- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Channel surfers looking for mindless entertainment can find it via MTV, “Seinfeld” reruns or ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” Those knee-deep in the housing market want more. They’re looking for cold, hard facts to help them sell their homes.

Cable television has heard their cry.

Channels such as HGTV, TLC and DIY network are tweaking their programming to address the fluctuating real estate market.

HGTV’s existing lineup is undergoing a makeover this month with several new shows aimed at buyers and sellers.

Its “Property Buzz” block, airing at 10 p.m. weeknights, is dedicated to the real estate market. A 90-minute special of the same name airs at 9 p.m. May 14 examining such housing trends as the growth of “green” construction to McMansion overload.

The channel’s new series, “National Open House,” bows May 29. It promises a peek at houses nationwide with sticker prices starting around $150,000 and capping at a cool million.

Shannon Freeman, a real estate expert from HGTV’s “Design to Sell,” says houses today “are sitting on the market a little bit longer.”

“Now, more than ever, it’s important for people to pay attention to what their house looks like. They need to stand out more,” Ms. Freeman says.

That’s where real estate shows hope to come in.

“We get a lot of feedback and e-mails from people who are in the middle of selling and really, really need the help,” she says.

What viewers want, she adds, are quick-fix items they can employ with minimal investment.

“For a little bit of money you can get a good impact,” says Ms. Freeman, ticking off a number of suggestions from making sure one’s house is aired out to hiding personal photographs when showing a home.

David Abraham, executive vice president and general manager with TLC and Discovery Home, says he has seen a television evolution where shows have gone from dealing with spot renovations toward improving the home’s overall value.

“We tie it more into people’s lives and their economic realities,” says Mr. Abraham, whose channels offer such real estate-theme programming as “Moving Up” and “Trading Spaces.” The challenge for Mr. Abraham is dealing with regional differences.

“Value in one part of the country is different than value in another,” he says.

His shows cater more to just home buyers and sellers. They examine cultural trends influencing just how that group operates.

“This is a generation who tend to create value in peripheral areas. They’ll go out and gentrify certain areas and invest through their own hard work,” he says.

Gene Sampson, a managing broker for Jobin Realty in Fairfax, says he occasionally hears home sellers discussing tips they learned from cable shows.

They also go online to share or find home advice, Mr. Sampson says.

No matter the source, some wisdom doesn’t change.

The seller’s house should be “superclean,” with lights blazing and windows spot less.

“Go to some of the new home subdivisions and look at how the builders stage their homes,” he says.

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