By Kathy Canavan
Special to Delaware Business Times
More than two dozen HGTV shows draw millions of viewers nightly â âProperty Brothers,â âListed Sisters,â âFixer Upper,â âLove It or List It,â âHouse Hunters,â even âTiny House Hunters.â The splashy TV do-overs create ripples in Delawareâs real estate market.
Charles Renschler of Mann and Sons in Rehoboth said he oftenÂ hears a buyer mention, âOh, I wonder how HGTV would rearrange this kitchen.â
But reality shows are not realistic, real estate agents said. As one put it, âI get people all the time who think, if they spend $500 on renovations, theyâve added $5,000 in value.â
The shows have a mixed effect in the local market, said Mia Burch of Long and Foster in Greenville. They do help sellers see which renovations work. They do a good job showcasing design ideas for move-up buyers who have the cash for major facelifts. But they can give false hope to first-time buyers on a budget.
âEvery single person watches HGTV. Even renters watch HGTV,â Burch said. âThese TV shows make it look like I can have a $10,000 renovation budget and I can turn this piece-of-junk house into a nice little house. They donât explain that you canât just hire anyone you know. You need a legitimate licensed contractor. If you do it the right way, $10,000 will buy you half a powder room â maybe.â
Burch, who pays for home staging for her sellers, does use HGTV to help sellers assess how their homes stack up to the face-lifted ones buyers spot on the shows: âItâs the best way to look at whatâs in and whatâs not in,â she said. âI ask sellers, âDo you watch HGTV?â and they say, âYes.â And then I say, âWith the condition your home is in, do you think we can get the most amount of money for it?â And they say, âNo.ââ
Will Webber of Will Webber Homes in Newark said he knew a doctor who decided to retire because he once saw a patient every 15 minutes but, lately, he had to take 30 minutes per patient. He told Webber he spent the extra 15 minutes helping patients unlearn what they read on WebMD.
Webber said HGTV is the house equivalent of WebMD. He said his 20 years as a licensed broker takes a back seat to HGTV nowadays.
âAs a Realtor, Iâve been reduced to the guy who has all the keys to the houses. People will get into my car and theyâll say, âHa. Ha. I know the drill. I watch âHouse Hunters,ââ he said.
Since the advent of HGTVâs tricked-out renovations, buyersâ approaches have shifted, many real estate agents said. Webber gave an example: âPeople think itâs a reasonable thing to start 50 percent off just to see what the seller says. Did you learn nothing from the three other houses you didnât get?â
Like Burch, Webber said HGTV skips the hard stuff : âReality TV is not real. Here are the steps to owning a home â find a Realtor you trust, find a good lender who will approve you, find a reputable title company, and, absolutely vital, find a good home inspector. No bridge loans â unless youâre buying a bridge. These are the steps reality TV ignores.â
Webber often has to explain you canât have an open concept floor plan in a ranch. Heâs met buyers who were convinced they didnât need a building permit to add a deck or a pool. One sellerâs house smelled like âmothballs and little old ladiesâ but she was convinced the place wasnât selling because she needed to paint the front door a different color.
One buyer was angered because she was downsizing and the closets in the house Webber showed her were smaller and there was no room for her big furniture. âDefine downsizing,â he said. âBy definition, isnât that a smaller house?â
Steve Crifasi of Patterson Schwartz in Greenville said HGTV overall has been great for the industry. âItâs opened up the eyes of both buyers and sellers,â he said. âIt really has.â
Some buyers with unrealistic expectations become concerned that not every house is the âafter picture,â Crifasi said, but the shows do help buyers visualize what can be done with a house.
He said the series also show sellers what buyers are looking for: âIt reinforces what we tell sellers all the time â clean it out, upgrade, redo your bathrooms for that first impression, because buyers want as much of the âafter pictureâ as possible â unless the seller discounts the house dramatically.â
Crifasi said a little sweat equity wonât just bring a higher price; it will get more buyers to your door. âThe hassle factor is huge. People donât want to deal with doing things to a house. Theyâre busy. They have jobs and kids. Theyâd rather pay another $100,000 for a house thatâs totally done than deal with a contractor showing up at 7 a.m. when theyâre just getting out of bed,â he said.
Bob Miller of Luke Real Estate in Wilmington said motivated sellers who want to get top dollar are often watching HGTV shows long before their listing appointments. âIt affects the sellers, giving them ideas to make their space more appealing to a buyer,â Miller said. âStaging does help. Itâs the basics too â decluttering, painting, freshening things up. Cosmetics are a big part of how fast a house will or wonât sell.â
Miller and several other agents say actually they donât watch much HGTV.
As Crifasi put it, âItâs too much like work. When I come home, thatâs the last thing I want to watch.â