The HGTV Effect: The Real Reality of Reality Real Estate

June 6, 2016 | Buying a Home | By: Allison

Admit it. You watch it. And you like it. Yes, we’re talking about real estate TV, and it’s time for a reality show confessional: We like it too, at least most of the time… These days, it’s easy to get inside the housing process on an intimate level by watching the plethora of housing shows on TV. From buying a home, to decorating it, renovating or selling it and even buying a home abroad or a tiny, tiny house (we’re talking stand alone houses the size of a DuPont Circle studio) — there’s a show for you. Over the years, we have heard more and more from clients and friends about what they have “learned” from the shows. This is where we need to step in and re-assess! While we too at The Goodhart Group have a slight addiction to HGTV, we need to reiterate that these are just shows, and really, they are not all that real. Spoiler alert: House Hunters buyers have already bought the home they choose when they film. I know, we were bummed to hear it too…

But, we digress… let’s break down the good, the bad, and the ugly about the “reality” of reality real estate.


So many of our clients have looked to home renovation rather than selling their existing homes. They love their location, their neighbors, and the quirks and memories of their home. Sometimes, our clients even want to try it themselves as they have seen on TV. We love the idea of customizing your home to your needs, but make sure that you do your homework and understand the time and money it takes to renovate.

Remember, television has the beauty of editing, but in real life these things can drag on for more than an hour-long episode.

We suggest touching base with a professional, whether that is a contractor or an experienced Realtor, to get their thoughts on what can be done to your home. Often, real estate agents {YES! We are here for you after the house closes!} can be a great resource because they can provide guidance or suggestions on what updates will add the most value to your home from a re-sale perspective. Countless times, we have walked into remodels and immediately realized that due to poor design and constructions decisions, the homeowners may never see their money back. Don’t let that happen to you!

For buyers, there are many advantages to real estate shows, especially for first time homebuyers who have not gone through the process. It allows them to “experience” the buying or selling process before they go through it themselves. They see a general timeline for purchasing a property, types of negotiating dilemmas or tricks as well as the inevitable trade-offs they may have to make on their wish list. However, viewers in the Washington area must be aware of several things when watching these shows…. While home buying shows provide a fantastic glimpse into the real estate transaction and some of the ins and outs, prospective buyers must always keep in mind that these are different markets and we never know all the details of the home being purchased.

Beware of sticker shock! Most of these shows explore housing markets in different parts of the country where prices are much lower. For $200,000, the buyers are often looking for a house that would cost more than $1 million in our market. While buyers on the episode you’re watching might expect a master suite with double sinks and a three car garage for $200k, that’s just not something you can expect in D.C.

If you want to feel better about prices in our area, watch “Selling New York” or “Selling L.A.!” They always make me feel a lot better about what I paid for my house!

Each housing market is different and has its own quirks. For example in some parts of the country, furniture will always convey with the house while in others, not even the kitchen appliances will convey. Be aware that each market has its differences so be sure to talk to a real estate professional to discuss market norms. In the D.C. area, it is common for all major appliances and anything affixed to the wall (other than TV and electronic equipment) to convey. But, be sure never make assumptions about any conveyances as sellers can always exclude certain things from conveying. Triple check that contract!

In addition to conveyances, each market varies on how much you can “negotiate” on a home for sale. This is one of the biggest discrepancies between buyers expectations and the reality in our market. In many parts of the country, it’s possible to get houses way under list price. Not so in the D.C. market – unless there is an issue with the property or some extenuating circumstances. Inside the beltway, most sellers are insulted if you offer more than 10% under list price and it doesn’t help your negotiating to get off on the wrong foot (though certainly, we have gotten it done). Each negotiation is different. Some houses in our market do go for under that 10% mark, but many go 10% OVER list price – or more!  It really depends on location and condition of the property.  In hot neighborhoods, you might need to prepare to pay over full price.

But, keep in mind that the sign of a good deal isn’t the percentage over or under list price you pay.  It is the percentage over or under the market value. Two very different things!

“The Holmes Report” is a good reminder to purchasers of why having a home inspection with a certified home inspector that has come highly recommended is essential. Be sure to do an inspection to make sure all major items are brought to your attention and if possible, are addressed and fixed by the seller.  Major items found in an inspection are negotiated between buyers and sellers prior to settlement – typically about one or two weeks after you go under contract if you have a home inspection contingency. In our market, sellers are not obligated to make any fixes or adjustments unless you negotiate that into the contract or the home inspection addendum. Our advice is to address the major items with the seller, then any cosmetic changes can be made as the budget allows once you have moved in.

Not all homes are “TV Ready.”  It’s (unfortunately) true. Many houses are not staged, not cleaned, don’t have lights on, beds made, or dirty dishes put away. We understand this can be off-putting when you are spending a big chunk of change on your  new home. But, try your best to look past it and look at the things that can’t be changed. Large or Small Size. Location. Layout. Lot. The rest goes out the door when you sign on the bottom line. In fact, looking past this sort of cosmetic distraction can get you a much better deal and more money in your pocket.


The best thing about HGTV for sellers, is it has shown them how much staging a home pays off and the types of things buyers are looking for and looking to avoid. I know in the paragraph above this I ask buyers to look past a mess…. But honestly, most don’t!  Buyers do want things to look TV ready. They want to be wow-ed, even if they don’t admit it.  Most buyers say they are open to a project, or they can look past cosmetic changes or clutter, but when it comes down to it, nothing beats that emotional connection when a buyer walks in and says… this is it.  Spend a little time and a little money, give them the wow, and they’ll give you a sale.

At the end of the day, these shows are just TV where prompting from producers and editing create a vision of a house hunt or home purchase that may not be entirely accurate.

Although we would love the ability to cut, paste and delete some scenarios in life (especially in this crazy world of real estate), it’s just not going to happen that way.

But, in the end, we can’t get enough of this type of television ourselves. Just remember that it is always smart to consult a real estate professional in your market before making any drastic decisions. We’re always here to help! So tune in and enjoy, but keep a sense of perspective.


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  1. I’ve always wondered what real estate professionals think of some of these shows! My favorite at the moment is Beach House Bargain Hunt. A vacation house in Rehoboth may be way out of our price range, but who knew we should consider the gulf shores?? Thanks for the reality check about reality TV!

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