The number one thing to keep in mind when talking about real estate shows is that they are just that: shows. They’re entertainment. No matter how realistic they try to be, they still have to be entertaining, and for the grand majority of viewers the real nitty gritty details of the real estate business doesn’t make for great television. Still, some shows get it better than others, and if you’re a fan of real estate TV it’s nice to know what is fact and what is fiction.
We’re going to evaluate some of the common tropes of real estate shows and sift through the over-the-top drama for the nuggets of truth that sometimes go unnoticed.
Trope: Realtors make a lot of money.
Oh that it were so… Most real estate shows focus on superhuman handsome big city realtors that deal with multimillion condos and townhomes in markets like Manhattan, Los Angeles or even Toronto real estate. Sadly, they just simply do not represent the majority of realtors out there.
Most realtors are helping homebuyers get normal houses in the suburbs or in rural areas. With the average home price in the U.S. being $374,000 and most realtors charging a fee between 4-6%, your average realtor makes around $19,000 on each sale. That might sound like a lot, but remember that generally there’s more agents than there are houses to sell.
Depending on where you live, agents have to overcome a fair amount of competition. Sometimes they have to really elbow their way to the deal, and though they might make $20,000 off one successful sale, that selling process can take months, and they’re far from guaranteed to keep making deals successfully. That’s why if you look at the median annual income of a U.S. realtor, you’ll see they make between $40,000 to $70,000 before taxes. That’s a far cry from the lucrative lifestyles that you mainly see on T.V.
Trope: Buyers find their dream home almost instantly
Ask anyone who’s bought a house and they’ll tell you the experience was anything but plain and simple. For buyers, getting a new house is often one of the most important decisions they’ll make in their lives. Everything from the neighborhood, the bedroom count, and the species of grass growing in the front yard factors into their decision.
Rarely will buyers find the home they want within four or five searches. Depending on the the market it could take twenty or thirty searches, visits, tours, etc. to decide. They could make a whole T.V. show on the home-searching process alone, but we’re not sure anyone would actually want to watch it.
This is doubly true for luxury home buyers that may take years to find the right home, it’s one reason why being a luxury real estate agent isn’t what it seems.
Trope: Remodeling a home is a quick, straightforward process
Now before we get too deep into this, let’s give credit where credit is due. Shows like Extreme Home Makeover, Property Brothers, and Fixer Upper do sometimes show all the little problems and issues that arise when trying to repair or renovate a home. It’s hard to avoid those problems even for the sake of good T.V. in the first place.
The trope lies not in how easy or how hard it is to remodel a home, it’s how long that process takes. Maybe celebrity home renovators have super-speed and the power of post-production editing to remodel whole houses as fast as they do, as for the rest of the world, major renovations can take months if not a whole year to complete.
Half of the work doesn’t even have anything to do with getting out the tool box or knocking out walls. There’s a whole lot of bureaucratic red tape that you have to slog through to make even seemingly-minor changes to a home.
No one likes to see bureaucracy at work in real life, let alone on T.V., so it makes sense why popular shows would forgo all the heartracing scenes of signature signings and report filings. Just know that you can’t fast forward through red tape.
Trope: Every offer is accepted
What these shows often don’t show you is that in many real estate market