The Reality of Reality HGTV



HGTV is a black hole for my time. In all honestly though, I am a little ashamed of how many countless hours I have spent watching House Hunters, House Hunters International, Love It Or List It, Property Brothers and Rehab Addict. Not to mention the real estate shows that other channels have started to throw in such as Million Dollar Listing on Bravo.

First and foremost, I am impressed at how interesting reality shows have been able to make just about anything. While buying a house used to be viewed as more of a mundane task, nowadays people are elbowing for the best couch spot and popping popcorn to watch other people stress over which house to pick. While a lot of these shows have already been questioned on their authenticity (always take the word ‘reality’ with a grain of salt), I wanted to take a look at the major differences between buying a house on TV and buying a house in real life.


  1. Compromise:

These reality shows do a decent job of showing how much compromise can go into buying a house with a partner. As it turns out, there is no perfect house. No matter what your budget looks like, it is likely that someone in your house buying dynamic duo will have to budge on his or her “wish list”.

However, these reality shows seem to simmer down the drama in the interest of time. In reality, it will probably take you more than a few minutes to decide if a house is right for you. While you may feel that your partner should budge on their dream ‘man cave’ to ensure you get a walk-in closet big enough to hold the products of your American Express bill…that may call for a lengthier discussion than HGTV is willing to admit to.


  1. Presentation of Property:

On reality house hunting shows, almost all of the houses customers get to look at are staged. In real life, staged houses can be few and far between. If you are lucky enough to get both a superb real estate company and a cooperative seller, you may have the chance to walk though a tidied home that looks ready to be lived in. However, in most scenarios you will be walking through a home that is currently lived in (read: a little rough around the edges). When you are walking into the home buying process for the first time, you need to be prepared to look past lime green walls in a teenager’s current bedroom, or clothes crumpled up on the floor. It’s about vision, not perfection.

  1. Fun vs. Stress:

Don’t get me wrong – buying a house is for the most part, a fun process. However, reality shows tend to skip over some of the more stressful parts (as they should). Who wants to watch wannabe homeowners go through the often-excruciating process of getting a loan? Not me. Unless of course, it’s called Love It or Leave With It Anyway and shows all out brawls between banks and said wannabe homeowners (here’s hoping this is next on HGTV’s list). Nevertheless, some major parts of the process – such as loan approval, the appraisal, making your first offer and closing can err on the more stressful side of the spectrum.

  1. Overall Process

The overall home buying process is a lot different onscreen than off, the biggest difference being completion time. Obviously, it takes a lot longer than 22 minutes to find and close on a new house. The television version of this process makes it seem expedited, when in reality there are a lot more steps – such as finding your actual real estate agent and likely looking at more than three homes – not to mention waiting to close and for the back-and-forth of negotiating between buyer and seller.

The above differences aren’t the only discrepancies between real life and HGTV shows. For instance, reality home makeover shows (such as Property Brothers) make home renovations seem a lot smoother than they often are in real life. While on the show, homeowners don’t see the final room until it’s ready, in reality during a renovation you are living in the middle of a construction site. This means the end result is much less of a surprise moment.

Now, this mention of differences is not supposed to point out all of the bad in the home buying process – if you go into it with some patience and the right attitude, it can all be fun. It is simply important to tackle a big task with the right expectations. If you go into the real estate world thinking you are going to find and buy a home in 22 minutes (all whilst being prepared for us to come film your perfectly decorated new home only 3 weeks after moving in) then you should probably hold onto your hats (or maybe your current place of residence).

property brothers

These shows are an entertaining glimpse at the home buying process. They can even serve as a source of excitement for those getting ready to start looking for a home. But, they are only that – a glimpse. When you are really heading into the real estate world, it is best to do so with an open mind and the reality check that two cute twin brothers may not be crafting your perfect house under budget.

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