The Real Truth Behind “Reality” Real Estate Shows

As reality programming continues to dominate the television world, real estate shows have proven to be a real hit among viewers. Shows such as Million Dollar Listing, Love It or List It, House Hunters and Property Virgins all depict the experiences of real people looking for real homes.

As it turns out, however, those experiences aren’t always so real. The process of buying a home – in real life – isn’t quite as simple, and the houses aren’t as well designed, so television must find a way to exaggerate, sugarcoat and package the story so viewers will want to watch.

Take the example of House Hunters. In 2012, a Texas family who appeared on the show revealed its inner workings. It is said that two of the houses the family apparently considered actually belonged to friends, and were not even on the market. The homes were chosen because they were attractive and clean. HGTV released a statement that cleverly avoided confirming or denying the family’s claims.

Most shows glaze over the details of buying a home beyond tours and making an offer. You’ll never see buyers applying for a mortgage, or real estate lawyers going over paperwork. And TV buyers never seem to walk away from a home – something that often happens in reality when a home inspection reveals deal-breaking problems.

But the goal of these shows isn’t to depict real life, despite their claim to be reality television. Instead, they serve as a pleasant distraction from everyday life. At their best, perhaps they inspire viewers to take better care of their own homes.