Column: A reality check on realty TV


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

Spring is in full swing. The bugs are back, seasonal allergies have come out of hiding and “for sale” signs in front yards are as plentiful as dandelions. If this were a cartoon, all my Realtor friends would have cash register “ka-ching” sounds going off while dollar signs appeared in their puffy, pollen-plagued eyes.

Yes, ‘tis the season for house-selling, and—as someone who has watched enough “House Hunters” to consider himself a semi-professional Realtor — it’s time to revisit some commonly confused words: realty and reality.

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way — Realtor does not have an invisible letter “i” hiding in the middle of it. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say “real-i-tor.” There’s no “i” in Realtor.

Realty is a noun that simply means real estate. Realty deals with the buying and selling of property — buildings and land.

Reality is the opposite of fiction. It is usually a noun that means “something real.” As an adjective, it often modifies the word television: reality television. The irony isn’t lost on me that reality TV claims to document “real” life, but it often is more produced than a soap opera.

That means shows like “House Hunters” could be considered realty reality TV. While that’s a funny phrase, “House Hunters” is about as real as the Tooth Fairy. Many couples who appear on the show already have houses under contract prior to filming, and the rest of them are quite far along in the house-buying process. That’s just the tip of the unrealistic iceberg when it comes to everyone’s favorite show to watch while settling into a cozy couch coma on a Tuesday night.

When it comes to the word “Realtor,” why is it sometimes capitalized (like in this article, for instance)? A capital “r” Realtor is someone who is officially a member of the National Association of Realtors. Realtor is actually a trademarked term by the NAR, therefore many stylebooks (including the AP) encourage you to capitalize it and use it only if you’re confident the person to whom you’re referring is truly a capital “r” Realtor. If not, they advise, use the term real estate agent or real estate broker.

Even though I’m hopped up on Zyrtec, I love spring. I also love “House Hunters” (especially “House Hunters International”) even though I know it’s heavily staged. An entertaining reality TV show is nothing at which to sneeze.