Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Television Real Estate and a State of the Union

You've probably seen the shows. And if you're reading this then you've definitely seen the shows. The ones on HGTV and TLC: 'Sell This House', 'Curb Appeal', 'House Hunters', 'Trading Spaces', Flip This House, etc, etc, etc...You are obsessed with Real Estate. You watch Reality Televion Real Estate and you read Real Estate Blogs. You may have even dabbled in a transaction or two beyond the old homestead.

There was a time back in the olden days when the only fix for the Real Estate junkie was 'This Old House.' That was way over 20 years ago, maybe even 30. Then slowly but surely the spin-offs and copy-cats began showing up--one on Sunday morning, another late Thursday night repeated again on PBS in various oddball morning and afternoon slots. Bob Vila and Norm Abrams became household words. A late 20th Century investment niche suddenly emerged . More tangible and less volatile than the stock market of the 1980's, Real Estate was the new thing to talk about at happy hours and cocktail parties. Real Estate became King.

I know because I bought my first house in those early 1980s alongside all my other gainfully employed peers. We pontificated and expounded on the art of negotiation and speculated on the hope and promise of 'appreciation'. We second guessed our Realtors and were careful to calculate our upgrades-- dollar for dollar return on a new bathroom, 15% more on a new kitchen, negative 30% for a room addition. Little or nothing for paint or carpet...that was just to keep the wife happy. We gathered powertools and Home Improvement books and opened charge accounts at Lowe's. We studied the Sunday Real Estate Section for comparables and Open Houses.

The world-wide web was still a good ten years away and we were doing it the old fashioned way; by watching 'This Old House' and buying Carlton Sheets investment programs from late night Infomercials. My mobile phone was four pounds and deadbolted to the console of my car, its antenna drilled through the glass of my back window. It cost me $200 a month for the actual phone (retail $2,400) and $300 more a month for the limited service. Interest rates were in the mid-teens. I used to walk 5 miles uphill each way to a Sunday Open House....I sold insurance for a living.

Fast forward to today, last evening to be exact. From 7:00 at night when I walked in the door from my last showing of the day to 11:00PM when I couldnt physically click another channel on the remote in my hand, there were no less than 17 Real Estate related programs on seven different channels. Even former Chicago music promoter Downtown Scotty Brown is now an LA Realtor and featured on a show premiering on Bravo! this fall. CableTV is our new 'Bookstore'--our 'SOURCE', as it were. Cable Channels 61-71 are the new "Do-It-Yourself" aisles. The Internet is our 'Sunday Paper'. The once secretive Multiple Listing Service is available to anyone with a lick of computer savy. PDAs are our new computers. We PodCast and Blog just for the sport of it.

Everybody was doing it. Even I was ready. I quit my job and became a Realtor at the turn of this past Century. I wake up in the morning after a restless night of disjointed and oblong transactions and half-deals going sideways, making millions for my clients and flipping castles in dreamland. I dress for the day and do the same thing in the Real World. I arrive home before dusk and retire the day--but not before kissing the wife and dog, chasing the cat from my chair, throwing something in the microwave, and surfing the web and cable channels for anything that pertains to Real Estate.

Geno Petro
Chicago Home Estates

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