From the Chicago Tribune:
The sagging housing market makes for good television.
Apparently it doesn’t matter that annual rate of home sales nationwide are down 10.7 percent: The real estate boom is alive and well on cable TV.
The networks have crafted entertainment out of fluffing up homes for sale, chronicling the travails of amateurs trying to flip houses for profit or tagging along with realty agents as they angle for a listing.
“Even with the slowing housing market, it doesn’t take away people’s interest,” said Frances Berwick, executive vice president of programming and production for Bravo, which has two titles in the works. “If anything, it makes people slightly more crazy about following it.”
And the real estate obsessed can choose from at least two dozen shows. From “Property Ladder” to “Flip This House” (not to be confused with “Flip That House”) to “National Open House,” the list is long and getting longer.
And the winding down of the housing boom makes no difference.
“As the market changes, as people become more concerned about their investment or their ability to attain their dream home, the more they want info,” Sykes said.
“The programs are somewhat marketproof,” agreed StarLink executive Miraj Parikh, who said the shows’ appeal swings both ways. When housing was flying, viewers watched to snoop on how many multiple offers the other guy got, he said.
“In a marketplace like we’re in right now, maybe it’s harder to sell your house,” he said. “[The viewer is] using these programs as a benchmark of whether the market is good again.”
But in real estate TV, as in real life, happy endings are no longer guaranteed.
Ralph and Nancy Baumel have learned both lessons. Extremely frustrated when, after nearly a year on the market, their Park Ridge home’s “for sale” sign seemed to be a permanent fixture, they wrote to HGTV’s “Designed to Sell.”
The show this month sent in a designer with $2,000 for materials and a construction crew to make over their living room and conduct an open house.
The couple like the changes but, unlike the outcome typically depicted on the nightly show, no buyer materialized. Still, the Baumels weren’t particularly surprised.
“They say [on the show] they have multiple offers, and they’re above the asking price” because of the makeover, said Ralph Baumel. “I think that if this was an active market, maybe that would be possible. We were just doing it because we were asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to get a leg up on this horrible market?’ “