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From The Ground Up

Real estate hits it big in prime time

More than 20 years ago, Jackson real estate broker Gary Smith started a weekly half-hour television show called “The Real Estate Network.” So far as I know, his was the only real estate show on television in the local market.

My, how things have changed.

Smith’s program featured interviews and news about the world of real estate, and included a commercial for his company. Only in the commercial was there mention of a specific property for sale. Now, there are entire networks on the local cable channel dedicated to real estate and its related topics. HGTV comes to mind immediately. The Fine Living Network, the Travel Channel and the Do It Yourself Channel often feature real estate-related programs. One will regale you with broadcasts about the finest homes in the world, another will show homes in exotic locations and another will demonstrate how to deal with that fixer-upper. HGTV has 64 different programs dealing with some aspect of real estate or home ownership.

Going prime time

Television programs dealing with real estate have become popular. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” has gone prime time on a national network on Sunday evening. “Trading Spaces” started out on a cable channel in what seemed a galaxy far away, and became popular almost by word of mouth. Mississippians beam at the success of “Trading Spaces” regular Laurie Smith of Jackson. When she walks in a local restaurant with her father, the chairman of a large multi-state bank, she’s the one who gets the stares and the comments like, “Isn’t that what’s her name on that television show about trading places?”

“Designed to Sell” is a program that “…shows how to turn a tired house into a showpiece by giving sellers a $2,000 budget and a team of experts to transform their house into the hottest property on the block.” The show usually has a number of interior-design ideas, home-improvement tips and real estate insider secrets.

“Grounds for Improvement” is a yard and landscaping show that features the “before and after” effect of a group of professionals working their magic on a yard in need of attention. Property owners or renters agree to assist the “Grounds for Improvement” team by recruiting friends and family to do manual labor during the two-day shoot.

“Rezoned” is one of my favorites. It takes properties and turns them into something else. I love adaptive reuses of properties. Recent shows have featured a former ferry that is now a bay-front residence, a train depot waiting room that became a kitchen and a renovated church that now holds a dining table and benches built from its original wood pews.

“DIY to the Rescue” is the program to call if you just cannot get that project finished or if you have reached the impossible dead-end. It is appropriately named because it does just what it says — it rescues home improvement projects. A recent show featured a couple who discovered that water was coming through a window seal and dampening the inside wall. They attempted to do it themselves, but — well, you know the rest of the story.

I mentioned above that I like adaptive reuses, so it should come as no surprise that I really love unusual living spaces. Consequently, “World’s Most Extreme Homes” is captivating to me. Its title describes its content very well. By the way, if you have an old commercial building, warehouse, barn, church or fire station that I could remodel into my personal residence get in touch with me so that I can go see it within the next hour.

Making the pitch

There is now a local cable channel with nothing but real estate advertisements, one right after another every 10 seconds. Most are for specific listings by real estate brokers. Ads for mortgage brokers, moving companies, furniture stores and everything else related to the home are interspersed with ads for the properties.

A few nights ago, I watched approximately several minutes, meaning that I saw approximately 40 ads. It did not take long to see a pattern. Real estate agents who have only 10 seconds to make a pitch know what to promote.

If you are selling your house, you might want to make a note. The most frequent opening sentence mentioned the number of bedrooms and baths of the house. The second most frequently mentioned statement referred to a specific location, usually a subdivision. The third most-mentioned item dealt with some feature of the property, such as landscaping, view, ceiling height, etc. The least frequently mentioned was what I would call puffing, an example of which is, “Beautiful house in great neighborhood.”

So what happened to Gary Smith? He’s doing just fine, now managing a 40-plus agent real estate agency that bears his name. But now he’s letting all those other shows inform the world about real estate.

Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is phil@philhardwick.com .

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