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Real Estate Reality Shows Are Corrupting Our Youth And Nobody Is Thinking Of The Children


Surfing the interweb the other day, I came across a website titled (yes, this is real) “If you’re buying or selling a home, check out these design and real estate-focused reality shows for inspiration”.  Real estate reality show for inspiration?

First of all, these shows are for entertainment only. There is nothing real about them… what-so-damned-ever. University of Colorado’s Dr. Jim Taylor, in a Psychology Today article wrote “realty TV promotes the worst values and qualities in people and discusses them as entertainment.” In addition to promoting terrible behaviour as reality, some of the things you see in a real estate show just don’t happen, simply because of logistics.

Here are the biggest differences I see:

There is always a happy ending in reality TV. In the real world, people get outbid multiple times and just stop looking. Homes on the market have inspections done that uncover MAJOR issues, rendering the home virtually unsaleable. Sometimes things don’t work out, and sometimes it takes years of consulting to get buyers ready to go or have the remedial work done on a house to put it up for sale.

The first time buyers on TV – Catalina, the marketing manager who makes $60,000 and her partner Jasmine, the self-employed pet groomer who makes $45,000 with a $20,000 downpayment end up buying a $890,000 fully detached home on a 80’x140’ lot. That is anything but real life. On planet earth, in this realm the general rule is five times your income plus the downpayment you have. The first time buyer is buying something small and affordable – maybe buying two more homes before landing in their forever house.

On HGTV, the negotiation is a quick but heated chat over Mai Tais at a rooftop patio with the sun shining on the CN Tower in the background. The folders are crisp, the pens are Mont Blanc and the the agents have signing authority for the clients. In my life, negotiations are done at night, selling my clients’ offer to an agent who has heard eight other offers before me. Sometimes the offers go late into the night, where two agents argue over a thirteen year old microwave, or requiring that there be two and a half “cords’ of firewood be left for the new buyers.

On the other hand, some of the negotiations are heated – conjuring images of agents in smokey rooms with ties loosened and sleeves rolled up. The reality is, MOST negotiations are two agents amicably presenting different options and finding a solution. The first agent I worked for summarized a real estate negotiation quite simply: “you manage your clients, I’ll manage mine and let’s see if we can find an outcome that both of them walking away feeling good about”.

The wildly manufactured emotions from the clients are also a TV thing. While separations, deaths or medical issues have compounded emotions – I’ve never been freaked out on like I have seen on TV. Nobody has ever told me that I need to “work harder” or been humiliated like I’ve seen on certain home buyer shows.

Those TV agents are masters at staging too. In addition to being negotiators, they also know how the light shines in, what furniture accentuates the space, and how to create the perfect flow for the room. This is fantasyland, people. Every great agent I know hires a stager, and the larger groups have in-house stagers. The agents who think they are stagers usually have what a friend of mine calls a “tickle-trunk” of furniture and cushions. They take the same stuff from home to home, picking up bedbugs and god-knows-what kinds of assorted pests, trying to save themselves some money in cost of sales.

I watched an episode of Million Dollar Listing where one agent was openly trying to steal another realtor’s client. In the real world, there is no way anyone would risk their license (O. Reg. 580/05, s. 7 (1)) to gain a client of another realtor. That is to say nothing of the inevitable blackballing from the community. Yes, even though there are 50,000 realtors in the GTA, it is a small community of those who practice. And these communities have long memories for dirtbag behaviours. One of my mentors waited nine years for the opportunity to exact revenge on a realtor guilty of this kind of behaviour. And he took it.

One of the biggest differences I see in reality TV vs reality is the themes of “win/lose” or “pass/fail”. The messages that these shows communicate the idea that there is no compromise, ignore the existence of other options. Here’s the reality of Toronto real estate, folks: there are MANY strategies to list a home effectively, and many ways to structure an offer to buy one


Next time you are watching a real estate reality show and want to know if it is real or not, shoot me a text!  I’m happy to respond with a “yeah, that could happen” or “yeah no – never happen in a million years!”


Note from the author: Notwithstanding my hatred for HGTV, I WILL watch it to be brightened by Giada De Laurentiis’ smile.

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