9 Things Reality TV Shows Get Wrong About Real Estate
Insider scoop and secrets on Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles and other popular TV shows.
If you love real estate like we do (love doesn’t even begin to encapsulate it!), then it’s likely you’ve caught any of the real estate TV shows currently saturating reality TV. Maybe your eyes roll at the staged scenarios, or perhaps you indulge in a full-on binge. Either way, these shows grab attention by tapping into the thrill of the market, without any of the risk.
Real estate reality is fun, and a healthy dose of voyeurism. Peek into dream homes, watch bidding wars unfold, and find out who would really be willing to pay $60 million for a crumbling mountain mansion. It’s a preview of international markets and what money can (or can’t) buy.
Whether it’s a guilty pleasure or must-see TV, just remember that in real estate, reality TV is only so real. “It makes it look very easy. You don’t typically see a lot of failures,” said Redfin agent Alec Traub.
Los Angeles-based Traub works in the high-end market, and surprisingly, loves these shows.
“I sometimes watch House Hunters or Flip or Flop but mostly Million Dollar Listing, which is fun because I’ve done deals with those agents. The properties on Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles are properties shown on TV are often homes I know,” he said. “I’d watch even if I weren’t an agent, but because it’s my industry, it’s interesting to see how the business is portrayed. But I’m not watching myself; I’m watching a glorified version of my workday.”
As such, Traub, a luxury agent in LA, is quick to point out that the portrayal is far from accurate.
“It’s a lighter version of what I do. They depict agents and structure the show like it’s fantasyland real estate. I can watch and kick my feet up and think, ‘how nice would it be if it all happened that easily?’”
So what’s actually reality? Here’s what Alec thinks you should consider the next time you tune in:
- Home sales don’t close as quickly on TV
“There’s so much more to buying or selling a home, and it’s so much harder to put one together, than what you see on TV. Million Dollar Listing makes it seem like a closing takes a matter of sitting down, making a couple of phone calls, and within five to 10 minutes, you’re done. They never show the weeks of back and forth negotiating, counter offers and discussing terms.”
- TV doesn’t include what happens after agreeing to price and terms
“The hard part starts once you’ve accepted the offer and then have to go through escrow, inspections and an appraisal. But those steps are much drier subject matter with far less drama and excitement. A 40-something minute show would never devote minutes to line items on an inspection report. But for me personally, it would be pretty interesting to see how Million Dollar Listing’s Josh Altman handles a low appraisal or a buyer with financing troubles, which are still common in the high end market.”
- More home closings fail than you think
“Agents face failures every day, such as lost listings or clients. Every now and then, you’ll see someone get fired on Million Dollar Listing, but that’s few and far between. In reality, about one in every three to four offers on a home in Los Angeles falls out of escrow for any reason, which you won’t get a sense of watching the show.”
- Finding clients isn’t as easy as it looks
“Million Dollar Listing only shows the listing or client after it’s successfully signed. They leave out the process of how they sourced that business in the first place. Clients are often referenced as a friend or colleague, with no mention of how that relationship began, or whether the agent had to knock on doors first.”
- The pool of agents is not accurately represented
“Million Dollar Listing makes it seem like there are about a dozen agents in all of Los Angeles, when really there are thousands. The agents have a certain presence, but there are just four or five of them. In LA, you’re constantly competing against so many people for every client and listing consult.”
- However in smaller luxury markets, certain agents do dominate
“In high luxury price points like Beverly Hills, Bel Air or the Hollywood Hills, it’s true that only a handful of agents tend to represent those buyers and sellers. You see the same people; there’s maybe 10 agents in each of those neighborhoods and everyone else is on the periphery.”
- Real estate TV shows misrepresent agents
“Million Dollar Listing doesn’t deter the negative image of a real estate agent having a sleazy reputation. Episodes show agents making backhanded deals that perpetuate the stereotype. But that’s the drama of TV. If someone followed me around with a camera, they’d be bored. The real work can be frustrating and tedious, and wouldn’t translate well to TV.”
- Whether you want to believe it or not, the shows are staged
“I only watch House Hunters International when it’s in a cool destination like New Zealand, to see what properties are like. But it’s harder to watch knowing it’s all fake drama of ‘I can’t decide!’ when the buyer has actually already purchased a property. Million Dollar Listing is also staged to a certain extent. The circumstances around a buyer or property might seem tense and uncertain, but they always know the offer will come together.”
- The agents on Million Dollar Listing are real, successful agents–and people!
“I’ve closed with Madison, the Malibu agent on Million Dollar Listing. That was great–there was no ego, and we worked well together. I’ve also had good interactions with Josh Altman and Josh Flagg on their properties. When the cameras aren’t there and it’s not a production, they’re down to earth, normal, regular people just trying to help their clients buy and sell homes. The show is edited and only shows a certain over-the-top side of the business. But when we work together, we all have the same focus: closing a home for our clients.”
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