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Down to Business: TV show tries to motivate homebuyers

Down to Business: TV show tries to motivate homebuyers

I happened past the television Sunday morning and suddenly was transported to another time — pre-hom

I happened past the television Sunday morning and suddenly was transported to another time — pre-homeowner — when I eagerly tuned in to programs with names like “Sunday Showcase of Homes” and “Television Homefinders Guide” to see what listings agents were touting.

The genre is back, thanks to Donna Pennell of Schenectady, who had a hand in one of the earlier incarnations. Now she’s president and chief executive of Destiny Productions Inc., which produces the 30-minute “Real Estate Deal$” airing Sunday at 11:30 a.m. on WNYT, Channel 13.

The format, then and now, is simple: display exterior and interior shots of featured properties as a soothing voice describes their attributes. The goal, then and now, is equally simple: pique interest among prospective buyers.

Buyers, though, are wary these days, as the latest data show. For July, sales of single-family homes locally were off 39 percent from a year earlier, the Greater Capital Association of Realtors reported Tuesday. Nationally, home sales are at a 15-year low, according to the National Association of Realtors. Both groups point to the end of a homebuyer tax credit that buoyed sales earlier in the year but now is depressing the numbers.

And despite record-low mortgage rates and ample inventory, concerns about jobs and the economy also are keeping sales in check. Or, as GCAR said in its analysis of the July data, “The truth is, the economy is now driving the housing market and not vice versa.”

Times were different when the earlier home-selling shows debuted in 1987: just ahead lay the 10-year bull market and economic boom of the 1990s. The programs were a novelty when they began airing, “Sunday Showcase” on WRGB, Channel 6 and “Homefinders” on WTEN, Channel 10. But they caught on quickly and were popular with agents and viewers alike.

Pennell then was a writer and producer on “Homefinders,” created by World Media Communications of Skaneateles. She went on to work on other home-selling shows — with World, with a partner and then through Destiny Productions — before shifting focus to dining and lifestyle projects.

“Real Estate Deal$” is reminiscent of “Homefinders”: Agents talk up listings, builders show off residential communities, and experts present tips. The show features just three real estate firms and five builders — offering a touch of exclusivity.

“Deal$,” which began airing July 25, will run through mid-October, and Pennell expects it will be followed by a second season. She declined to talk about the show’s costs or finances, other than to say it is funded by five or six sources, including sponsors and herself.

Kathleen Nolan, regional marketing director at RealtyUSA, one of the three firms featured on “Deal$,” said the show came along just as other TV options became more expensive. Destiny “had structured the production in a way that the cost was very reasonable, the commitment was short-term [just 13 weeks], and it gave agents an opportunity to reach an audience on a network affiliate [NBC] with a strong national lead-in [the Chris Matthews Show], so we had six of our strong agents that decided to give it a shot.”

Will “Deal$” enjoy the popularity of its predecessors and get buyers off the fence? It’s anybody’s guess.

James Ader, GCAR’s chief executive, said agents in his group likely were allocating more of their advertising dollars these days to the Web, where “you can be available to buyers at the buyers’ convenience, rather than catching them when the TV show runs.”

Which means, as they say in the TV biz, we’ll have to stay tuned.

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