more difficult. If it's a buyer's market, you may become overwhelmed with options, but in a seller's market, you could face bidding wars and need to make decisions immediately. Those types of scenarios are rarely, if ever, depicted on tv.

Even if a house is expensive, you can probably find a way to buy it.

While some HGTV shows are a bit more realistic about budget constraints, many persist in giving viewers an unrealistic idea of what they can afford.

[Typical House Hunters episode]
Husband: I train goldfish to play sports.
Wife: and I handknit dog socks.
Both: our budget is 900k

One of the biggest misconceptions of people watching HGTV shows is that it skews their idea of what things should cost. Home prices and remodeling costs are dependent on your local market. The popular remodeling show "Fixer Upper" is filmed in Waco, Texas where the market is completely different with much lower building and labor costs. According to, housing is more than 50% more expensive in Atlanta than in Waco. That means that it's going to cost a lot more to build or remodel a home in Metro Atlanta than Joanne and Chip Gaines spent on that cute little bungalow in Texas.

If the faucets or countertops aren't current, you should walk away from the house.

You may want to rethink that mentality. Believing that a property must be perfect can

be detrimental for both buyers and sellers. Home improvement shows are entertaining, but you shouldn't set them as your standard for buying a home. Buyers who approach properties with unreasonably high expectations may reject wonderful houses because of a single minor issue or design choice.

Try to look beyond superficial things that can easily be replaced like countertops and old appliances. No property is perfect, and no renovation is instantaneous regardless of how its portrayed on HGTV. Instead, make sure the property's systems such as plumbing, HVAC and electrical are up-to-date and that the home fits your lifestyle and budget.

Remodeling is easy and quick.

The reality shows make it pretty clear that renovations take a lot of work, but they can make it seem as if this can be done fairly quickly. Wrong! In fact, experts suggest you should expect renovations to take two to three times longer than quoted and cost you twice as much. Most viewers have no idea that home improvement shows often don't start filming until the project is already months into the process with all the necessary permits, contractors and supplies in place.

Plus, not everyone is cut out for the time, energy and patience that major home remodeling requires. On TV, a 90-day timeline to have it all done may be possible for experts, but in real life, even with a small crew, you could find yourself still making updates a year later or worse, correcting errors. Hiring a contractor may be easier than DIY but there can be other issues. For example, on HGTV shows, contractors are completely dedicated to one project. But in real life, many contractors work multiple jobs at the same time and delays, and unwelcome surprises are common.

But don't feel bad if you love watching HGTV. The shows are incredibly entertaining, and can teach people some things about homebuying and selling, but remember, you can't become a doctor by watching "Grey's Anatomy" so don't expect to become a real estate expert by watching HGTV.

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