There is no shortage of addictive real estate reality tv - House Hunters, Flipping Out, Property Virgins, Million Dollar Listing, Selling New York, Flip This House (to name a few!) - but how much from these shows can be applied to real life? Well, some. But here are 5 real estate un-realities that always seem to come up on reality tv:
1. The house should sell at the open house.
Of course, it's great when that happens, and you can get good feedback this way (especially if you're on a show that puts hidden cameras out and you have smelly old carpet in every room). But, most of the time, the home sells after a regular scheduled showing, so don't stress too much if it's not under agreement after the first Sunday it's on the market.
2. To flip a house, your only expenses are the cost of the house plus repairs.
If only the profits shown at the end of these shows were real! They don't usually factor in carrying costs like taxes, insurance, utilities, and interest, closing costs, or commission. It's still possible to do very well but if you're getting any ideas, remember to account for ALL the expenses.
3. You need lots of help, experience, and power tools to stage a home on a budget.
Sure, these things help, but just because you aren't a carpenter and don't have access to one who will work for free doesn't mean you can't make your home look like it should be featured in the Pottery Barn catalogue. Anyone can de-clutter, store too-big furniture, do a halfway decent job painting, and buy fresh flowers. And, don't forget to close the toilet seat.
4. Real estate agents regularly make six-figure commissions.
Shows like Million Dollar Listing and Selling New York show the potential commission agents make from each sale, but what they don't clarify is that the listing agent and buyers' agent split that commission 50/50 and split it again (this amount varies) with their brokerage, and also pay marketing costs. So neither your favorite tv agent nor the one selling your home will be walking away with the whole 5% of the sale price.
5. Buyers are supposed to see three homes and then buy the one of those three that they like the best.
This makes a good structure for a 30 minute show, but it's rarely the case. Some buyers will look for months (and sometimes years) before they find just the right property, and others will make a purchase sight unseen from across the country. Somehow I don't think giving each client three homes to choose from would get me much repeat business.
For when you just can't stop watching, there are SOME parts to these shows that you can believe. The best three:
1. Look at houses similar to yours that have sold recently. Maybe even in person.
If you're selling a house, your agent should give you "comps", or homes that are close to yours in size, condition, and location. This will support the price you list at and give you an idea of features you might need to improve upon. If you're hesitant to just accept a list price - or a list of work to do - go check them out in person and see what you think.
Some shows like Designed to Sell will bring in professionals to do some updating, but they also emphasize the importance of cleaning. If you're selling your home, have it spotless before the first picture is taken. For some who are vacuum-challenged or just don't have time, spend a little cash and hire a cleaning person for a one time clean.
Yes, your kids are adorable, and your wedding pictures are beautiful, but it is true that personal photos will not help prospective buyers envision themselves in your home. So, just for now, pack up the pictures and get ready to hang them at your new home. At the same time, if you're a buyer, it will help if you can try to see past someone else's photos, artwork, and car in the driveway (unless, of course, it's a really nice one).