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Never Argue With a Pregnant Lady, and Other Tips From Real Estate TV

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Frank and Sherry Fontana of Downtown Shabby

Honestly now, who hasn't binged on real estate reality shows? So many homes to watch getting bought, sold, or renovated … but only so many hours in the day. So if you're short on time, we've done the legwork for you, with this latest installment of weekly real estate reality TV recaps -- along with the stuff you can learn from them!

'Yours, Mine, or Ours'

In the latest episode of this Bravo show, Marc and Bedina not only have to choose which of their homes to live in, but which city and state as well. She resides in the Philly area; His stomping grounds are historic Savannah. Further complications: Marc has six pets -- including, of course, a terrifying, giant snake -- and lives in a small, stylish condo near his gym. Bedina has a sprawling house in the suburbs woefully far from any workout facilities. Although designer Taylor Spellman devises a cool man cave/gym for Bedina's suburban backyard, the couple instead decides to buy the gorgeous Savannah Victorian that agent Reza Farahan shows them. But alas! It is so ideal, it ends up off the market by the time they make their decision. Bummer!

Lesson learned: You snooze, you loose. When you find a home that's perfect for you, chances are it will be perfect for someone else too, and you'll need to move quickly. There is such thing as being too careful (a nice way to say "indecisive"). There's a happy ending to this story, however. Marc and Bedina were able to find another place that they loved. The takeaway: Don't obsess about the one that got away. Keep your eye on the prize! And don't take your eyes off the snake. (New episodes air Mondays at 10 p.m. on Bravo.)

'Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles'

 

Only in L.A.: Realtor Josh Flagg is working with a billionaire family that wants him to mentor their 16-year-old daughter Cameron in the real estate business. Her first project will be to find a $6 million to $8 million "investment home" with a recording studio where Cameron can hang with pals and pursue her musical career. And wouldn't you know? Fellow mega-agent Josh Altman happens to be selling the studio-recording home of punk rock legend Lucky Lehrer, listed for $6.995 million (um, who knew the drummer from the Circle Jerks had made so much money?). Seems like a match made in housing heaven, but nothing is simple for these two real estate rivals. They counter and cuss like Hilary and Donald at a town hall debate before finally striking a deal.

Lesson learned: Always negotiate, even if both parties would be satisfied with a sale at the full asking price. In this case, Lucky's home is well within Cameron's budget, but because Flagg is a shrewd negotiator, he offers less. "If I didn't get Altman down in that price, I wouldn't have taught Cameron anything in this experience," says Flagg, who seems to have taken his mentor gig rather seriously. Still, after a lot of caustic back-and-forth, they settle on $6.875 million. Happy ending and monster commissions for all. (New episodes air Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo.)

'Downtown Shabby'

Did the folks at the FYI channel came up with this catchy title, then create a home renovation show around it? Frank and Sherry Fontana have been redesigning and renovating older homes for 15 years.

In this episode, they work with a couple in La Grange, IL, who are expecting a baby and want to update their 120-year-old shingle-style Victorian home before the wee one arrives. They want to remove one of the original fireplaces … and repaint the exterior in trendy all-white. Sherry and Frank argue for a more historically appropriate three contrasting colors, but in the end they cave. As Sherry explains, "Never go head to head with a pregnant woman."

Lesson learned: When restoring historical homes, expect the unexpected. And "the unexpected" probably means it's going to take more time and money than originally estimated. "You never know what you're going to find behind those walls," says Sherry, wielding a sledgehammer. In this home, they find both good and bad: a used brick wall that they could restore and reuse (good), and plumbing and wiring that could not be relocated (bad). "These old homes come with their own unique sets of problems," says Frank. (New episodes air Saturdays at 9 p.m. on FYI.)

'Lone Star Restoration'

This episode, "Romeo the Wonder Dog," features plenty of cute Labrador footage for the canine crazies, but Brent Hull's restoration efforts are pretty riveting, too. For one, while attempting to keep a barn from collapsing, Hull checks underneath … and finds the skeleton of some unidentifiable animal. Yikes! It gets even more riveting when Brent's crew attempts to manhandle a two-story column into place -- total nail-biter!

Lesson learned: Restoration can be a lot pricier than replacement. Hull tells the homeowner that it will cost $6,000 to fix up a wood column that has rotted, and that a fiberglass column, which is new, and will look identical, only costs about $3,500. "Sometimes, trying to restore these things is more work than putting new in," says Brent. But the homeowner decides to keep the old column anyway, since authenticity can boost your home's value. Indeed, once it's fixed, his home's value increases from $180,000 to $200,000. (New episodes air Mondays at 10 p.m. on the History Channel.)