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As millennial homeownership drops, entertainment and envy combine

Images Courtesy of Jennifer Boomer / Getty Images & Rachel Whyte

Images Courtesy of Jennifer Boomer / Getty Images & Rachel Whyte

Images Courtesy of Jennifer Boomer / Getty Images & Rachel Whyte

As millennial homeownership drops, entertainment and envy combine

March 4, 2019

Millennials are buying fewer homes than Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers. They are choosing to rent longer and marry later, lending to the national homeownership rate of 64.4 percent. In addition to remaining single longer, young Americans are dealing with increasing student debt. Average debt at graduation is around $30,000. So, why is it that they love HGTV, a channel that focuses entirely on homeownership and home improvement?

HGTV has ascended to become one of the most watched channels among college students. With hit shows like “Property Brothers,” “Fixer Upper,” and “House Hunters” it isn’t hard to understand why HGTV is a top performer. According to Aadweek, HGTV ranks third for both primetime and total- day viewing for a basic cable network.

“One of the main things I love about HGTV is that it gives viewers a glimpse into what home ownership [is], and everything that comes with it,” said DePaul senior, Rebecca Kandefer. “Shows like House Hunters— (and all of the shows that branched from it, like International, Tiny House, etc—) give viewers the experience of what homes look like in a certain place and also help them to understand their own tastes. I think ultimately, I like that watching these shows gives me a better understanding of what I like for when I actually am in the market for a house.

Kandefer said HGTV helps viewers with more than just the housing market.

“There are just so many options for people’s interests and that’s really great,” Kandefer said.. “It also helps people who may actually be doing their own projects see that they have many options within their budget as long as they get creative. That being said, I also really appreciate the creativity that comes out on these shows, especially with tiny homes – all the storage solutions are so cool!”

Images Courtesy of Jennifer Boomer / Getty Images & Rachel Whyte

There is something to be said about the decline of homeownership among millennials and the increase in viewership of HGTV. For the same reasons that shows about dangerous jobs are successful, HGTV viewers are vicariously experiencing the excitement without any of the risk and debt.

“As with most reality television, HGTV shows us an aspirational life— – it shows us what we think we can have, (or deserve to have),” said DePaul Media and Cinema Studies professor, Paul Booth. “It’s enjoyable to imagine ourselves in the difficult situation of having to choose between fixing or flipping, even if it’s not something we ever will have to deal with in our life. It’s also relatively mindless, so it’s something we can put on without having to really think about it, so it can be relaxing. We enjoy watching things that we can’t do. Most of us aren’t going to be doctors, lawyers, or billionaires, but we love medical dramas, law dramas and reality television about entrepreneurship.”

There is something to be said about HGTV’s programming. Each show features a dynamic cast with unique personalities and skills. Every episode has a positive conclusion, with all parties satisfied. Real life home improvement is not nearly as exciting or consistent.

“I love ‘Fixer Upper.’ Chip and Joanna Gaines are not just wonderful at their job, but they are quality people too, said Kandefer said. “I really love anything that takes something that is ugly and turns it around into something really beautiful. I think a lot of this is because of my dad being a general contractor.”

With a strong lineup and new the new Chicago centered, “Windy City Rehab,” HGTV aims to continue capitalizing on the Chicago market. Whether you’re watching to learn or experience homeownership vicariously through strangers, HGTV has a show for you.

“I like HGTV because it makes me feel more grown up when I watch it,” said DePaul senior, Ellen Mullen. “My mom and I always watch it when I’m home and talk about it. It’s an easy go-to channel where I know I will always find something I like.”

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