It probably should’ve been on TV three years ago,” admits Jeff Marcus, the creator of NY Residential, a TV series that premiered on WPIX on June 15. The show (Leila Sbitani is pictured, interviewing Mike Allen from Aptsandlofts.com) is devoted largely to tours of properties on the market, with real-estate chatter and how-tos mixed in, and though Marcus may think he’s a little late to the party, it appears he’s right on time. His program joins WNBC’s similar OpenHouseNYC, on the air since last year. (Full disclosure: I’ve appeared in several segments on the latter, and New York Media has a business relationship with the show.) HGTV is casting a similar series on tri-state-area properties.
Even as the national housing slump deepens—and New York’s market, though stable so far, has people wondering—TV shows about buying houses are doing just fine. It’s true that if any of these shows had been on a while back, producers could’ve captured that moment of madness when buyers routinely fought one other for the chance to buy condos off floor plans. But the zest for such programming still makes sense. “If you’re going the wish-fulfillment route, New York is the place,” says Variety TV editor Michael Schneider. (That also explains the draw of home-renovation makeover shows, which, according to the Times, are likewise booming.) Digital cable has put pressure on networks to fill airtime cheaply, too. “Real estate is something that’s easy to produce,” he says. “You grab a camera, and there’s always an open house.”
Besides, there’s always an audience, because our real-estate experience is so hard to figure out. “It’s kind of a unique beast,” says Marcus, who cites the $40 billion in sales the city generates. Many viewers simply want to look: “New Yorkers always want to know what their neighbors’ apartments look like,” says Morgan Hertzan, who executive-produces OpenHouseNYC. (The show claims a viewership in the hundreds of thousands, even at 8:30 a.m. Sundays.) Adds Hollywood executive turned broker Nan Shipley of Rand Realty: “It’s pure voyeurism. Here, people don’t talk about salaries, but they have no problems talking about what their apartment is worth.”