Real Estate TV: Hot Property on Cable

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Reality TV is getting a strong dose of realty TV.
Even as home sales and prices rapidly cool, shows that focus on selling homes -- particularly for home "flippers" -- remain a hot and growing commodity.
MORE: Flipping Through Channels for Realty
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Cable channels including HGTV, TLC, Bravo, A&E and DIY are ratcheting up home-dealing programming with new shows featuring developers, investors and do-it-yourselfers.

Reality TV is getting a strong dose of realty TV.

Even as home sales and prices rapidly cool, shows that focus on selling homes -- particularly for home "flippers" -- remain a hot and growing commodity.

MORE: Flipping Through Channels for Realty

Help

Cable channels including HGTV, TLC, Bravo, A&E and DIY are ratcheting up home-dealing programming with new shows featuring developers, investors and do-it-yourselfers.

Part of the push is spillover from housing's boom times. "These shows became popular when real estate became watercooler and cocktail-party talk," says Chicago real estate agent Mark Nash, whose book credits include 1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home.

But even as the go-go days of selling property for big, fast profits are fading, undaunted cable channel executives say that interest among viewers and well-heeled sponsors ranging from home improvement retailers to beer marketers remains strong. Another plus: These shows are generally inexpensive to produce.

With five shows already devoted to realty TV, cable's HGTV just launched 'Bought & Sold, Secrets That Sell and Get It Sold.' The genre accounts for 33 percent of HGTV's lineup, the network's top-rated House Hunters draws a healthy 1.2 million viewers nightly, and overall prime-time network ratings are up 13 percent in the first three months of 2007.

Says programming chief Michael Dingley, "This is still the most expensive investment in most people's lives."

TLC and A&E are moving existing realty series into prime time. TLC also launched 'My First Home' and 'The Real Deal' last month. Deal features developer Richard Davis, formerly of A&E's Flip This House.

'Deal,' running in the former Saturday slot of makeover show 'Trading Spaces,' is pulling in about 50 percent more viewers. That shows "there's still very much interest, even in a down market," says TLC programming chief Christian Drobnyk. TLC plans summer launches of holdovers 'Property Ladder and Flip That House' and in 'July tries out Real Estate Road Test,' where buyers gauge home values and suitability.

Clive Pearse, star of HGTV's 'Designed to Sell,' says the housing slump makes realty TV more timely and poignant.

"Sellers can't miss opportunities to be more competitive," he says.

"Everyone still wants a piece of the pie, but it is a different game now," concedes California developer Jeff Lewis, whose Bravo series 'Flipping Out' premieres in July.

Actress/developer Kirsten Kemp, whose 'Property Ladder' underscores the hazards of flipping, says amateur real estate speculators can still glean plenty of TV tips.

Yet as opportunities are harder to come by and less profitable, some real estate experts say viewers might want to watch realty TV as much for entertainment value as advice.

"It's a great time for people who want to buy and hold," says Judy Milstein, a Potomac, Md., Long & Foster agent. "But you are not going to make a lot of money flipping quickly."

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