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A Review Of Popular House Flipping and Home Hunting Television Shows

Published 2/21/08 (Modified 3/14/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

For a while now I've had an obsession with watching house flipping reality programs on TV. That is, until the real estate market collapsed. Since then, the hype and fascination seems to have subsided a bit with the feeling that perhaps many of these shows did the public a great disservice by over glamorizing the flipping experience. By oversimplifying the renovating process and featuring only the greatly successful flips, some of these housing shows perhaps gave many the misleading impression that flipping is so easy, even a caveman can do it - prompting many to foolishly dive in without proper real estate education.

These popular house flipping shows should be regarded as entertainment only and not seen as a step by step blueprint guide to flipping projects. If you are looking to get inspired and want to become more involved in the real estate investing business, watching these shows will certainly give you a good introduction into the realm of flipping. But they won't teach you how to properly finance your flip project or even address necessary aspects like how to obtain the appropriate construction loan or even how to properly budget for unexpected repairs. But entertaining they most certainly are.

Here Are A Few Of My Favorite Flipping and House Hunting Shows:

1) Flip This House (A&E Channel) - This show is probably the original house flipping program of recent years. Each episode tracks the purchase and renovation of a single home, listing the price of the home, renovation cost, and the expected profit from each flip. For newbie flippers, this show provides the least realistic portrayal of the amateur flipping process as the show only spotlights the trials and tribulations of experienced and professional real estate teams.

However I love the show and found it irresistibly entertaining due to the endless stream of scam and fakery controversies that have continuously plagued every season of the show. The Flip This House show and its television network are currently embroiled in at least one lawsuit involving allegations of fraud and breach of contract, as well as other well publicized rumors of flipping fabrication and scams.

The most notorious episode involved Atlanta "real estate developer" Sam Leccima and his season two housing flip scam debacle. His on the air house flipping prowesses were later exposed and discredited as shams by news investigators when it was revealed that he had duped many investors in an elaborate flipping cover up. Apparently not only did he fail to own a real estate license at the time of the show's filming, he also never owned the houses he allegedly flipped. Much of the work shown on the show was revealed to be actually temporary and shoddy patch up jobs designed to look good on TV. Home staging presentations were faked with his own friends and family posing as potential buyers. Fake Sold signs were slapped in front of unsold homes to make his on the air flipping projects appear successful. How the A&E filming crew failed to realize what was happening as it occurred is beyond me. Very fishy indeed.

Other allegations of fakery involved the humorous and entertaining Montelongo brothers. After watching several of their episodes, I got the feeling much of the whipped up drama was being exaggerated and staged. At some point the episodes grew so ridiculously off the wall that they became asinine, such as when one of the Montelongo bros supposedly had a mental breakdown and had to visit a psychotherapist, or when the family had to sneak into a hotel with their pet dog and birds because their home was being worked on.

However, the show's most popular real estate team was probably season one's Trademark Properties, which featured folksy leader Richard Davis and his lovely fan favorite sidekick Ginger. However, due to contractual legal disputes, they've since moved over to another television network to start their own show.

2) The Real Estate Pros (TLC/Discovery Channel) - This show exclusively features Trademark Properties which left A&E after filing a lawsuit against the television network over allegations of breach of contract stemming from nonpayment claims. The characters are the same and the show revolves around the same flipping adventures of the Charleston based company.

3) Flip That House (TLC/Discovery Channel) - Unlike the other shows, Flip That House features mainly amateur singles and groups of house flippers as they work together through the process of purchasing, budgeting, renovating, and appraising. The conclusion of each show always ends with a final renovated home value estimate from a real estate agent, but the appraisal usually entails some ridiculously high projected profit that reeks of unrealistic expectations. Despite construction and budget obstacles, the flippers also always seem to come out on top.

Thankfully in the spirit of realism, some older episodes now showcase a Flip Forward feature where viewers can catch up with past flippers to see how their venture actually turned out. Oftentimes, it's revealed that many flipper properties ultimately languished unsuccessfully on the market for months to years despite the original projected profit spin.

4) The Property Ladder (TLC/Discovery Channel) - This show is one of my best favorites, but only because I enjoy watching train wrecks of amateur flippers crashing and burning their way through the house renovation process. Most of the time I cannot believe some of the wacky approaches out there when it comes to flipping houses. The show features host Kirsten Kemp as the expert property developer who advises these bumbling fools as they strip, hammer, and spend their way into the financial hole. They never seem to listen to her but strangely frequently come out on top, to my viewing disappointment.

5) Flipping Out (Bravo TV Channel) - The show centers around the real estate flipping and personal life of Jeff Lewis, a colorful Los Angeles high-end real estate developer with an obsessive compulsive management streak. The fun part is not watching his team purchase homes and resell them for profit, but rather watching him multi-task his business deals and still keep tabs on his beloved cat "Monkey", housekeeper, and former boyfriend and business partner Ryan. "Drama for sale" seems to be the theme of this interesting flipping show.

6) House Hunters (HGTV Channel) - With the implosion of the real estate market, there seems to be greater demand for home staging shows and programs that focus on the home buying experience. As a prospective home buyer one day, one of my favorite new shows is House Hunters, which tracks the house hunting experiences of families and couples as they visit prospective houses while verbalizing their likes and dislikes about every aspect of each home they visit. At the end of each episode, they have to decide which home they liked the best and which they would like to make a purchase offer for. It's very educational and beneficial for me to see how others go through the home buying thought processes as they visit homes and scrutinize the pros and cons. The fun part is always trying to guess which one they'll ultimately go for.

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13 Responses to “A Review Of Popular House Flipping and Home Hunting Television Shows” 

  1. Michelle Robinson says:

    I really like House Hunters, too. I'm not in the market for a home (yet), but I like to watch to get an idea of what to look for when I do plan to buy a home...plus, you're right, it is fun to try to guess which house the people will make an offer on. LOL

  2. Mimoji says:

    Flipping Out was hilarious - Jeff Lewis was so witty that I thought the whole thing was scripted. "I don't want to party like it's my birthday. I want to sell my house!". He also seemed to do somewhat of a good job flipping the homes - hired a contractor sometimes to do the major restructuring. It pained me to watch Flip that House - most of those guys had no idea what they were doing. Note to flippers - don't rip out a perfectly good hardwood floor for some plastic crap.

  3. Brian says:

    I've noticed on Flip that House that they have a disclaimer that airs first.

  4. Raymond says:


    I suspect the flipping shows are like the Hills from MTV - scripted reality. The film crew probably cue dramatic plots into the mix but the characters make up the rest.

    It's amazing sometimes how these show producers can spin seemingly boring subjects into drama filled shows.

  5. amanda says:

    does anyone remember a show where cleints view 3 houses for sale in a specific price range and an expert via computer graphics shows them how to turn the home(s) they can afford into one they want that fits their needs??

  6. debbie says:

    That show was called Hidden Potential. It was on HGTV.

  7. Gary Pick says:

    What is the name of the show with the brothers from Philadephia who flip houses? In one of the last episodes one of the brothers got married, if that helps.

  8. Matt says:

    Does anyone remember a house hunting programme with Tara palmer-Tomkinson where she looked at 3 houses, for her to have as a holiday home? It had one on an Island, possible ibiza, with a house that was built in 60's, had a sort of James Bond feel and the rooms were all in interconnected 'pods'?

  9. Richard says:

    As a first time home buyer attempting to make my first purchase I have a very different perspective ion the practice of investing in homes. Unfotunatly, my wife and I have been on the loosing end of bidding wars with the investors or so called "flippers." now that lowerend homes have come back. To reality the flippers are snatching them up, flipping them, and placing them back on the market for me to buy. Well myself and many other buyers have made a packt to not purchase flipped homes as they contributeto the following issues:
    1) They take an affordable home off the market and render it unaffordable. They claim to provide a service by fixing up the house, but it's usually the contractors doing all the work. I can call a contractor on the phone too. The flipped just want to charge us four times as much for the
    work other people do.
    2) They hyperinflate an already inflated market, buy over bidding other buyers and decreasing the supply and demand balance.
    3) They suck all the liqudity out of the market.
    If people want to invest, they should go play with their own kind on wallstreet. Let us have the stablity of home ownership back.

  10. Richard says:

    I am actually a much better speller, but posting that comment from my phone didn't help:(

  11. Sandy Baker says:

    Wait a minute Raymond. You mean to tell me The Hills isn't true? Next thing you're going to tell me is the old trading spaces was scripted. I don't believe it! :)

  12. Malik Checa says:

    this is a laugh for you from me :)

    If you don't care where you are, then you ain't lost. :)

  13. Rudy says:

    I have been renovating & reselling for years. These shows make it all look so easy. Do a 125 K renovation in 21 days & sell in a week. It takes longer than that to draw the plan & submit for permits. It can take a week to get an inspection and another week if you fail. 21 days, please!! Add on another week to get a C/O inspection. And don't forget the problems & pitfalls along the way. These guys buy a house, turn it over to their GC and come back when it is all done & say, WOW. Of course they all make 40 - 120 K on every deal. For someone getting into the market, these shows are entertainment. Be careful B 4 you jump in.

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