“Reality TV” vs. Reality: How The “Highlight Reel” View of Life is Impacting Your Perceptions

By Kristina Dougherty

Perception versus reality is a tricky thing. It’s easy to get caught up in a fantasy world and lose track of what’s real and what’s not. Whether it’s a perfect career, an ideal partner or your dream home, we tend to build up ideas in our head only to realize the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Reality television is a perfect example of people manipulating what’s real for the sake of entertainment.

Why We Should be Critical of “Reality” Media

From the Real Housewives of who knows where, to the Kardashians, to various house flipping shows, there is an excess of reality television almost everywhere you look. And oftentimes, there’s nothing real about these shows at all. Some series own up to their fabricated , while others continue to push a narrative that’s just plain fake.

Some of the biggest culprits of this are house flipping shows. They make it seem simple to find an abandoned home, get an investor to buy it and convert it into a stunning, modern palace that most of us would be honored to call home.

Real estate investor Engelo Rumora offers this piece of advice to those considering quitting their day job to try and get rich quick by flipping houses: “replace those rose-tinted glasses with real ones.”

He says that most reality TV flipping shows “make the average viewer think that they too could invest just a little money, turn a house around and sell it for sky-high profits. These shows often make the investors look like knights in shining armor, but those who’ve worked in real estate can tell you that most of the figures they show on TV are .”

According to Rumora, most of the numbers that viewers see are fabricated and created only for the show. He says, “They don’t take many costs into account. Things like fees, holding costs, commissions, closing costs, etc. are all left out.”

House Flipping on Social Media

Many times, social media paints a picture of someone living a fantasy life, filled with beaches, champagne and delectable food. But other times, social media is where people show their true selves and their daily challenges.

For example, on television you may watch an hour-long show where massive renovations take about two or three minutes of airtime. But if you follow someone on social media who’s actually going through a huge construction project, you’ll see all the dirt, grease and grind that goes into a home renovation. It’s no easy task, and timelines and budgets oftentimes go above and beyond initial estimates.

What Does Social Media Get Right?

If you want to get a real look at a home improvement project, check out home improvement bloggers who document their renovations from beginning to end on their websites and social media accounts. Bloggers tend to share more of the nitty gritty details of what went into a project and how they were able to handle any unexpected roadblocks. Plus, they may even spark some inspiration for your next home project!

What Does Social Media Get Wrong?

While bloggers can help give you a realistic view into the world of home construction, other influencers may use social media to exaggerate how well things are going.

Whether it’s showing a real estate investment project going off without a hitch or a home renovation where construction was ahead of schedule and under budget, many people tend to embellish on social media to make things appear better than they are. And hey, it’s easy to make everything look perfect on social media, after all, no one forces you to post any of the bad stuff.

It comes down to what we touched on earlier, perception vs. reality.  That’s why it’s so important to not compare your life, job, home remodeling project, or anything to anyone else. It’s impossible to truly know what their reality is.

House Flipping on TV

More and more people are interested in turning “trash” into treasure, and who can blame them? The problem is that many times the challenges house flippers face aren’t given nearly the same amount of airtime as the finished product, meaning many folks don’t know what truly goes into a major renovation.

What Does Reality TV Get Right?

Don’t get us wrong, we don’t think reality TV and social media is all bad. Enthusiasm for flipping homes is surging, with more than 200,000 Americans flipping homes in 2017 alone — an 11-year high!

“There are definitely more people interested in flipping because they watch these shows on HGTV,” Elizabeth Kee, associate broker for CORE real estate tells the New York Times. She says she frequently fields calls from people with no real estate experience who have a newfound interest in investing in homes to flip.

And while house flipping shows do face some criticism from real estate experts, they do show some of the real issues buyers deal with. For example, many of the shows will document the hassle of getting building permits, as well as how to handle foundational problems and even tackling asbestos infestations.

What Does Reality TV Get Wrong?

What’s unrealistic about house flipping TV shows is how quickly such problems are handled, setting impractical expectations for home buyers and real estate investors who find themselves in similar situations. For example, shows like “House Hunters,” “Fixer Upper” and “Property Brothers” follow couples on their home buying journey while showing the ups and downs of their experience. But, that’s about as real as it gets.

Bobi Jensen, who appeared on “House Hunters” tells Kiplinger that things weren’t always exactly as they seemed on TV. In fact, she says producers told her they typically choose couples who’ve already closed on a property, even though the show centers around people supposedly searching for their next home.

“I wasn’t thinking this is something that’s going to be seen by other people as my real life. It wasn’t until I actually watched the episode . . . that I realized I was preaching to the world about the necessity of more space when I hadn’t even lived that way myself.”

Patrick Hurst, owner of Hurst Design-Building-Remodeling, tells a similar story. His company appeared on “House Crashers,” which aired on the DIY Network. The show searched for homeowners at home improvement stores and then followed them back home to complete a renovation project on the spot. “When you see a large project get finished quickly on television, what you don’t see is all the scrambling that goes on behind the scenes to get the job done on time,” Hurst says. “On screen they show you three or five people working, but it’s really like 30 people in the background working.”

At the end of the day, those interested in flipping houses must do their research before jumping in. Following social media accounts and reality TV shows is just not enough to prepare yourself mentally, physically and financially.

How Perception Impacts Reality

The main concern with house flipping shows is they don’t truly show how long it takes to go house hunting, get through closing and all the hurdles in between. Perception may be that the entire process takes a couple of weeks, when in reality, it typically takes several months, at a minimum.

These shows tend to gloss over the fact that buyers first need to determine how much they can actually afford and understand their mortgage options. Not to mention tour dozens of homes before finding one that matches what they’re looking for, negotiate to get to a price that both the home buyer and seller agree upon, and did we forget to mention the mounds of paperwork? Yeah, somehow that gets skipped over in reality TV.

We don’t tell you all this to deter you from buying or selling a home, rather we want you to really understand and be prepared for everything that goes into the process, not just what’s as seen on TV!