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Op/Ed

5 ‘lies’ HGTV tells viewers that impact the housing market

(OPINION EDITORIAL) HGTV has long been a fan favorite for renovations and home searches, but is the information they portray accurate? What influence does this really have on consumers?

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Man watching HGTV show on tablet device.

It’s no secret that reality television very often does not, in fact, depict reality. One of the most frequently viewed “reality” television networks is HGTV, which features a wide range of home renovation and DIY shows that cater to a variety of home improvement enthusiasts.

While HGTV wants you to get lost in the latest episode of House Hunters, you may be surprised to know that these episodes are in fact, at least partially scripted.

Although there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good home improvement show, especially those ever-addicting home flipping shows like Fixer Uppers, there are a few things HGTV portrays that are less than accurate. Here are five of those things you may want to consider, or have your clients consider before embarking in the home ownership process yourself (or with a client).

Consider the following…

1. Realtors work a lot harder/longer than people think

Unfortunately, HGTV often portrays real estate agents as people who do the bare minimum for their clients, when in fact most Realtors® go above and beyond for their clients.

According to CheatSheet, Sissy Lapin, author and co-founder of ListingDoor, stated shows like House Hunters “make the agent look like they’re just these lazy people who show two houses and negotiate $1,000 off the asking price,” rather than showing the whole host of duties a good agent performs for their clients.

Good agents tackle the whole home buying process; informing clients about what they should consider when selecting a home, negotiating a better deal, and making sure that they do their very best to ensure nothing goes wrong throughout the entire process from start to close.

This is not the impression a potential homebuyer would get from HGTV alone. Realtors are an amazing asset to have on your team when you’re considering buying or selling a home, and they do a lot more than HGTV portrays.

2. Over-emphasizing the importance of new features

HGTV shows make a production out of showing homeowners frantically searching for the “perfect home” with all the “must have” features. In all fairness, sponsorship from the latest and greatest in home innovations is how they make some of their money. While it’s certainly understandable that most homeowners have a list of things they want in a new home, worrying sellers into thinking they won’t be able to sell their home unless they have these highly coveted features is an entirely different thing.

Lapin commented, “I can’t tell you how many times that I go into a house and they’re like, do you think it would add more value, or do you think it would sell faster if I put in granite countertops?” In fact, like many other trends in homes, consumers are moving away from granite to other sustainable materials. But you would never guess this if you believe everything HGTV is promoting on their shows. Again, the key is to do your own research. Consult a professional and inquire as to what would increase your home’s value.

3. Downplaying the expense of renovations

If you took what HGTV shows to heart, you’d be inclined to believe that major home renovations can be completed in mere hours for a few hundred dollars. If you’ve ever seen Property Brothers, you know the brothers function on extremely fast renovations schedules and very low budgets. This is likely not the situation you’ll encounter if you decide to renovate your own home (or a project home). Even contractors have complained that these types of shows are giving people an inaccurate picture about renovation expectations.

“Remodelers say that shows such as Love It or List It and Property Brothers, which often cram whole-house remodeling projects into too-small budgets, give clients the wrong impression regarding pricing and time constraints,” notes Tim Regan, writer for Remodeling.com. Also, according to CheatSheet, some renovations may not even be up to code.

One couple who appeared on Love It or List It are suing the show’s production company stating their home was “irreparably damaged” and a that a licensed architect was not hired.

To ensure your next project goes smoothly the best thing you can do is consult with a licensed, bonded, and insured contractor. They will be able to give you a time table and price range that is more realistic than what you see on HGTV.

4. Location, location, location

While not as important as the other factors on this list, in my opinion, it is certainly something to be considered. HGTV shows like House Hunters very rarely focus on the importance of location with the home buyer.

Lapin stated in one episode, she watched as a couple chose a home because of its stylish features even though it meant they would have to make a 45 minute commute to work. While everyone is entitled to make their own choices, Lapin makes a good point in stating that she would have “made [her] client make that drive to work three days in a row” to see if they would still enjoy the location of their new home.

This is one of the many benefits to having a Realtor® on your side: they know the ins and outs of home values, location, and more. Getting your information from a Realtor® will take you a lot further (and very likely save you money) than the information you can get from HGTV programming.

5. Buyers know more than some think

Contrary to what HGTV would like you to believe, buyers are not naïve. For the most part, buyers are real-world savvy and have a good idea about what they need and the price range they can afford. This is the age of digital technology, and most buyers are putting that technology to use, researching before they set out to buy something.

Sites like Zillow give buyers an idea of what’s available for how much, and they can even see what the home looks like without getting out and driving to the location. HGTV tends to show buyers that don’t know what they want or how much they can spend.

This is likely done to make their professionals seem more knowledgeable, but in reality, as Lapin states, “the buyer, the consumer, is very savvy and I feel like that’s not portrayed. Buyers have a lot of confidence now.” This isn’t to say most buyers don’t still welcome guidance from a professional, but they do have a general idea of what they want and what they can spend, by and large.

Instead of viewing HGTV as an example to follow, or representative of the market as a whole, it should be treated as entertainment.

While there are some aspects of the show that may be useful to some viewers, such as window replacement and selecting new flooring, it definitely shouldn’t be held as the gold standard for service or the home buying experience.

Consumers’ best bet is to consult an industry professional who can give you a more realistic picture of cost and time.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Op/Ed

Simplify your feedback loop with this powerful new WordPress tool

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) FeedbackScout is a new data-forward solution for any WordPress enthusiast, consolidating your feedback into meaningful analysis portals.

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FeedbackScout is a new WordPress extension to help your feedback.

Feedback is simultaneously one of the most crucial aspects of any kind of service and one of the most frustrating things to collect—to say nothing of analyzing it. There are innumerable feedback collection tools out there to improve this process, each with their own pros and cons; however, if you use WordPress, a new tool might change the way you implement criticism.

That tool is called FeedbackScout, and its job is simple: To consolidate your feedback in a meaningful, easy-to-analyze format so you can spend less time combing through data and more time implementing it in your next product or build.

The way FeedbackScout works is reminiscent of Trello—something the developers assure you that you won’t need after using their tool. You start by creating a “Feature Request” post on your WordPress site through the FeedbackScout dashboard. Once it’s posted, anyone on your site can comment or use the built-in “Like” button to show their support for the feature.

Once you’ve posted several different feedback requests, you can monitor which ones attain the most input and focus on those—all from within the FeedbackScout dashboard and your WordPress site.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this model is its convenience. Rather than having to leave WordPress to review a spreadsheet, all of the feedback you need is built right into the form you post—and, if you’re using WordPress with the frequency with which one can justify implementing FeedbackScout, chances are high that your product’s users are comfortable enough with your site to leave their input expeditiously.

FeedbackScout also includes a feature called “Roadmap” that consolidates all of your feedback into a board of to-do resources. This feature can be shared with your user base to keep them invested in your progress; after all, if they know you’re working on features they requested, they’ll be more likely to come back frequently—and that’s good for you.

Collecting feedback and helping users feel heard is an exceptionally important process. As mentioned earlier, there are tons of feedback tools available for free these days, and most users are relatively comfortable with at least a handful of them (looking at you, Google Forms). If you use WordPress, though, FeedbackScout is a new and improved way of collecting, analyzing, and reporting progress on the requests you receive—regardless of your industry.

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Op/Ed

Working from home? Watch out for these taxes this year

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Thinking you’ll save money on taxes this year due to working from home? Think again.

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Taxes and paperwork zoomed in on pen and papers.

With what seems like everybody working from home—for what seems like the last decade—you would be well within your rights to question the tax implications for employees this year. While logic would dictate that taxes would skew to the lower side due to fewer commuters overall, several states have different plans for their at-home workers.

Even though you’re probably working from home, the office in which you work still has bills and costs associated with it. That same statement goes for the public transportation system you might use to reach that office, the roads on which you would travel, and other public amenities that support a commuter model and the basic infrastructure on which we depended pre-COVID.

As such, you may need to anticipate some related taxes this year.

Primarily, many states plan to tax workers based on their employment location, not their residential address. For some, this may not make much of a difference (I live less than a mile from my place of work); however, anyone hoping to avoid a city-based tax by working at home in the suburbs is in for a rude awakening.

This isn’t actually a new concept. The process, known as “convenience of the employer”, relies on the understanding that these large, city-based businesses need the support that taxes offer, and anyone responsible for working in those locations is also responsible for maintaining them in that context.

If you think that sounds contrived, buckle up—some states are also looking into a 5% tax for public transportation. Since public transit options aren’t getting the same level of use that they were pre-pandemic, they aren’t receiving the level of TLC needed to maintain them; this carries serious implications for the safety and convenience of those public transportation options once lockdown ends.

As mentioned previously, the roads which public transportation uses and things like lighting, demarcation, and sidewalks also need upkeep—something they aren’t receiving with the same level of funding they did prior to last March. The same can be said of highways and the like.

It’s easy for people making these recommendations to justify them; if you’re still employed and you haven’t had to take a pay cut at all, your expenses have probably decreased. However, this is clearly a time in which people need to save every penny possible—something for which these tax proposals clearly don’t account.

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Op/Ed

5 fun and easy ideas for a remote holiday office party

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) As with many things in 2020, the holiday office party is going to look a little different this year. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!

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Remote holiday office party at home around laptop with festive decorations.

In many companies, the holiday office party is something to look forward to. But as with most things in 2020, holiday office parties are changing. And if you want to continue the tradition, you may have to pivot and go virtual!

Try these remote holiday party tips:

At first glance, a virtual holiday party sounds pretty suspect. But it’s 2020, so what else do you expect? And the truth is that a virtual holiday party can actually be a lot of fun when everyone has the right mindset. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Plan ahead

We all know how busy the holiday season can get. And even in the midst of a pandemic, it’s amazing how many events and gatherings there are. You’ll also find a lot of families making new traditions. All of that to say: You need to plan ahead.

The sooner you get your holiday office party on the calendar, the more likely it is that people will show up. And the good thing about doing a virtual event is that you can be flexible with your dates. Want to host it on a random Wednesday night? Go for it!

2. Create a detailed agenda

Why do you need an agenda for a Zoom holiday party, you might be wondering? Because things can get pretty awkward if you don’t.

While it’s possible that your team is close enough to spend an hour or two politely chatting while sipping on eggnog, an unstructured free-for-all event can get messy. People will talk over each other, there will be awkward silences, and you’ll start losing people as the event stretches on.

A detailed agenda sets the expectations for the event and creates a sense of “flow.” It helps people know what to expect and gives you clear next steps when things feel like they’re boring or stale.

When creating your agenda, leave room for things like “happy hour” and other casual buffers of time. Too much formal structure will make this feel like a meeting and not a party. But not enough structure leaves people confused. Do your best with this balancing act.

3. Get everyone involved

The best way to get people excited about the holiday party (and to increase attendance) is to involve as many people as possible.

Consider giving different people responsibilities for the event. One person might be in charge of music, another in charge of games, and another in charge of making sure the technology works. When people have a stake in the event, they’re less likely to tune out.

4. Plan games and activities

There are a lot of unique ways to get groups of people involved on a Zoom party. Games and activities are especially fun. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • If you’ve ever played the game “Werewolf,” you know how much fun it can be. It’s a social game that involves everyone and creates a sense of mystery, suspense, and fun. And with a little planning, you can play Werewolf over Zoom! (If your team is open to online gaming, the game Among Us plays very similarly for free on mobile or $5 on Steam!)
  • Sign up for a virtual cookie decorating class and have your team decorate cookies via Zoom. (You might even consider sending each individual a care package with all of the ingredients they need ahead of time.)

You know your team best, so choose something that will fit their interests and personalities!

5. Build anticipation and excitement

You never want your holiday office party to be something your team sees as an event they “have to” attend. You want it to be one of the highlights of the year. But in a year like 2020 where you’re relegated to virtual gatherings, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

One of the keys is to begin building anticipation and excitement early on. Talk about the party frequently and often. Make it a priority rather than something that you’re doing just to go through the motions.

Celebrate the Holidays in (Unique) Style

What better way to cap off what has been a strange and unique year than by having a virtual holiday celebration where you can all relax in the comfort and safety of your own homes? The key to making this work is to plan ahead, have fun, and laugh at the weirdness of it all. This isn’t going to be a black-tie event. Relax and roll with the glitches. If you do it right, this will be something you look back on in the years to come with great fondness.

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