5 Reasons I Turned Down a Chance to Be a Star on HGTV

by | BiggerPockets.com

I know a lot of people would give anything for a chance to be on TV. I recently had the chance to become a star on one of those HGTV shows. Call me crazy, but I turned it down. Here’s why.

While I was truly honored to be asked to participate in a high profile TV show, I took some time to really think about it. I’m glad I did. I took a step back, listed out the pros to cons, and realized it just wasn’t for me. I know others have passed up these offers too, and I am sure that some who went through with it are possibly regretting it. It may be a dream come true for others, but here are the reasons I passed.

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5 Reasons I Turned Down a Chance to Be a Star on HGTV

1. It’s not reality.

While all these real estate shows are heralded as “reality” TV, they really aren’t. These shows only detail the glamorous side of the business. My personal philosophy on BiggerPockets and in my interactions with others is to show the behind the scenes side—because the day-to-day, repetitive work is what gets you to the big “moments.” Knowing the reality is the only way to have realistic expectations and to invest intelligently.

Related: 3 Big Reasons I’m Not Sad to See Hit HGTV Show Fixer Upper Go

2. I don’t flip houses.

I am a buy and hold investor, not a house flipper. They wanted my partner and I to convey that we would be flipping houses to regular homeowners. We know how to do that. It just did not align with what we are trying to do, the way we actually invest for ourselves, and what we believe is best for others to do.

3. It’s a time drain.

If your goal in life is to be on TV, then I say go for it. Just know it is going to take up an enormous amount of your life. In reality, it can take hours just to get a few seconds or minutes of great footage used in the final cut. While it is appealing to me to be on a show, it takes time—time that I prefer to spend actually building a business, making real investments, and helping others do the same. Maybe you can remember the names of some of the real estate TV stars of the last 5 years. Most can barely remember a couple. I think you’ve also got to ask whether you want to spend a year or more of your life trying to get your 15 minutes of fame—or whether you’d rather put your time into something that will last and take care of you and your family for the rest of your life.

4. They fudge the math.

The math on these shows is a joke. Any real investor knows that. Often, they completely skip a lot of the holding costs, commissions, fees, labor, marketing expenses, and even repairs. What they show as being a profitable flip on TV can actually be a loss when you do the real math.

Related: 7 Ways TV Flipping Shows Are Completely Fake (As Any REAL Investor Knows!)

5. It’s dangerous.

For all the above reasons, these reality TV shows can be really dangerous to viewers. I’m not saying that is the intent of producers or the script writers—or that they even understand the implications. They are just trying to create entertainment and content that people will watch and that advertisers will pay to market through. It’s great that more people are being inspired and turned on to real estate and its benefits. Still, too many people are relying on these shows as education. Then they jump in without knowing what they are doing, often based on someone else who doesn’t know what they are doing. It is a recipe for disaster. Many have burned perfectly good careers and life savings trying to flip houses like they do on TV. Many have lost it all on their first try, and now have wrecked their credit, career, finances, and may be deeply in debt and legal trouble. Even though I personally prefer investing in apartments, I admit you can make money flipping houses, but you need to know what you are doing.


I weighed the pros and cons for me personally, and I turned down the offer to be a house flipping star on TV. That doesn’t mean TV or flipping houses doesn’t have value. I believe you just need to make an educated and objective decision about it, just as you do when investing in real estate in real life.

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

What do you think? Would you give anything to be on TV? Have you passed up an opportunity like this? Why?

Comment below!

About Author

Sterling White

With just under a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Sterling currently manages over $10MM in capital, which is deployed across a $26MM real estate portfolio made up of multifamily apartments and single-family homes. Through the company he co-founded, Holdfolio, he owns just under 400 units. Sterling was featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast and has been contributing content to BiggerPockets since 2014, with over 200 posts on topics ranging from single-family investing and apartment investing to wholesaling and scaling a business.


  1. Nice article Sterling. One more reason: people who invest for real don’t want the entire world knowing their business. How they find houses, how they rehab, who their contractors are, etc. etc.

    I also buy rentals and they are getting harder to find. It is very hard to find decent and reliable contractors. The last thing I want is the entire nation and especially my competitors down the street knowing my sources for houses or for rehabbers.

  2. I think you’re smart to stay out of TV. One show I watched, they were remodeling for the homeowner. The homeowner wanted a yoga studio. So they enclosed the garage and made a yoga studio. Then they found part of the HOA rules was that every home must have a garage! So the homeowners had to pay a couple of thou to have the yoga studio turned back into a garage. I’m thinking….shouldn’t the contractor know the rules before he starts? And the homeowner bore the cost. Those people on TV don’t know what’s going on.

  3. John Murray

    To be a TV star in the home renovation genre you have to be personable, good looking and willing to act. It’s entertainment. My favorite is Mike Holmes, he worth about 25 million. The property brothers are great actors and are multimillionaires. Vanilla Ice tried his hand at it and is worth about 20 million. Sterling you tanked an outstanding opportunity, altruism is a great virtue but usually it is only recognized posthumously.

    • jean robert

      i don’t think anyone who tries to do a tv show will automatically make it and the 3 you mention put in 1000s of hours before they were household names. Dozens of new tv shows tank every year or only have 1 season or less, and many more don’t get past the pilot stage, even those with big celebs on board. hgtv is no exception

  4. Nathan G.

    There’s more to life than a TV show. I’ve never been offered a show but I was asked to try out for a single episode. It involved buying log cabins and I happened to be managing some pretty nice ones at the time. However, they wanted me to “pretend” to take the “buyers” to look at houses and then they would pretend to buy the one they already owned.

    Thanks, but no thanks. Besides, I have a face for radio. 😉

  5. Roan LaPlante

    People ask me rather often when I tell them what I do if I watch a lot of HGTV. I usually reply, no.

    In my opinion, the shows where people pick which house they want to buy are more interesting reality TV than the shows about flips. Although I have no doubt that those shows are equally disingenuous (among other things, disingenuous telling people that they have to pick one of three houses currently for sale on the MLS in their market)

  6. kraig kujawa

    LOL this is brutal. You did not turn down being a star whatsoever. You turned down a chance to be on camera. A star takes media by storm, makes money, drives the conversation. Don’t be such a drama queen. You’re not a hero whatsoever — this is like saying that you made a trade in the stock market and could have been a billionaire.

  7. Darwin Crawford

    Love this article. I spent 2 seasons working both on and off camera for one of the “home shows” on this network. You hit the nail on the head – its exhausting, stressful, the math/reality/construction is complete and utter bull$**t, and the “hosts” of the shows are in it for themselves, 100%.

    For the record, not bitter about it at all, was a great experience with wonderful people, but from a professional standpoint, it was a complete disaster.

    If you want to be on TV, read any interview with “the governator” and see how he did it. waaaay smarter.

    • jean robert

      the funniest is the property brothers, doing “reno work” on camera. I’ve only peeked at the show a couple of minutes, and don’t know much about them, so by no means am i questioning their skills, but funny to see those guys doing work with dainty gloves on, wearing hipster outfits… no crew in sight, blatant safety no-nos – i guess that at least is “reality” for DIY-ers :D.

      i find vanilla ice more fun.

  8. Michael Borger

    I’ve been approached by 4-8 different production companies over the years, all with the spin that they’re on the cusp of developing a Hawaii flipping show. I gave the first couple some of my time and then just started ignoring the attempts to even communicate with me. One of them even wanted half of my profits for the blessing of making me famous, while the others weren’t offering any compensation beyond a pittance. It’s as if my time wasn’t worth anything and I should get down on my knees and thank these clowns for even considering me in their….. YET TO BE APPROVED show.

    At this point, the last thing I want is to be plastered on a show that’s about a half mile removed from actual reality, is a major time suck and doesn’t advance my business. What of that sounds appealing? Even if I still lived in Hawaii where my business is located, I wouldn’t bother. There is nothing to be gained except a massive ego stroke — if that appeals to you and you desperately crave validation by others, then by all means feel free to give up hours of your day that could otherwise be spent finding deals, raising money, going for a hike or bike ride, reading a book, playing with your kids, etc.

    Until then, I’ll continue to ignore emails and Facebook requests from these jokers.

  9. John Casmon

    Nice article, Sterling and good decision.

    I learned about the power of “editing” in college from my friend who is a filmmaker. Knew from that point how easy it is for an editor/producer to craft their own storyline and distort reality. In the real estate game, it’s misleading a LOT of people.

  10. Very Wise Decision ! Although the fame and notoriety MAY lead to more connections and success in the future, it can also derail relationships, wear you out & also have you ending up broke. The key thing I like that you stuck to was your Integrity….. they wanted you to portray that you were flipping to home buyers, which was not your business model. So you stuck to your guns & did not waiver. Kudos to you & much success to you with all of your Investment Real Estate Ventures.

  11. Kristin Kilker

    I worked at a very large company in the credit industry. I also have been flipping and had long term rentals for over 20 years. I watched some of the popular flipping shows on A&E, HGTV, and other networks and thought the ‘deal summary and profit made’ sounded too good to be true…no commissions, holding costs, etc taken into consideration or advertised. I pulled a commercial credit report on one of these very popular companies on a show based in Atlanta. (you can pull reports on companies without their permission unlike your personal credit report) This supposed very successful company where they were telling their viewers they were making lots and lots of money, was actually going bankrupt fast…..they weren’t paying any of their contractors and all debt was 120+ days past due or a write off. This shows left the air a year or two later. Totally misrepresentation to the public.

  12. Integrity, honor, honesty, and faithful these are just some of the attributes I see displayed by your article. Well done! May you be richly blessed. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Dave Kinkade

    I like to see the before and after results as much as the next person and the sizzle is fun but these shows have a significant dark side. Much like a fad diet, they create a false starting point for people to base their assumptions and expectations. How many lives have been wrecked by people buying into the ‘hopium’ flipping shows sell the unsuspecting audiences? It’s up to each of us to perform our own diligence but these shows are just not truthful. Good on you for not crossing over from entrepreneur to entertainer, Sterling.

  14. Carmen Molina

    I guess some people get blinded by all the whistles and lights and either regret it later or give their lives a whole turn to accomodate TV life.
    I find it realistic and smart from you, to pass on this and go for the real business thing.
    As an Interior Designer myself, sometimes I would love to write a few things to those people behind HGTV shows, because they are hurting people like me, contractors and other professionals a lot.
    People contact me and they want a 3D walk through their home like Fixer Upper shows, they want it all designed and done in 2 weeks and worst of all, they think any home can have a whole designer remodel for $50K

    They think demo is done as they do on TV, and I could keep going.
    Hoping this is just a trend that will have an end.

    Thank you for your post. It is worth sharing!

  15. Guadalupe Pena

    How can I get into the business of real estate investing? Do you think getting a real estate license is a good way to start? I’m going to be taking some classes this summer and I want to make sure my investing in time and money doesn’t go to waste.


  16. Charles Brown

    Good insights…was just thinking about #4 recently on a deal I was evaluating based on the “70% rule.” When I put together a P&L it was nowhere near as profitable as expected based on the rule. I haven’t been in RE long and never based my decision to pursue RE on those shows…barely ever watched them as my take on any reality show is that most are not based on reality. Finding that many RE “gurus” use some of the same tactics.

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