There's something so addictive about real estate reality TV -- the voyeuristic thrill of watching home buyers find The One, seeing others transform hellish dumps into amazing new digs, or gawking as wealthy real estate agents get yet wealthier by nailing a million-dollar listing. It's real-life drama at its finest! Or at least a meticulously produced, shot, and edited version of real life.
But here's a surprise: Through all their artifice and augmented reality, these shows also contain some great tips and tricks on how to navigate the biggest decisions that home buyers, sellers, and owners face. Should newlyweds find a new home or move into one spouse's current digs? Should you buy a nicer house with a longer commute, or a shack with a shorter drive to work? Real estate shows can provide (some of) the answers.
Welcome to our new series of real estate reality TV recaps! Whether you're looking for some smart housing advice or just want a quick, painless update on the latest shows, we have you covered.
Here's a rundown of some of the new season debuts, along with the take-home lessons they impart.
'Yours, Mine or Ours'
In the premiere episode of this new show, Haig and Greg are mere months away from their wedding. But since each owns a home and Haig has two kids, should they move into remodeled versions of Haig's place or Greg's -- or buy something new? Call in the experts!
Interior design expert Taylor Spellman creates stunning remodels of their existing places, one including an elevator. Meanwhile, Realtor Reza Farahan shows them new homes they could buy together. One of the places was gosh-darn perfect, checking off everything on their wish list. The other? A massive renovation project that Greg dubs "Chateau sh**hole." Nonetheless, Haig finds himself oddly smitten with the fixer-upper, explaining it "tickles my pickle."
Lesson learned: Sure, when couples move in together, it's much easier if one half stays put. But then again, finding a totally new home means it's really yours as a family, particularly if it's a fixer-upper that will take teamwork to renovate. (New episodes air Mondays at 10 p.m. on Bravo.)
'Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles'
The first episode of Season 9 featured another in a seemingly endless string of high-maintenance millionaires: Manny Mashouf, owner of Bebe clothing stores, who invites real estate agents David Parnes and James Harris to sell his $45 million mansion in Los Angeles. One catch: The two agents will have to co-list (and split the commission) with a third. Furthermore, the seller hands our heroes a contract saying he can fire them at any time, rather than allow the typical three to six months to find a buyer.
They sign, but grumble miserably through the rest of the episode. "It's a huge problem," Parnes says. "We're not going to go and spend $30,000 on throwing an event and photos and videos and time, and then Manny turns around in two weeks and says, 'Hey guys, thanks but no thanks, I'm moving on.'"
Lesson learned: Selling a home takes time -- so while it's easy to get antsy if you aren't rolling in offers after your first open house, that's no reason to cut your agent loose. Most contracts with agents last three to six months, to give your listing time to build momentum. Check to see how long similar homes in your area typically sit on the market to help align your expectations with reality. (New episodes air Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo.)
'Tiny House Hunters'
Millennial couple Aubree and Jordan are living in a studio apartment in Los Angeles with two dogs, one cat, and ungodly amounts of pet fur. So they start searching for a tiny home with a yard. They want to spend $265,000 tops, and they quickly find that that's almost impossible in L.A. Good thing they're not averse to a tiny fixer-upper!
They're shown a couple of nice places in their price range located about a half-hour outside the city. Strangely enough, they're drawn to what looks like a (tiny) charred crack house with 6,000 pounds of junk in the front yard. Seriously, about the only thing salvageable is a 600-square-foot foundation, and they'll have to pay big bucks to have all that junk hauled away. But at least it has a view of a canyon and it's right in the middle of L.A.
Lesson learned: While it's easy to be wooed by a nice-looking house, never forget that location matters, too. So make sure to factor in the distance to work and other places you'll head to regularly, and how far family and friends will have to trek to visit you. (New episodes air on Mondays at 9 p.m. on HGTV.)
'Lone Star Restoration'
A concrete vault once used as a place to stash Prohibition-era liquor might not sound like a great place to kick back and entertain guests, but Brent Hall thinks there's hope. In the second episode of this new show on the History Channel, this restoration expert -- who travels around Texas with his dog Romeo, renovating homes -- turns this stark bunker into a gorgeous tasting room. He also checks out a 1920s home renovation project and visits a family living in what was once a county jail -- complete with cells, a mug shot studio, and visitation rooms with windowed dividers.
Lesson learned: When you look to renovate, always respect a home's history. As this rusty vault-turned-tasting room makes clear, even the grimmest relics in a home have a story behind them, one likely worth preserving.
"When I look at something, I see the story of our country, and I don't want to lose that," says Hall. (New episodes air Mondays at 10 p.m.on the History Channel.)