REALTORS® Reflect on “Reality” Real Estate TV

Real estate reality TV shows seem to have carved out a significant place for themselves in pop culture and have certainly broadened the average viewer’s perspective on real estate. But price tags (both high and low), camera crews, and ‘pun-y’ REALTOR® banter aside, how realistic are the expectations these shows set for consumers?

If we look at one extreme end of the spectrum with Selling Sunset, or Million Dollar Listing chances are as REALTORS® you may not have started out at a luxury brokerage with listings valued in the tens-of-millions.

You may however, have had to look outbound for leads, learned the ropes at an office with an already tightly knit team, or walk a seller through how their property should be priced and why it isn’t worth exactly what they think it is.

That might, however, be where the list of commonalities ends.

To the average reality TV watcher, plot points on these shows look exaggerated because they follow the drama and lives of the real estate professional themselves, as well as the potential complications that come along with buying or selling gorgeous, high-end properties, but as REALTORS® you know the ‘drama’ seen onscreen isn’t actually what most people should be concerned about.


Some of the flashy, glamourous marketing tactics used on these shows like cocktail parties, influencers, and an infamous brokers’ open house on Selling Sunset that included “burgers and Botox” really aren’t the norm, even for the most luxury, exclusive listings.

Often, what those sellers value is privacy, and REALTOR® and salesperson Alex Irish of Oakville, Ontario says, “I go in to compete for a listing and sure, we’ll do all types of gimmicks, pool parties, lotteries, etc. but it’s always only if the seller has seen those things and wants to incorporate them. Most of the time it’s all about the everyday tools like personal outreach and genuine contact that make the difference.”

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Clients lean on you for your expertise, and these television shows all seem just a bit too easy if you ask some REALTORS®.

Irish and her team think the biggest flaw of this type of show is the “lack of backstory presented”.

 “Consumers should understand there is a lot of data available to REALTORS® that is very useful for a buyer to make their decision. The prep work is often the most important part of the story and it’s what is most often left out,” said Irish.

It’s almost as though these shows need disclaimers, cautioning that finding a checklist-fulfilling home, on-budget, with quick and painless negotiations, on both the renovation and the listing side is almost never this easy.

It takes a lot more work off-camera, and that’s where the knowledge of a REALTOR® makes the biggest impact.

While each show makes sure to depict a couple dramatic “uh-oh” moments to keep viewers hooked (at least long enough to stay put through the commercial break), Irish says “an oversimplification of the process, and hidden costs leave many inexperienced buyers ill-prepared for the real world.”

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, people’s homes have taken on more roles in their daily life and those new roles keep creating longer lists of requirements, or potential renovations.

This trend is something Irish and her team say they’ve seen growing over the past ten years; qualifications for a “dream home” have increased significantly.

“People are looking for places to entertain both themselves and others; homes are now careers if they’re flipping or investing; people have a stronger desire to do the interior design themselves and want a blank canvas, on top of everything else that has typically been on the wish list.” She adds that she prepares her clients to “understand we’re doing really well if we find 85-90% of the items on the list, especially in a market like Oakville where prices can vary quite drastically.”


Irish’s team also agrees that while many clients ask about renovations that’ll increase resale value, when it comes to aesthetics, “we encourage people to do the renovation that makes them happy, you never know exactly what a buyer is going to want when it eventually comes time to sell, so don’t get too caught-up in those details.”

Generally, it seems if real estate reality TV watchers are engaging with it to escape day-to-day life, these shows do a good job, but as a reflection of actual REALTOR®-client work-life, maybe not so much.

Irish’s team discussed the “pure entertainment” provided by the shows as being their greatest value, adding they “gravitate toward shows that are outside their local industries, like cottage country, or international landscapes” for example, since those elements keep things interesting and add another level of allure to the genre.

Reality TV is often an escape we can use to live vicariously through the experiences of others we both want and don’t want to emulate, without having to invest too much of our own lives or emotions. So, the “escape” to foreign destinations, houses, or home renovations, from the comfort of our couches, that cost us next to nothing, can sometimes be the exact welcome distractions we need.

Do you watch real estate TV shows? Are they an accurate portrayal of the real estate industry? Tell us your thoughts in the Comments below.

Dawn Faithfull is CREA’s Communications Coordinator, so whether you know it or not, you’ve probably read something she’s written. Prior to joining CREA, Dawn gained experience in marketing, communications, and event management working for national restaurant brands, and international events and entertainment companies. If she isn’t working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, reading, or outside enjoying everything from water sports to cycling.

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