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Op/Ed

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

(HOMEOWNERSHIP NEWS) 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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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.

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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

Some truths the IDX companies don’t want you to know

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Back in the dark ages of, maybe three years ago, IDX on an agent’s website was a hot topic. The web designers and gurus told us that the number one reason anyone would come to our website was to search for homes to buy. If we did not have an IDX feed on our website, we were toast. The buyers would pass us by in favor of our competitors offering IDX and free ice cream cones.

Here is the problem. There is no way that I, as an individual agent, can offer the consumer a better internet home search experience than the Big Boys of Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and others.

So, while it is true the internet home shopper is searching for homes for sale, it is not true that they are coming to my website to find great homes for sale.

This is something most website vendors do not want you to know.

Something else they don’t want you to know

NAR released their 2014 Home Buyer and Home Seller Study, and one chart shows how the homebuyers found their agent. Guess what? Only nine percent found their agent from an internet website. This includes the leads generated by the Big Boys

So what paltry amount of buyers found their agent from finding and searching on an individual agent’s site? I’ll tell you- statistically negligent. Not enough to measure.

2014 nar home buyer and seller survey

Are there great success stories of agents who generate real business from their website? Sure – but they are the rare exception, not the rule.

Is there a place for IDX on your website?

Sure. I use it to tell a more complete story of my neighborhoods. I use it to generate fun curated lists of low priced homes or city view homes or homes open that weekend. I use so I can legally squeal like a fan girl over a gorgeous mid century modern, even though it is not my listing.

I use IDX to illustrate my local expertise and knowledge, not as a lead generation machine. After all, Zillow will never compete with me on the special nuances of Glendale. Zillow doesn’t live here, I do.

One more thing the “gurus” don’t want you to know

In 2013, 68% of all buyers surveyed found the agent they used via some kind of face to face, in-person contact. In fact, some form of physical, real time contact is, by far, the most effective business tool we have.

Fancy that. The most effective lead generation tool around is talking to people. IDX? Not so much.

This editorial was first published here in April 2016.

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Op/Ed

The real reason women are overlooked? Leadership is seen as masculine

(EDITORIAL) We can tell women to “lean in,” or we can address what researchers point to as the real challenge – leadership is still seen as a masculine trait.

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Researcher Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic recently rejected the popular advice of “leaning in” for women* looking to scale the professional ladder. It’s not that women are unconsciously holding themselves back from leadership opportunities, as Sheryl Sandburg so famously theorized in her TED talk and subsequent book.

But, this advice only works for women aren’t actively pursuing higher roles and greater responsibilities.

The reality is more that even when women are advocating for themselves, they are less likely to be seen as having the qualities of a leader. This widespread gender bias isn’t news: Pantene and some partners even released a feel-good commercial that capitalized on calling out how assertive women are “bossy” and borderline competent men are seen as “the boss.”

As Chamorro-Premuzic explains, the fact that our culture has so closely adhered to the belief that these characteristics are “masculine” is more likely what holds high-performing women back. Even if they are better than their competition, even other women will often not evaluate them fairly because of how they have internalized our culture’s apparent blindness to women’s ability to be “the boss.”

But then, even some masculine-identifying or preforming people who are inferior in their technical skills could be afforded afforded many professional benefits because of the implicit bias we carry into business spaces that favors “masculine” traits. For example, “male-performing” assertive people may get credit for a quieter colleague’s work.

Where Chamorro-Premuzic’s editorial gets really interesting is when they reject the idea that women and other minorities need to over-compensate for their marginalization and try to join the good ol’ boys club.

He explains, “If our solution is to train women to emulate the behavior of men… we may end up increasing the representation of women in leadership without increasing the quality of our leaders. In this scenario, women will have to out-male males in order to advance in an inherently flawed system where bad guys (and gals) win. Unless our goal is to make it easier for incompetent women to succeed – much as it is for men – there is little to gain from this approach.”

As I’ve said before: Being a leader is a gender-neutral act, (spoiler: so are all actions!); the sooner that we can accept that coding behavior as “masculine” or “feminine” only serves to obscure people’s actual contributions, the better.

Removing these archaic labels allows the real competencies of professionals to be evaluated — for their benefit, and their organization’s benefit.

For now, organizations that make conscious efforts to level the playing field (like the National Association of Realtors’ restructure leading to half of their leadership team being women) are the primary answer as our culture shifts to a more aware environment.

*Though the referenced article and study perpetuate a binary gender structure, for the purposes of our discussion in this article, I expand its “diversity” to include femme-identified individuals, nonbinary and trans workers, and anybody else that does not benefit from traditional notions of power that place cisgendered men at the top of the social totem pole

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Op/Ed

The wealthy are miserable in their careers

(EDITORIAL) A lengthy New York Times piece outlines how America’s most elite workers are beyond miserable in their jobs, but it’s so needless – here’s why.

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wealthy are miserable and should find fulfillment at work

The wealthy elite are miserable at work, or so the New York Times alleges in “The Future of Work: Wealthy, Successful, and Miserable.” My knee-jerk reaction was “boo hoo.” Of course you’ll be miserable if you only work for yourself, a lesson that should have been easily learned and fixed in your 20’s.

The NYT’s example was a wealthy investment banker who earned 1.2 million last year. It’s extremely hard to find pity for someone who earned that much in a thankless job. And the article was less about the future of work and more about how to find job satisfaction. However, everyone should understand that in order to be happy in a job, you must do something that fulfills you.

Fulfillment comes in a variety of forms. It is fulfilling to help others, while working with colleagues you respect.

Sometimes the job description itself doesn’t lead to fulfillment but the way you work does. For example, I worked for two years as a personal injury paralegal helping car accident victims. If that doesn’t make you cringe, this will. I managed well over 100 cases, a very demanding case load, and was also the Office Manager. Tragedy literally walked into the door and called every day. I adored the job – it was hands down the best I’d ever had. Why? It was intense, varied, and immensely fulfilling because I made a difference every day.

I helped people get their life back and fought against big insurance companies who were screwing people out of their deserved recovery. As a victim of a no-fault car accident myself four years ago, I was on a crusade and loved it.

The reasons I left were a complicated mix of work/life balance issues, but primarily because my husband became deathly ill unexpectedly and I chose him and his life over the job I loved. And I don’t regret it – although I still miss that job that had changed my life for the better (despite being underpaid).

In addition to doing something I believed in, part of what made the job great was autonomy, something the NYT article alludes to.

Autonomy to do the job the way you see fit is a precious thing. But it’s also about finding purpose within yourself to do the job.

I was able to bring a sense of purpose to the job description, something everyone should be doing. It’s more about finding your “why,” your reason for being there every day.

And your “why” must be about more than earning a paycheck. No matter how large it is.

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