TelevisionBrought to you by

Help! I’m addicted to watching property porn!

Ghazaleh Golbakhsh can’t stop watching property porn, from Location, Location, Location to The Block NZ. As a lifelong renter, she wonders why she bothers.

A few years ago, I remember being at a party and witnessing my friends who had all just bought into the property market (yes there really was a time) moan on about heat pumps. Then came the questions about renovations: “Can anyone recommend a tiller for the kitchen?” “Do you want to see the daily photos of the build?” “Why are you still renting? Get a loan and become a real adult!”

It was the most agonising conversation I have ever been a part of, and I once had to endure a skinhead rant on about the benefits of apartheid.

These days, I’m still renting and spending my days addicted to watching property porn. As a freelancer I spend a lot of time at home (the beauty of an unstable income) so have become privy to the exuberant amounts of property shows that television has to offer. They range from the aspirational, such as Grand Designs where rich Brits turn silos into mansions, to the mundane like 60 Minute Makeover where poor Brits have an abundance of velvet and beige takeover their bedroom.

The 60 Minute makeover team look on, smugly

The sadistic irony is not lost on me. I love (hate) watching them and have no idea why. What is the interest in these shows from someone who has no property, no assets and absolutely no life savings?

The aspirational ones are the most obvious to discern why. If there was a sexy centrefold for a house, then these shows would be bang on. Who wouldn’t swoon for the likes of Grand Designs or Amazing Spaces, with their sweeping aerial shots of beautiful church conversions on the clifftop of rural Scotland met with glamorous pure white minimalism on the inside. It’s pure wish fulfillment where it can only really cater to our wildest dreams (or nightmares).

I also hate them all and sometimes wonder if bushfires occur in Scotland.

The hosts of Location, Location, Location look on, smugly

The mundane ones are a bit more interesting. I once had a flatmate who couldn’t understand why I wanted to watch some “boring normal person’s” house on the telly. One of my favourites is Location, Location, Location, where two middle-aged presenters take everyday punters on a quest to find their perfect house in…the perfect location (duh).

The appeal could be the intense sexual tension between the hosts Kirsty and Phil; the schadenfreude I have from seeing just how small British houses are; or perhaps that it provides a type of virtual experience in which I can pretend to be a property buyer through my TV set. “I’d pick open plan kitchen over bigger garden any day”, I think to myself as I down my fifth beer and wipe away the tears. Just like porn, these shows can do terrible things to you. Also like porn, the excitement is short-lived.

The makeover shows are even more dire, popping out everywhere like unavoidable fungi. They’re cheap to make, require no intellect and are popular as hell. Shows like Double Your House for the Half the Money, The Block and Our First Home present us with ordinary people, often with no design or building backgrounds, doing renovations. Almost always, this results in either boring egg-shell interiors or garish bright bedrooms overloaded in crate shelves.

Everybody loves a transformation but when I watch these shows I do begin to question my own existence. Property shows require no real input intellectually or emotionally from the viewer. It’s a form of capitalist escapism where, like an eager baby, you get to look at pretty and shiny things and it doesn’t matter whether you can ever afford them or not.

But are we reaching saturation? TVNZ OnDemand alone has almost 10 shows and Mediaworks is soon set to release Slice of Paradise, where two hosts – including Shelly Ferguson from The Block – will help prospective home buyers decide which house to buy. Unfortunately the abundance of property porn, just like the porn industry, doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. And just like some masochist teen hovered around their laptop in the dark, I will continue watching and fantasising – hoping that no one will ever catch me in the act.


This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.