By Kayce Boulyn
Just a couple years ago when real estate sales were “hot” nearly everybody and his brother wanted to get in on the action, many giving up their “day jobs” to start a new path on the road to riches.
Feeding the real estate frenzy were a variety of cable TV shows focused on flipping property and infomercials showing how to attain wealth through the purchase of real estate, many produced as “true” rags to riches stories.
On late night television infomercials featured men and women of all ages making oodles of money in real estate without much effort or cash.
Psychologist Mary Rayburn calls it a time when people saw others succeeding that festered major jealousies. “We have a society that wants to keep up with the Jones’,'” said Rayburn. “People saw their relatives and neighbors making big money in real estate, and unhealthy jealously developed to damaging levels.”
Set in an exotic location with an umbrella drink in one hand and a microphone in the other, the tanned TV host interviewed successful “participants” of his program and gave the illusion that investing in real estate was similar to being on a luxury vacation . . . just nice and breezy with no worries.
“The dreams have shattered for all too many now,” said Rayburn. The fast and free money that flowed from Wall Street investors has ended amid the highest number of foreclosures the nation has ever witnessed. Many first time investors were enticed by the allure of big profits these shows created with the “do-it-yourself-ers” preferring the flip shows. For those who didn’t like to get their hands dirty, the infomercial was their ticket to prosperity.
Produced as mini dramas, cable TV “flip” shows played each week for an hour as a new “flipper” would try their hand at renovating a property and selling it to make a large profit with many episodes featuring first time flippers, who were desperate and broke.
A successful real estate investor with a penchant to become a “star” even had his own cable show plus a team of eager employees. Oh he was no ordinary “Joe Blow!” Equipped with a helicopter, he could buzz from one perspective “flip” to another and if a property had access to water, he piloted his powerful speed boat. Sure, his hands got dirty and sometimes he even broke a sweat, but his loyal team of worker bees did all the heavy lifting because after all he had built his now successful company from humble beginnings starting with his first flip.
These shows never featured a guy driving up to a Mickey D’s window in his old beater of a car fumbling for loose change to buy a cheap burger from the “value” menu. Or the crumpled up sleeping bag in the bedroom of the “flip” house he was painting because that was the only place he could afford to live after he dolled out big bucks to a professional for a crucial repair he hadn’t planned for in his budget.
Put yourself in the shoes of one of those unfortunate souls hanging out at home on a Saturday night sipping wine from a screw-cap bottle, while adjusting the rabbit ears on the TV just to catch a glimpse of a “flipper.” The dream of wealth became a powerful influence.
There is little sympathy for those investors who got in over their heads or were victims of bad timing and are now facing foreclosure. Many mortgage companies and lenders treated it as Monopoly money dolling it out with little regard for the qualifications of borrowers. One just needed to have the ability to sign their name on the dotted line. It didn’t matter if they didn’t understand the terms of the contract or couldn’t read the small print. Just hurry up, pass go, and take the money, so the mortgage broker could make their commission and move on to the next player.
As the credits roll and the happy flipper cruises down the street in his luxury SUV, it’s paramount to realize that TV shows are created as vehicles to generate advertising revenue for large corporations. In turn, advertisers use them as a tool to hock their products to viewers. In the real estate hey day Americans spent more home improvement products than at any other time in the nation’s history.
In the olden days the infomercial gurus would’ve been akin to the “snake oil” salesmen, who traveled around the countryside peddling a cure for “what ails ya!”