Here’s a new drinking game for HGTV fans, courtesy of Drew Scott, a real estate expert and one half of the set of twins who host the show “Property Brothers.” It epitomizes how television reality shows like this are changing the interiors of American homes. “Take a drink every time someone says ‘granite’ and ‘stainless steel,’” he suggests. “You’ll be drunk by the first commercial.”
Anyone who’s ever binge-watched the network, or “Property Brothers” specifically, knows there are some things, like granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, that a lot of home buyers are looking for nowadays. That, they say, is in large part to reality TV.
Remodeling activity is expected to continue growing this year, helped by a stronger housing market, according to a report released this week by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, reaching $324 billion for the 12 months up to second quarter of next year, up from $304.8 billion for the 12 months up to the second quarter of 2017.
And what’s hot? Drew Scott isn’t wrong. Granite tops (64%, wood cabinets (85%) and stainless steel appliances (79%) are among the most popular kitchen renovations, a 2016 National Association of Home Builders report found.
Such trends, experts say, are in part fueled by reality TV programs on buying, flipping and fixing up properties. They have created an educated population of home buyers and do-it-yourself renovators, insiders say. But budgeting for all of it is still a mystery, even to avid viewers.
Home buyers are asking good questions about things like how to qualify for a mortgage, Amy Bonitatibus, chief marketing officer at Chase Home Lending, said at a New York City event Chase JPM, -0.66% hosted with Google GOOGL, -0.77% and the “Property Brothers” recently to talk about home buying, mortgages and remodeling.
In addition, buyers nowadays are willing to explore other housing options, again inspired by what they see other people doing on TV. “People are watching ‘Tiny Houses’ and see what you can do with 600 square feet,” said Bonitatibus, referring to another HGTV program in which house seekers search for smaller, less expensive homes to buy.
“Or they see what Jonathan can do with an eyesore,” she said, referring to Jonathan Scott, the other half of the “Property Brothers” duo. Jonathan is a licensed contractor who runs his own business. “The standard Cape Cod is not necessarily what people are looking at,” she said.
Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow, agrees that home buyers these days, many of them millennials, are more open to a fixer upper because they’ve seen a renovation in progress, and the results. “In general, buyers today are a lot more educated about the real estate market in part because they watch more HGTV, and come across certain terms and processes in mainstream media,” said Gudell.
HGTV is part of Scripps Network Interactive Inc. SNI, +0.09% For the 2016 to 2017 season to date, HGTV has averaged more than 1.5 million viewers during primetime, according to data provided by Nielsen. “Property Brothers” has averaged more than two million viewers for the same period. According to the “Brothers,” their show can be seen in 150 countries.
But reality TV could also be setting unrealistic standards. A new buyer that’s watched a glut of these TV shows might think he or she can renovate a home for $80,000 in New York City, Gudell said. “Maybe in Texas.”
Budgeting is still frequently the “biggest shock,” he adds. Zillow has used its platform to inform buyers about where homes often sell above the asking price, what to research about a neighborhood, and advises — above all for first-timers — that they should stick to their budget.
“Property Brother” Jonathan Scott also acknowledged that his show may create unrealistic expectations. “We would never be able to renovate at the cost on the show,” he said. “They’re getting everything for wholesale.” The show contributes about $10,000, doesn’t charge for time, and passes on other savings to help homeowners with the renovation cost. Participants also put their own money in the pot.
Many come to the show thinking they’re going to get their whole house renovated in eight weeks when it’s actually just three or four rooms. “Even with a construction company, it would take 15 weeks” to do those rooms normally, he said.
The program will typically renovate an entire house, according to the “Brothers,” but other areas require a separate budget with a separate timeline. Outside of the show, many people have started to ask for the 3D mock-up of a renovated space, like the one they’ve seen on “Property Brothers.” “That costs $10,000 per episode,” said Jonathan, putting it out of many budgets as well.