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5 Tips to Overcome HGTV-Level Expectations

Jun 8, 2020 11:44:23 AM

At some point during your real estate career, have you had to work with a seller or buyer with unrealistic expectations?

Perhaps that client watched one too many home renovation or buying/selling shows on networks like HGTV or HSN. 

While entertaining, unfortunately most real estate television paints a rather unrealistic and ideal picture of what happens in a true real estate transaction. 

These clients often believe they are experts on the subject of real estate because of the “information” they obtained watching these shows. 

But you and I both know television is not real life. Buying or selling a home takes specialized knowledge and experience — not just a 30-minute drive with three perfect homes or a one-day open house with multiple above-value offers. 

The truth is, many buyers and sellers have developed unrealistic expectations thanks to their guilty pleasure television habits. That’s why it’s our role as good real estate agents to assist clients as they manage their expectations, work within their budgets and purchase the best property or sell their property in the real world. It’s important to make the right moves so clients trust our actual knowledge from working in the field and understand that HGTV is not certified real estate education. 

Here are five ways to help your clients look beyond tv-level expectations and trust you as their agent — with input from two agents who have had similar experiences. 

1. Have a discussion about the difference between television and reality.

Whatever you do, don't talk down to your clients or criticize them for watching their favorite shows. Instead, have a conversation. Ask them what about those shows they like and find out their expectations for their own home sale or purchase.

“I have to remind them that they aren’t even seeing one-tenth of what it actually takes to sell a home,” says Courtney Willis, a Realtor with EXP Realty. 

“A lot of buyers don’t know it takes 6 months to do a 30-minute show,” points out Rochelle Fitzgerald, a Realtor with Keller Williams. “I remind them of the differences between television and a real timeline that involves research.” 

2. Discuss real numbers for selling and buying. 

If your clients have been inspired to take on a costly home renovation and expect to recoup all of their money and then some, give them real-life advice about ROI and pricing limits within a neighborhood. Help them understand that most renovations do not have a dollar-for-dollar return, and unless they are qualified to do the work themselves, will cost much more than the estimates most shows suggest.

“I just recently spoke to a client who feels like any renovation should earn 100% of the investment back,” comments Fitzgerald. “I urge them to be more realistic about the percentage.”

Buyers, too, can fall into the trap of thinking that the home search will be “as seen on TV” and not consider their budget. 

“HGTV gives them childlike hope,” says Willis. “Their expectations become unrealistic regarding the right house in the right neighborhood at the right price.”

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3. Talk about needs versus wants. 

Are your buyers starry-eyed over things like farm sinks and giant soaker tubs? It might be time to sit down with them and make a list of needs versus wants — especially in line with their budget. This will help them forget their television dreams and come back to earth. 

“I tell them they won’t get everything on their list; there WILL be compromise,” Willis laughs. 

Determine what their “deal breakers” are and what features are simply “nice to have.” Obviously, lifestyle is a key factor, but a client who has been wooed by the glamorous homes on television may need you to remind them of the reality that comes along with a feature. For example, a large backyard seems great, but they might not be thinking about the landscaping and upkeep. 

The same concept goes for sellers in a different way. Ask your sellers what the home actually needs to get it ready for listing. Moderate cosmetic improvements to a home — such as better lighting — are often a better decision than going for extravagant renovations in the hopes of making more money. 

“I typically suggest simpler things, like painting, so they can get the home on the market sooner,” Fitzgerald says. 

4. Demonstrate your local market knowledge. 

Every neighborhood is different when it comes to real estate transactions. Many HGTV shows only show the hottest markets, where homes might get several above-value offers. Unfortunately, this gives home sellers unrealistic expectations about their own home sales. 

It's your job to help your clients or potential clients understand the current housing market in their own neighborhood.  

“HGTV should never be a hindrance to a prepared agent,” Willis remarks. “Know your statistics and your stuff, and don’t let it overshadow you.”

5. Share true stories. 

A client might be caught up in an HGTV fog, but hearing a real story or two from you can make a huge difference. A great agent can shed light on a scenario by talking about prior experiences and how other clients handled the buying or selling journey. 

It’s best to have some stories up your sleeve about successes and stumbles to overcome any unrealistic expectations your clients might have. 

“I share my stories, both good and bad,” Fitzgerald says. “I just want to be a real agent and give them both sides.”

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