The HGTV (and Houzz) Effect

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a customer share a photo they downloaded from Houzz or Pinterest... 

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Bringing images to your builder/designer/architect for reference isn’t new, of course. When I started out, my clients would bring me scrap books filled with images from Better Homes & Garden or Southern Living Magazine.

Then came the plan books… Suddenly, everyone was an "architect"

We work in a very visual field, and pictures can be a great way to communicate ideas or inspiration. I was often surprised when I discovered what on that picture they really did like, as it wasn’t what I expected.

Additionally, most homeowners aren’t familiar with architectural or building terms. Forget trying to discuss the nuances between architectural styles, most can’t tell you what a hip roof or a gable is. 

So, pictures can be a valuable tool to start a conversation about what clients like and are looking for. But amount of content out there can be mind-numbing. Unlike the days when Meredith Corporation had creative editors selecting what to publish, anyone can put their questionable projects out into the internet.

The 900 Pound Gorilla in the Room

Consistently ranked among the top 5 prime time networks in the nation, there’s no denying HGTV's influence on our home buyers. I even know a few builders who keep it on in their break rooms. Naturally, after a night of binge-watching their favorite show, everyone can flip a 100 year old house in two weeks under budget, right?

I’m not saying it’s quite the same as logging onto WebMD, self-diagnosing your common cold with mad cow disease, and prescribing yourself coconut oil… But it’s almost as delusional. 

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The Benefits

Look, of course HGTV and social media has benefited the industry. I believe it has made all us professionals better, as we now have to be on top of our game. Seemingly overnight, everyone was asking for barn doors. We’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t acknowledge that Fixer Upper catapulted the term “Farmhouse” into the psyche of so many of our home buyers. The constant discussions on Houzz and Pinterest likely correspond to more frequent renovations. Suddenly, people are willing to spend more money more often to get the latest and greatest finishes and gadgets. 

The Drawbacks

With all of these benefits, however, come more than a fair share of frustrations throughout the industry - primarily in managing clients’ expectations. Cost, time frame, and availability are often underestimated and misrepresented in the media. After all, most suppliers and workers aren't donating to/paying us as sponsors to get publicity! You know the phrase, “they know enough to be dangerous”. This can lead to buyers asking for barn doors in places that absolutely should not have barn doors! In such cases, we have to be the bad guys and demonstrate leadership by communicating the lack of acoustical privacy barn doors offer.

The Opportunities

I think these renovation programs have given some folks – especially first time buyers struggling to buy new – the sense that they should buy something used and fix it up themselves. This isn’t great news for those of us in new construction, but maybe it’s not as bad as you might think. It won't take long for folks to realize that renovating is not for everyone. After a few failed DIY projects and costly mistakes, most people are ready for something done right from the start.

I also believe this exposure increases the clock speed in our industry, making older homes feel dated and obsolete more quickly. This is great for our industry, as we can never compete with used homes on price only. Adding things like Messy Kitchens or Delivery Vestibules helps justify the premium. 

Still, I know everyone has their favorite (or least favorite, depending on how you look at it) HGTV or Houzz story. Feel free to share!