Real Estate Buying

10 House-Hunting Lessons You Can Learn from the TV Shows

Reality TV shows that open a window onto the world of real estate have been entertaining us for years. But if you look beyond the spectacle, you can actually learn a thing or two about the home buying process as well. Here are 10 practical house-hunting lessons that come straight from reality TV.

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Take Notes

Drew Scott, one half of the “Property Brothers,” recommends touring a lot of houses—at least 10—before making an offer on one. And definitely take notes. “When you walk through a home, have a checklist in hand,” he says. “[W]rite down the pros, write down the cons, and rate that house from 1 to 10. At the end of a long house-hunting day, all the houses are going to blend together, and it’s that checklist that’s going to be the saving grace and will get you your dream home.”

Related: 12 Things Realtors Look For in Homes of Their Own

If You Want a Bargain, Keep an Open Mind

Chip and Joanna Gaines make the magic happen on “Fixer Upper” every week. What’s their biggest piece of advice for home buyers looking for a bargain? “When walking into a fixer-upper for the first time, you’re going to see a few (or, you know, a ton) of things you don’t like at first—that’s why it’s listed at such a good price. Instead of focusing on the foul smell or drab green carpet, imagine what the home could look like with a fresh lemon scent or hardwood floors.”

Related: 10 Reasons to Buy an “Ugly” Home

Stick to Your Budget

“Flip or Flop” star Tarek El Moussa cautions first-time home buyers against overspending. When El Moussa bought his first home, at the tender age of 21, he splurged, and it put him in a financial bind. “With no money for furniture, I ended up living in an empty house for nearly nine months,” said El Moussa. Be sure to stay within your financial limits, he advises, because “[f]inancial peace of mind is worth its weight in gold.”

Related: Watch Out for 12 Real Estate Tactics Designed to Make You Spend More

Get Your Financing in Place

“Property Virgins” host Sandra Rinomato always advises prospective buyers to get their financing in place before they start seriously shopping for a home. Many houses are bought and sold overnight. If you have your mortgage preapproved, you’ll be less likely to lose your dream home while waiting to secure financing.

Related: 9 Reasons You Might Not Get a Mortgage

Pay Attention to the Neighborhood

Egypt Sherrod, host of “Property Virgins,” reminds home buyers that to understand the true value of a home, you need to spend time in the neighborhood. Remember, you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying the neighborhood too. Before you decide to buy a house, visit it often and at different times of day to get a sense of what living there would be like. Talk to the neighbors and ask questions to find out if the neighborhood will provide the lifestyle and conveniences you want.

Related: 10 Telltale Signs That a Home Will Be Going on the Market

Be Careful with New Construction

Jonathan Scott of “Property Brothers” warns prospective buyers to do their homework if they’re thinking of picking up a newly built home. “In order to pump these homes out as fast as the builders want to, some of them cut corners like not waiting long enough for concrete to cure, or hiring untrained labor forces.” New construction is not necessarily bad, and there are a lot of benefits to buying a brand-new home. Just make sure you go with a builder who makes quality houses. 

Related: 10 Spots It’s Okay to Snoop at Every Open House

Ask About Major Systems

Co-host of “Fixer Upper,” Chip Gaines, cautions buyers to always ask about three things: the roof, the plumbing, and the electrical system. If they have issues, these major systems can be very costly to repair. “When you really believe that you’ve found ‘the one,’ it’s easy to get swept off your feet….” says Gaines. “But Jo and I encourage our clients to think beyond what they can see…”

Related: 11 Common Problems Home Sellers Try to Hide

Think About Resale

It may seem to go without saying, but if you intend to flip a house, make sure you’re always thinking about resale. Jeff Lewis of the real estate show “Flipping Out” advises potential flippers to make sure that the improvements they’re looking to implement are going to pay off. Over-customizing generally isn’t wise. In addition, always study the neighborhood to find out who’s buying, then tailor your renovations to that audience.

Related: 12 Reasons Your Home Isn’t Worth as Much as You Think

Don’t Signal Your Interest

Tarek El Moussa of “Flip or Flop” says you should keep a poker face in front of a listing agent. “Gushing about a home… just gives the seller more leverage when it comes time to negotiate,” he says. “Real estate agents are amazingly good at reading emotions and using every bit of that knowledge to negotiate to the last penny.” So, if you want the best deal you can get, keep your emotions to yourself.

Related: 10 Real Estate Negotiation Tactics That Can Really Backfire

Don’t Forget About the Hidden Costs

When planning your budget, “Property Virgins” host Egypt Sherrod cautions buyers to include the hidden costs of buying a home. Beyond the purchase price there are costs like taxes, homeowner association fees, maintenance, transfer taxes, and insurance to be taken into account. Don’t forget to figure in those additional expenses.

Related: 8 Home Costs That Take New Buyers by Surprise