Housing Shows May Create Unrealistic Expectations

Air Date:
Heard On The Morning Show
Dan Reed (CC BY-NC)

Housing excellence showcased on popular television programs may have unintended consequences. Our guest is a writer and social critic. She writes that people swooning over HGTV programs can develop unrealistic expectations for their own properties. She argues the 24-hour home show lineup makes people think a perfect house translates to a perfect life.

The National Bureau of Economic Research released a working paper in August. Its authors argue that investors purchased homes looking to turn a profit, but they defaulted on the mortgages and lost money on the properties. Analysts argue this contributed significantly to the housing crash during 2008’s Great Recession. In July Newsweek examined a resurgence in building and buying massive single-family homes, creating what some fear is a new housing bubble.

Caitlin Flanagan says television shows depicted beauty and style may contribute to another round of DIY investors who create another housing bubble. Flanagan is a contributing editor to The Atlantic. She’s a reviewer, and she’s written two books. Her recent piece in New York Magazine is called, “Beware the Open-Plan Kitchen.”

Flanagan says some viewers gain false confidence when they watch home improvement television that makes rehabilitating homes easy and profitable. (Others agree with her.) She argues that, beyond economic consequences, TV programs promote a false perfection, one that leaves people watching from their comfy couches dissatisfied with their own lives.

Why do you watch programs? Has it inspired you to upgrade your house or remodel a home? What effect do television shows have on the way you think about your own life? Email us at ideas@wpr.org. Find WPR’s The Ideas Network on Facebook, and tweet @WPRMornings.

Episode Credits

  • Kate Archer Kent Host
  • Kealey Bultena Producer
  • Caitlin Flanagan Guest