Broker and real estate expert Teresa Boardman feels it is time to put the real back into real estate. The average transaction isn’t typically camera-ready. When things get real, real quick in real estate she says that we need to leave the drama on TV where it belongs.
If only residential real estate was more like what we see on TV. Don’t get me wrong, there is always enough drama in real estate, but it usually isn’t the kind of drama that will make it to prime time.
The neighbors like to gossip. They might say, “hey did you hear that the Johnson’s house sold for $450,000? “I am surprised they got more than $300,000 for that dump.”
Here in the bold North in the heart of flyover land, most of the houses do not have swimming pools or palm trees. Very few of the homes in my town are owned by movie stars or anyone who is remotely famous. Many are owned by people who are really quite ordinary.
None of my clients have been on TV or in the movies. Most of them did not get to choose the nicest house in the “best” neighborhood. They were limited to what they could afford. Considering that more than half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, it is safe to assume that there are people who have limited housing options.
Home is where the average Joe lives and what the average agent sells
For most of my clients, real estate is a place to live. It is one of life’s necessities. People may spend their whole life working just so they can pay a mortgage or make the rent. One way or another, most people end up working for the bank as they either pay interest on their own homes or on someone else’s.
My clients did not get a young, beautiful, highly photogenic real estate agent, either. My appearance doesn’t bring any glamor to the job. As a woman of a certain age, I rarely see people who look like me on TV or in the photographs accompanying articles about real estate.
Not to offend any of the agents in my local market, but most of them do not look like movie stars, either. Some are not at all photogenic.
Some are not tall enough nor young enough, and their teeth are not white enough or straight enough. They don’t look like television real estate agents.
In the winter, most women agents in my market don’t wear “cute” shoes on the job. It is just too hard to climb over a snowbank or walk through slush while wearing heels.
It is rare to have homebuyers who are choosing between three or more houses like they do on cable TV. Often there aren’t nearly that many choices, at least not on the same day. It is just that one house that they really want and can afford. If their offer isn’t accepted, they move on and find another house.
Last year we even sold a house that had an avocado green fridge in the carpeted kitchen.
There were no buff young men with sledgehammers giving the house a makeover. There wasn’t anything about that house or about the transaction that was worthy of an episode of a bingeable real estate show, yet there was some drama. There always is.
The new owners of the house gradually make improvements. In the real world, these improvements cost money and sadly there are people who can barely afford the house and do not have money left over for renovations.
It isn’t glamourous, but it can be rewarding
It is shocking, but not all real estate agents are wealthy. Some don’t even drive expensive cars or own costly houses. It is an accepted truth that anyone can succeed in real estate sales, yet people fail spectacularly, too — and move on. They live happily ever after doing something else, like teaching people how to be better real estate agents.
Most of my clients have been interested in housing as a place to live rather than a commodity to be leveraged or sold. They want a yard so that they could have a garden and a dog. They don’t have visions of that infinity pool or an outdoor kitchen. The yard will be under a blanket of snow for five months of the year.
My own interest in housing and in housing issues and affordability almost seems out of place in the real estate industry, where the goal seems to be to extract as much money as possible for investors out of every piece of real estate in the country.
I have been in houses that smelled bad and in houses that were dirty. I have seen kitchen appliances coated in grease and have had to try and explain to the homeowner how to clean it up a bit.
My career in real estate doesn’t remotely resemble that of a movie star or even a rock star. Rock stars usually don’t need a side hustle, yet I hear about rock star agents all the time. Sure, there is real-life drama, but it isn’t anything like we see on TV. It tends to revolve around leaky pipes and radon gas.
There are skills real estate agents need that are never shown in real estate shows, like tact and diplomacy and honesty and kindness, too. Being able to help someone achieve his or her real estate goals while respecting their budget. Coming up with creative ways to make the most out of a house that isn’t quite ready for the glossy magazine spread. Finding the inner beauty of a home and marketing it well.
Bingeworthy real estate shows can be entertaining, but for those of us who work in the industry and on the front lines, we need to remember that it paints an unrealistic picture of who we are and what we do.
Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.