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Don’t be misled by The Block. There’s a big difference between reality and reality TV

July 19, 2019

The problem with reality TV (okay, one of the many problems) is it doesn’t really show you reality at all. In fact, it’s often more fiction than fact. Now, you might be thinking this isn’t that much of a problem - after all, no one would really believe the best way to survive being stranded on a deserted island with a group of strangers is to form into tribes, compete in ridiculous challenges for food and gradually vote people out of your group.

Not every reality TV show is that far removed from actual reality though, and the closer it gets to real life, the more potential it has to mislead. Over a million people tune in to watch The Block every week. For most, it’s just a bit of harmless entertainment. There are arguments, friendships get tested, Keith gets cranky, people cry – it’s non-stop drama. And the best part is, you get to watch ordinary Australians transform dumps into spectacular homes… and they do it all in a week.

Well guess what? That’s not how these things usually go down (although the arguments and friendships getting tested part is pretty accurate). The Block makes buying a rundown property, renovating it and selling it for a huge profit look so easy. There’s a real danger that people might watch it, think to themselves “I can totally do that” and wind up getting themselves in serious financial trouble when they suddenly discover they totally can’t.

That’s not to say it can’t work, but you really need to know what you are doing if you want to be successful. You need to know exactly how much you can afford to spend (including budgeting for emergencies in case things go wrong) and how much value it is going to add to the property.

Then, you have to be sure the difference is enough to cover all the extra costs involved in purchasing, holding and selling the property. You never see contestants on The Block balancing their books to make sure they can afford to pay stamp duty, legal fees, mortgage insurance, rates and loan repayments. After all that you still have to have some money left over to make it all worthwhile. Even then, you’d probably be much better off holding onto the property as a long term investment.

The Block isn’t the only reality TV show guilty of misrepresenting the real estate industry though. Avid fans of the Bachelor may still remember the 2015 season, starring a real estate agent… although probably not a very good one if he had enough free time to go on a TV show for a few months.

The thing is, Bachie, Blake or Australia’s Most Hated Man as he was affectionately known after breaking the winning girl’s heart after proposing to her on the show, is not a very good representation of what real estate agents are actually like. Just like you, none of us have ever dated 25 women at the same time, or would even consider working as a stripper, let alone starting a “strippers for hire” business. Don’t let one bad egg taint your view of a whole industry.

You need be wary about the “reality” that these shows are actually portraying… in most cases reality TV is just like normal television – it’s there to entertain, not inform. The only difference is they don’t have to pay the actors as much.