Reality TV and real estate – is the genre shaping buyer and seller expectations?

homes and expectationsReality TV has been a part of our culture since the 1990’s, and chances are that you’ve watched Reality programming at some time. Reality TV has benefited from the booming housing market of the early to mid 2000’s, when the number of real estate reality shows grew exponentially. Today, real estate related reality TV is prevalent, and you could probably catch one at almost any time of day.

What is it about reality TV, or more specifically – real estate reality TV, that draws us in like a moth to the light? Matthew Wilkinson and Paul Clark suggest in their research (2014. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain: The Rejection Of Artifice And The Culture Of Choice. ASBBS E – Journal,10(1),132-143) that our affinity to reality programming is our culture’s desire for “fluid, ambiguous, and amorphous experiences.” And before I embark on their philosophical explanation based on “postmodernism” and its implications, it apparently boils down to our search for “authenticity” and the notion of participation.

Alternatively, Alex Weprin reveals that there is a feeling among programming executives that audiences have become bored by “forced, trite reality shows” and are attracted to TV shows that “feel more ‘real.’” But there’s a limit to “authenticity,” even in reality shows. Weprin quotes Animal Planet President and General Manager Marjorie Kaplan, saying “I don’t know that every nonfiction show is going to be authentic; clearly there is room for wonderfully inauthentic reality TV that we all watch and wink and nod and know is contrived….” (Jan 10, 2010. Cablers target laughs, authenticity, geeks. Broadcasting & Cable).

And why not? “Reality” TV is an escape from monotony and lets us perceive we are participants; real estate reality programming helps us imagine how our homes, our lifestyles could be different. Since the airing of MTV Cribs, we imagined how we could live like celebrities. Home renovation, real estate investing, buying foreclosures, house flipping, luxury homes, and home shopping: there is no lack of real estate related subjects on TV today – and they all seem to make it all look easy and exciting.

But there is a concern by some in the real estate industry that reality TV is doing more than entertaining viewers, it is also shaping consumer expectation. The real estate related reality format is typically a condensed version of the process that highlights only parts of the consumer experience; the portrayed drama in this sub-genre can range from the very subtle to the outrageous.

A recent Realtor® Magazine article highlights professionals’ thoughts on the matter (June 16, 2014. Reality TV Skewing Home Remodeling Picture?); and the consensus is that some consumers demand a similar experience to what they see on TV. Some real estate agents have also expressed concerns about home buyers and sellers whose expectations are not realistic; they want more in an abbreviated span, losing perspective on the elements and time that the home buying and selling process requires.

Maybe the entire genre is misconceived; maybe real estate Reality TV should be more realistic, where the drama is drawn out over weeks and months documenting the excitement and tedium of the real estate transaction. But then again, maybe T. S. Eliot was correct in the characterization (Burnt Norton): “…humankind cannot bear very much reality.” TV may not be genuine about being real, as much as it is about entertainment value.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of July 14, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.