Ever since reality television exploded into American homes in the late ‘90s, we’ve had to keep reminding ourselves the same thing.
Even though it says “reality,” it isn’t always real.
That’s especially true with shows that follow house flippers, home remodelers and real estate agents. These processes are usually drawn out, tedious and not very fun to watch, so some liberties are taken during production to make the show interesting to viewers.
HGTV’s “House Hunters” is a notable one. The show hires actors to portray some buyers and usually only approaches buyers who are already in escrow, which means they have to act out reactions to houses they already know they’re not going to buy.
We can’t count how many times we’ve seen a house hunter object to something silly like a room’s paint color or tile scheme.
But what about the network’s new house flipping show, “Flip or Flop?”
Television networks are notoriously guilty of misrepresenting house flipping, and it has no doubt led to some novices getting in over their heads. “Flip or Flop” follows the husband-wife duo of Tarek and Christina El Moussa as they take on distressed properties, renovate them and attempt to sell them.
Some viewers have criticized the show for misrepresenting the costs required in renovations, unrealistic home sale and purchase prices, staging the auction scenes and depicting a couple that mostly only deals with capital. Their contractors are the ones getting their hands dirty, which is a luxury many house flippers can’t afford.
The biggest complaint of all centers around the fact that the couple almost always turns a handsome profit, which any experienced house flipper will tell you isn’t necessarily true.
So what of the El Moussas? Are we watching a young couple scraping by, trying to make it in the business, or is it just another made up Hollywood production?
The people are indeed quite real. They worked in real estate until the housing market crashed, and they’ve been paying the bills by flipping houses ever since.
Business has been going well, with Tarek reporting last year that he had taken on three new employees and expanded his operation into neighboring states. It is also shown that he uses creative financing and help from outside investors to pay for his flips.
As for the rest, nothing has been explicitly revealed.
Those of us with experience in the business can probably pick out the unrealistic parts of the show and surmise how — with a little selective editing and Hollywood magic — everything came together. In the end, the savvy viewer already knows the show is for entertainment and shouldn’t be used as a basis for serious decisions.
After all, it comes back to the old adage.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. There’s no such thing as easy money.