TV Review: “My First Place”

Buyers are holding firm, even on TV.

March 1, 2008

First-time buyers Launa and Joel, with three small children, are eager to buy their first home. They’ve qualified for a $400,000 mortgage, though they want to purchase in the $200,000 to $240,000 range. So why on an episode of “My First Place” do their real estate agents Cher and Bruce, who are also their current landlords, begin by showing them a house listed at $414,900?

I’ve noticed discrepancies like this in other homebuying shows and wonder if it’s because those with higher-priced listings simply want to expose them to a national audience?

In real life, isn’t the first thing we learn to do as professionals to show properties in the stated price range? After seeing what they can’t afford or have said they don’t want to pay, everything else in the appropriate price range will suffer. Were Bruce and Cher thinking the buyers would go gaga when they saw the grander place?

If so, it didn’t work. Joel responds that he didn’t mind looking because they could always put in a lower offer. (From $414,900 to their stated high end of $240,000? Can you say “insulting lowball?”) Launa says flatly that it would be too much of a stretch to decorate and furnish and clean. Good for them!

The buyers want a contemporary home with at least three bedrooms — all on one floor. They are shown several more homes within their price range, but one lacks a dining room, another has a “leaning” master bedroom, and another smells of smoke. The last is a split-level with four upstairs bedrooms listed at $232,500. Bruce remarks that the home’s condition is “a lot better” than anything else they’ve looked at, while his wife Cher describes it as “move-in condition.” The couple make an offer of $227,000.

For me, this is something of a sticky wicket: Both salespeople have made statements regarding the home’s condition after eyeballing the property. Isn’t that dangerous? Considering that the inspection report later shows $3,000 to $5,000 of must-do repairs, I’d say they spoke out of turn. The couple accepts the counteroffer of $231,000.

At the closing, Joel and Launa seem happy but also nervous about taking on a $187,000 mortgage. The monthly $1,350 payment on their 30-year fixed loan is about the same as their rent. I had to wonder if their landlord-agents reminded them that this debt was actually a step up as a tax-advantaged investment as well as a home.


Charimaine Engleman-Robins is a sales associate with Hunt Real Estate of Florida in Sarasota, Fla.