Secrets that (don't) sell

I’m here to pit HGTV’s Secrets that Sell, http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_hstsl

For those who haven’t seen it - two real estate experts examine a house that has been on the market for weeks or months and give staging advice. They suggest that perhaps having half a ton of crap scattered all over the house makes it look cluttered, that deep purple walls turn off potential buyers and similar painfully obvious changes. The witless home buyers are very grateful for the advice (as if it hadn’t occurred to them that cobwebs hanging off the fixtures made the place look dirty) and often make the suggested changes. And the after pictures make the homes look much nicer.

Here’s why this is in the pit - I’ve watched this show perhaps a half dozen times, and there has not been a single instance in which they report that a home was sold as a result of their suggestions. Now maybe my timing is really bad - but somehow I doubt it. The home owner goes from being distraught and clueless to saying that they are getting more traffic (as if a buyer would magically know a home is cleaner or the furniture has been rearranged from the listing) and that they now feel confident that they’ll get an offer soon. The only exception was one home where the seller accepted an offer BEFORE they had time to institute any of the suggested changes. They credited the sale to “Secrets that Sell luck”.

This is part of a larger trend. Most of show that were about selling homes on HGTV and its ilk have stopped talking about actual sales taking place -because there probably aren’t any happening. What is more, 2-3 years ago when folks were getting their homes snapped up after they were spruced up, it probably had nothing to do with how clever the color palate was and everything with the souped up phoney real estate bubble when a cardboard box would sell for a million. It would be really nice of somebody, somewhere on these types of shows admitted as much.

Here in England we have a TV program Selling Houses, in which a plain-speaking estate agent (what we call them over here) starts with a property that’s been in the market too long.

We see interviews with people who won’t make an offer.
Then he goes through the whole house and garden with the owners (who are usually staggered by his sensible suggestions), makes them spend a bit of money and tidy up etc etc.
He takes them round similar properties nearby (this is always amusing as they see what the well-laid out competition looks like :slight_smile: )
Then come the renovations.
Cameras then record potential buyers trooping through the house and their interviews later, when they make offers.
Finally the house is sold.

So there really is a correct approach to making your house look attractive. :cool:

That’s actually happened on more than one occasion.

The show I hate more than that one, though, is House Hunters. That show is a complete farce. Totally made up bullshit.

We know someone who was on that show and they said it is so “staged”. The home buyers have already bought the house they want (in this case, they were already in escrow), and all the show does is go out and find 2 more houses they can pretend to be interested in. In the case of the person we know, one house was just some random listing from their area, and the other house was their realtor’s house!

It’s a complete sham.

I once jokingly blamed the housing bubble on HGTV. I claimed that all the shows like “Secrets That Sell” and especially “How Much Is My House Worth?” were getting credulous people to far overspend on real estate. They’d claim a 3/2 in housing market X was going for an average of $500,000, even when Zillow had the average 3/2 in that market at $300,000. Then all the people who watched the shows would be like, “Geez, $400,000 for a 3/2 in Housing Market X isn’t that bad, guess I better overbid on that property.” Then of course Zillow picks up that information and, guess what, now the average 3/2 sale for the fiscal year in that market really is $500,000, because Doofus had to bid half a mill, and of course the sellers were only happy enough to let him.

I was saying it as a joke before, but now I’m starting to wonder whether there was actually some truth to it. I knew people (sadly, in my own family) who would watch those HGTV shows for hours. There have to be a lot of people out there who really got suckered by them.

I can believe House Hunters is scripted. Why else would we hear the hunters exclaim about crown molding, natural light, stainless and granite in every single show? One guy even mentioned crown molding when the “molding” was an inch square piece of wood.

I don’t think it used to be, in the old days when it was a seller’s market. Back then, the house hunters saw more empty houses, and the realtor showed them houses that were actually within their budget.

A show from last week had the hunters looking at one empty house within their budget, and two fully furnished houses that were 40% over their budget. No problem guessing which one they chose.

Has this programme aired since the market started heading south about 15 months ago? I know it isn’t currently in production.

I haven’t seen Property Ladder recently either. This is a feature in which people buy houses, develop them and sell them at a profit. The presenter Sarah Beeny, to be fair, often stated that the houses in question would have appreciated in value due to a rising market even if no work had been done on them.

I’d really like to see any house-selling programme run a series in the current slump. Personally I doubt the producers are up for the challenge.

During the real estate boom when these show were really popular (Flip That House, House Flippers, etc.) they would show at the end of the show:

New asking price

  • House purchased for
  • Money invested in improvements

= Profit $$$

and the it appeared as though the flippers always came out ahead.

I’ve noticed after the bubble burst they now show it as

New asking price
-House purchased for
-Money invested in improvements
-Reduction in asking price #1
-Reduction in asking price #2
-Closing costs

= very small profit or loss

HGTV: DIY for Millionares.

“Terry and Al want to turn their shitty backyard into a garden paradise. So they hire a contractor…”

Actually, the American Property Ladder host has a new show with foreclosed people where they give them $10K to do what they can and try to get out from under the house. At the end they just give them an real estate agent’s suggested price, but don’t report whether they ever sell. Or they tell them what their new lower payment would be after refinancing and staying in the house.

It was usually “this is what they could make” (Profit $$$) but they have done Flip This House follow-ups where they show what really happened. The heartbreaking ones that sit on the market…

I watched one of those shows once, and I want to have these people do improvements on my house. They were spending maybe $50,000 to redo a two bedroom house, including a full kitchen replacement. Ten years ago it cost me $20,000 just to have my kitchen redone, and I know prices must have gone up since then.

I know! You can tell by looking at these people that they didn’t do any of the work themselves. You don’t hold down a full-time job and complete a home remodel in three months, especially if you’re living in the house. When the owner does do the work himself (or herself), we usually see them a year later and the work is still in progress. It took a month for me and my husband to scrape paint and wallpaper off a ceiling and sand and repaint it.

Ha! I’ve don’t ever remember seeing one of those houses on Designed to Sell (or whatever it’s called) EVER having an offer. I think it’s hysterical - the real estate and decorator guys just rave about the improvements and how they’re bound to get offers, but in the “small print” narration at the end of the show they note that “although the Smiths haven’t received an offer yet, there’s been a lot of interest and they’re very optimistic” or some such foofah.

I wonder if some of the houses from episodes that were filmed in 2005 and 2006 are still on the market today.

That sums up why I got tired of home improvement shows.
“The owners had outgrown their one-story two bedroom one bath house, so they hired an architect who raised the roof with a crane and added a 2nd story, complete with game room and generously sized master suite!”
I just spent the weekend putting cheap sticky tiles on my kitchen so we stop getting splinters in our feet over the next 5-10 years it will take before we get to renovating the kitchen. I’ll be happy if I get the hole in the stairway plaster fixed before Christmas. I can’t relate.

The first few years Designed to Sell was on the air they often said that the people sold the house right after the open house for more than asking. That was pre-bubble bursting of course. Haven’t heard it in quite a while.

I tend to leave Design to Sell on when I’m doing something else and want a little bit of distraction. Quite a few of the episodes show the house being sold at the end. I like it in that most of the repairs are of the cosmetic kind. Paint makes a huge difference as does furniture layout.

Also, a lot of it just shows the difference that getting a lot of the crap out of the room can make. The one thing that drives me nuts though is the stuff that isn’t cost efficient. I recall on one episode to “save money”, they were building something as a custom job as opposed to buying it, in the episode that I recall they were making a glass panel door as opposed to buying one, or in another episode, they built a cabinet rather than buying one. That only works if you aren’t paying for labor.

In the real world, if you are paying for a carpenter, you buy the prehung door and cabinet and call it a day. In the building I work in, they renovated an office suite. What they wound up doing was getting rid of the wood doors that were there and installing prehung doors because it was cheaper.

I tend to leave Design to Sell on when I’m doing something else and want a little bit of distraction. Quite a few of the episodes show the house being sold at the end. I like it in that most of the repairs are of the cosmetic kind. Paint makes a huge difference as does furniture layout.

Also, a lot of it just shows the difference that getting a lot of the crap out of the room can make. The one thing that drives me nuts though is the stuff that isn’t cost efficient. I recall on one episode to “save money”, they were building something as a custom job as opposed to buying it, in the episode that I recall they were making a glass panel door as opposed to buying one, or in another episode, they built a cabinet rather than buying one. That only works if you aren’t paying for labor.

In the real world, if you are paying for a carpenter, you buy the prehung door and cabinet and call it a day. In the building I work in, they renovated an office suite. What they wound up doing was getting rid of the wood doors that were there and installing prehung doors because it was cheaper.

I wonder how long those shows have been in the can.

It would be educational to know whether these houses have sold in the interval between production and now. I can’t find any details about the show but maybe you could render some small assistance in discovering the relevant facts. You could watch all the past episodes and record the names and addresses of the homeowners. They might be available on DVD somewhere if you can’t get them online. Then you could call a few real estate offices local to the properties concerned and find out if they are still for sale, and if so then how much is being requested. If they have been sold, get dates of transactions, sale prices, etc.

I think this is the only sure way of ascertaining exactly how far south the market has dipped, and I’d certainly value your informed opinion far more than that of any so-called expert, who probably hasn’t bothered to carry out any serious and necessary research.

If you could get back to this thread as soon as you’ve completed the task then that would be great.

While channel surfing last night, I was commenting on how all the house flipping shows have been replaced by help-me-sell-my-house shows.

I always :dubious:ed at the flipping shows. sell cost - purchase cost - renovation costs /= profit.

There was never anything about financing costs, closing cost, realtor costs, etc. Now I just want to see how fast I can get past the sell-this-house shows. Really? You think having all the kids toys in the living room might be a problem?

Remind me not to respond to one of your posts again.

Oops, too late.