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June 30, 2020

Reality Shows vs. Real Life – The Truth about Buying a Home

Reality shows have become a staple of TV in the past decade, with millions of viewers eager to watch, record and occasionally try to replicate the content they provide in their own lives. It isn’t surprising that one of the most popular genres of reality TV focuses on homes and real estate. Everyone needs somewhere to live, and this common requirement means that the potential viewer pool for this type of programming is huge. 

But what you see on television isn’t always an accurate representation of how the house hunting process actually plays out. First of all, the reality shows condense the length of time it takes to find a house by a huge degree. 

For example, your average episode of reality TV is either 30 or 60 minutes long. The show will introduce you to “Stan and Nan Smith”, who are looking for a four bedroom, two and a half bath home with an open floor plan, dedicated laundry room, breakfast nook, Florida room, inground pool, generously sized deck for entertaining and a fireplace in both the family living area and the master bedroom. It sounds like an impossible task, doesn’t it? And truly, it is. The first thing you’ll learn when you’re looking for your “dream home” is that you’ll need to rank your needs and wants in order of importance, because the vast majority of homes you’ll have to choose from won’t check off every single box. 

Believe it or not, once you get out there and start looking, you’ll discover that a little compromise will take you a long way. You may tour model homes and decide you love the master suite just as it is - without the fireplace, and you actually prefer the bright green lawn to the pool. Your breakfast nook gives way to a larger kitchen with an island that can accommodate bar stool seating, and your Florida room turns into a larger garage. The best part about looking at houses that meet your most important criteria rather than all of them is knowing you can always change your mind. If you remain open to opportunities, you know the home you eventually choose is perfect for your family.

And even though Stan and Nan find the perfect home after a quick trip through three homes, it’s likely you won’t make your decision so quickly. According to the National Association of Realtors, home buyers will tour an average minimum of ten homes before making a choice. There’s no way a reality show could film this much house hunting before an audience loses interest. In fact, many of the buyers on the shows have already chosen the home they want to buy. It would be impossible to follow the entire buying process efficiently, so producers usually select families who have already made their selection, recreating the early parts they’ve missed in abbreviated time. 

And another piece of fantasy TV – many of the houses Stan and Nan tour during their brief house hunt are actually already off the market. These homes are carefully staged to present the image the producers want, whether it’s purged of furniture to show an empty space or filled with professionally selected décor designed to stun. And they won’t show the paperwork phase – while mission critical to buying a house, it’s definitely “must miss TV”. Buying a home requires a lot of signing time, which is better done off camera.

Also watch out for another reality show magic trick – easily overcoming every financial obstacle put in the way of closing on a home you really can’t afford. A surprising number of home buying shows feature buyers who fall in love with a home outside their budget.  For example, Stan is an interpretive dance teacher and Nan is a social worker. Their combined income won’t come close to covering the mortgage on the $525,000 house they’re buying, but a reality TV show will never, ever show a deal falling through. This can frequently happen if the buyer is overreaching. On house hunting shows, underfunded buyers always locate generous financing to put the deal through in the nick of time. In our world, the sale is called off and the house hunters hit the pavement again.

So, is there a reality TV show that gets good marks from home builders and realtors? Does anyone give you a good look into the path to homeownership? The answer is…yes. The HGTV classic program “My First Place” has been a staple of the network since 2007. The show follows first-time home buyers, but professionals in the real estate market agree that the wide variety of real-life situations presented actually do happen to many customers. While the show is built around first-time buyers, it sets more factual expectations for the process than any other reality home buying show.

So, go on…enjoy your reality TV now and then, but take it with a grain of salt. If you have any questions about any part of the home buying process, the team at Ernest Homes can set you on the right path. Call us today at (912) 660-9673, or send us a question via the web!


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