Tube Talk: The reality of local realty shows

August 18, 2010

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

As a bungalow dweller who occasionally writes for American Bungalow magazine, I tend to get annoyed when people refer to non-bungalows as bungalows and vice-versa. It’s something I’m seeing far too often these days, even on TV.

The Rockford area is lucky to have not one, but two, local realty shows airing on Sunday mornings. Whitehead Realtors’ Focus on Homes airs first, at 9 a.m. on channel 39. Nextage Professionals’ Real Estate Connection follows at 9:30 a.m. on channel 13. Both programs showcase current listings and offer detailed descriptions and photos of the properties for sale.

A few weeks ago, I cringed when I saw an adorable bungalow (in one of Rockford’s many bungalow-filled neighborhoods) referred to as a Cape Cod. Other than being compact, this home had nothing in common with the Cape Cod style. A friend and I decided to go to the open house. We both pointed out the lovely original details of the bungalow—and repeatedly emphasized the word bungalow. I filled in a questionnaire by stressing that the home was a great example of a classic bungalow. My friend did the same. A week or so later, we both received notes from the Realtor thanking us for stopping in to see the Cape Cod. My friend suggested contacting the Realtor and saying, “Cape Cod? I didn’t go through any Cape Cods. I can’t stand Cape Cods. But I did go through a lovely little bungalow.”

I didn’t go that far. But this week—after Whitehead’s show called an actual Cape Cod a bungalow, and Nextage’s show did the same (that Cape Cod had a roof over the front stoop, which may have confused the listing agent, but it was clearly a Cape Cod)—I knew I had to discuss it in the column. After all, people rely on shows like these for their house-hunting information.

Another common mistake is calling bungalows ranches and ranches bungalows. They are not the same. A small, single-story house does not a bungalow make. Bungalows can be small, but can also be huge, sprawling two-story homes.

The local shows aren’t the only offenders. After viewing the local real estate shows, I turned on HGTV in time to hear a supposed expert calling a nondescript ranch-style house a “bungalow ranch.” His comment actually made my skin crawl.

Between those three shows, I told my TV, “That is not a bungalow!” at least five times within 90 minutes.

Yes, our local real estate programs do a good job of showcasing their current listings, but inadvertently mis-educating consumers is not a great way to position yourself as a reliable expert. Whitehead and Nextage are not the only local realty companies confusing bungalows with other types of houses. They’re just the two that have TV shows, and this is a TV column.

I know identifying bungalows can be confusing, even for the pros, since there are more than a dozen recognized bungalow styles. So all of you Realtors out there, before listing your next property as a bungalow, Cape Cod or ranch, either ask me if it’s a bungalow or check out the “What is a Bungalow” and “What Style is My Bungalow” pages of American Bungalow’s informative website: ambungalow.com. After all, isn’t selling homes easier when you’re providing accurate information?

Paula Hendrickson writes regularly for Emmy, Variety and Creative Screenwriting, and has a feature article about the classic 100-year-old California Craftsman bungalow—owned by the couple who created the series NUMB3RS—in the current issue of American Bungalow (Fall 2010).

From the Aug. 18-24, 2010 issue

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