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Ranking the best home renovation TV shows



reality tv, gay news, Washington Blade
reality tv, gay news, Washington Blade, home renovation tv shows
‘Property Brothers’ (Photo courtesy of Scott Brothers Entertainment)

This week we celebrate the Washington Blade’s 2019 Best of Gay D.C. award winners and to begin, I would like to congratulate my colleagues in the real estate world: Michael Moore, Best Real Estate Agent and Marin Hagen and Sylvia Bergstrom, Best Real Estate Group. I also offer kudos to the folks at Case Design, Best Home Improvement Service because this is where we begin today.

Day or night, there’s always a show on television that encourages you to buy or renovate a house, so I decided to survey my friends and colleagues to determine which is considered the best of these shows. 

The results were reminiscent of the number of Democratic presidential candidates: 15 shows were mentioned with seven of them polling at only 1 percent. The seven that didn’t make the debate stage nonetheless had something interesting to offer.

“Unique Properties” is a favorite of the daughter of a close friend. She was particularly fond of the episodes that showed people living in a remodeled Boeing 747 in California and on an excavated cliff in Israel.

“The Vanilla Ice Project” earned accolades from a carpenter, who describedit as less scripted and a more legitimate depiction of a home renovation.

“Luxury Tiny Houses” also made the cut, although living in a tiny house is not my idea of luxury. “Maine Cabin Masters” received honorable mention.

Two British programs got one vote each: “Grand Designs” and “The Great Interior Design Challenge.” The former chronicles the escapades of people who try to design unusual dream homes, create custom elements, and incorporate unique architecture while enduring delays and cost overruns, a formula not unlike our own. 

“The Great Interior Design Challenge” is a cross between “Design on a Dime” and “The White Room Challenge,” HGTV shows of old. It features several British amateur designers competing to win a cash prize by reinventing rooms for different clients. After watching several episodes, I decided I wouldn’t want the before or the after. 

With two votes, neither coast of “Million Dollar Listing” was much of a hit among my friends. The clients were described as obnoxious and the agents as Real Housewives of Real Estate – just as much fabricated drama, with less hair-pulling and wine. 

“Good Bones” and “Home Town” were on the next rung up. “Good Bones” features a mother/daughter team of renovators in Indiana. The Mississippi husband and wife team in “Home Town” were described as down to earth and endearing, with actual wood craftsman and design experience.

While more and more people seem to acknowledge that these shows are scripted and unrealistic, the “House Hunters” franchise is still #4 on the list of favorites. My real estate friends and I wish buyers would write an offer after only seeing three houses, but we all know that isn’t how any of this works.

“House Hunters International,” however, got the most votes of the franchise. Several of my friends commented on how interesting it was to see how people live in other parts of the world and to dream of doing so as well. A couple of them said they were checking out countries in case they decided to leave ours on Nov. 4, 2020.

There was praise for “Love It or List It,” which came in at #3, but only for Hilary and David; nobody could remember the names of the other couple who host the spinoff show. I just want David to win a few times. Hilary seems to get everyone to Love It, even though she never finishes anything she promises.

Not surprisingly, “Fixer Upper” was the runner up, noted for being an escape from current events, for the witty banter between Chip and Joanna, and for their general aesthetic. As you might imagine, though, nobody I surveyed wants to hear the word “shiplap” ever again.

So, by now you’ve probably noticed a glaring omission and I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. The winner of Best TV Home Show, with 9 votes, is “Property Brothers,” because, well, Jonathan and Drew

There are people reading this who have been featured on these shows and others like them, and most have a tale to tell. Some describe having fun and involving their children. Others recall being asked to play the role of argumentative spouse or naysaying friend. 

My own experience, however, will never qualify me for a “Best of” award of this genre. Having made it to the second qualifying audition of “My First House,” I watched from the sidelines as my buyer inadvertently muttered the f-bomb on camera.

Thereafter, my stardom was doomed.  

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed associate broker in D.C., Maryland and Virginia and Director of Education & Mentorship at RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Real Estate

Real estate’s occupational hazards

From being locked out to walking in on naked sellers



Accessing locked homes for sale presents all sorts of potential problems when showing homes.

“You should write a book.”

I hear that a lot from clients and friends when I tell a real estate story that most people wouldn’t believe unless they had experienced something similar. My colleagues understand.

Most of us have stories about Cujo-like pets, lost keys and stubborn lockboxes and unusual things we have experienced in the industry. And lest we forget, what would any Great American Novel be without sex?

Showing instructions will often say, “Don’t let the cat out.” You will gingerly open the front door hoping the cat is not on alert waiting to escape as you go in the house. If the cat happens to get out despite your best efforts, the natural inclination is to get the cat and put it back in the house. If you are successful, one of two things will happen: first, you will have to stop at the drug store to purchase some Neosporin to dress your wounds or second, you may get a call from the seller’s agent asking why there is an extra cat in the house.

Playing “find the lockbox” is a rewarding game we play, but like a mouse looking for the cheese, there can be dead ends and pitfalls. On one excursion, the box was yet to be found when my client and I spotted a gate to a rear door. We walked over, I pressed the gate latch, and we were in. Unfortunately, the lockbox wasn’t to be found.

So, what do you do? You go back to the gate and press the latch to get out, right? Except some DIY-er has installed a one-way latch. Your client tries to call her mother, who is down the street in the car with the air conditioning on, listening to a Barry Manilow CD. Oops! Her phone is back in the car with Mom. You call the listing agent and get voicemail. You sit down on the concrete bench to think.

Concrete bench, you say? Yes, a 450-pound concrete bench, which we push over next to the gate. My client, who is taller than I, stands on it and I boost her over the top of the gate. Finally, we have completed our exit strategy! We never did get into the house.

You never know who you might find in a house either, especially since COVID-19 restricted the number of people who could be there during a showing to three. I’m sure that didn’t count the vagrant who ran out the back door and left the gas burners he had been using for heat on or the construction workers who left their burger wrappings and half consumed shakes in the bedroom.

Agents can get pretty touchy when you lock them out during your 15-minute showing appointment (yes, that’s a thing now). It gets worse when they find you on your knees with your butt in the air, using a wire hangar (sorry, Mommie Dearest) to try to pull a key up through a 1/8th inch space between deck boards on the front porch where you dropped it. (The owner ultimately came over with another key.)

Sometimes, you have to put your Sherlock Holmes cap on and search for a special feature that is listed on the fact sheet. “Storage near the front door” could actually be an elevator shaft that was never completed. And sometimes, you open a door to an eave in the attic and find your client’s 9-year-old wide-eyed looking in and saying, “This must be where they play Dungeons and Dragons” as her mother drags her out of the room.

Many of us have run across the startled tenant or homeowner who doesn’t get the notification about an appointment. We find them sleeping naked or simply hiding under the covers, flushing the toilet, taking a shower, or in the throes of passion. Despite my habit of calling out, “Real Estate” when opening a front door, sometimes they just can’t hear me.

Years ago, I had a listing appointment with a man who, after keeping me waiting on the porch for 20 minutes, opened the door wearing nothing but a shower wrap and a soap-on-a-rope. I didn’t bother to reschedule.

Then there was the geriatric nymphomaniac who proceeded to snort lines of cocaine from atop the marble countertop in the kitchen as we discussed selling her house while the pool boy hung out in the nearby cabana.

By the way, has anyone heard from him? I’ll go check.


Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202- 246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Real Estate

Renovations in the time of COVID

Clean and de-clutter your home before listing



cleaning house, gay news, Washington Blade

What do I need to do to make my house pretty and ready to sell in the time of COVID?  Some people are telling me that I don’t have to do anything, that it is a sellers’ market. Well, maybe. Do you know your market? Do you know the idiosyncrasies of your market? In many places, homes are flying off the market “as-is.” But in many places a much more nuanced home is getting the attention.

I am seeing more movement in the single-family home market. So, a seller might get by with doing basic repairs and some sprucing up/de-cluttering to get their house ready for the market. Then again, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so when in doubt, clean it out. (Paint it out, stage it out, etc.)

If you want to do renovations, you might want to get estimates from multiple sources, and see who gets you the best deal. I am hearing some stories that there is a backlog in the supply chain for hardwood and some other materials. Also, many contractors are booked up right now, or have been scheduled to get work done for months now. If timing is going to be an important part of the puzzle, you might want to double check that the work can get done when you need it to be done, especially if you live in a building where you have to get permission to use elevators, do work between certain hours of the day, etc.

At the very least, find a good house cleaner to get in and do a good job on the type of cleaning that is not done on a normal basis. For many reasons. In the time of a pandemic, cleanliness is almost the number one thing people are looking at. Also, we all know that the carpets get vacuumed, the windows get cleaned, and the shelves get dusted. But what about deep in the corners and under the counters and in the air vents and filters?

That being said, there seems to be a shortage of homes on the market right now for the amount of buyers that are looking. A lucky seller right now might not have to do a total renovation and might want to leave some decisions to the next buyer, but I would still advise that they err on the side of cleaning, de-cluttering, and getting it photo ready to maximize their return on their investment.


Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with The Rutstein Group at Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

Real estate opportunity still knocking

Short- and long-term benefits for both sellers and buyers



COVID-19 real estate market, gay news, Washington Blade

The last year has been challenging across the board, but one area that has continued to thrive is the real estate market.

Low interest rates and a year filled with unique changes have prompted people to think differently about where they live – and they’re taking action. As of late, the housing market is chock full of opportunities for both sellers and buyers. Regardless of whether one is taking the leap into homeownership for the first time or prepping to downsize for retirement, this is a market anyone and everyone should consider tapping into.

There has never been a better time to sell your home than right now. Thanks largely to low interest rates, buyer demand continues to soar. At the same time, inventory is historically low as many would-be sellers have opted to stay put in the last year. According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average house is now receiving 4.1 offers after just 20 days on the market. Buyers are clearly eager to purchase, and because of the shortage of inventory available, they’re often entering bidding wars. This is one of the factors keeping home prices strong and giving sellers leverage in the negotiation process.

Homeowners who are in a position to sell shouldn’t wait to make their move. As our world inches closer to normal, more inventory will be hitting the market soon. By listing this spring, you will get your house on the market when conditions are still most favorable. With low inventory and high buyer demand, homeowners can potentially earn a greater profit on their houses and sell them quickly in the fast-paced spring market. Not to mention the opportunity to get by with that older water heater and home systems at large. Many buyers in this area tend to waive contingencies on their offer, clearing the path to a smoother and quicker closing.

While the challenges for buyers are very real, there is one massive factor to keep buyers motivated: interest rates. We’re continuing to see historically low averages in interest rates, and those rates are only projected to tick back upwards in the coming years. Last year saw interest rates come significantly down, and we’re still seeing an average of 3% on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. Compare that to just three years ago when we were a whole 1.5% higher with averages of 4.5%.

With low interest rates nationally and the D.C. area’s strong home value appreciation rates, the investment of homeownership is a real possibility for more people. Over the span of the next five years, homeowners in the District are presented with a great opportunity to grow their net worth by more than $100,000 based on the current average sales price of $699,732 and projected rates of appreciation over the next five years. These conditions won’t last forever though, so take advantage of the opportunity when you can.

After a year of shifting sands, the housing market has emerged stronger than ever – with some unusual quirks. Opportunity is lending itself to short- and long-term benefits for both sellers and buyers. If your situation allows, this market may provide uniquely profitable opportunities for your real estate transaction. For more information or to talk about buying or selling real estate, give me a call at 571-439-2515.


Zach Twigg is a licensed Realtor in D.C. and Virginia with Bediz Group, LLC at Keller Williams Capital Properties. Call or text him at 571-439-2515, email him at [email protected], or follow him on Instagram and Facebook

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