TV's home experts forced to adapt
Thousands tuned into house-hunting programmes at the peak of the boom, but television personalities now have to branch out as the market goes bust
HUNDREDS of thousands of us tuned in to house-hunting TV shows every week in the years right up to the peak of the property market in 2006, and even the following year.
But as the uncertainty continues about when the property market will bottom-out -- amidst the wider economic catastrophe that has engulfed us -- several of the RTE personalities and one TV3 contributor on property matters are branching out into new ventures outside the property business.
By its seventh series in 2007, more than 400,000 of us on average watched RTE's House Hunters, making it one of the top 10 shows, while House Hunters In The Sun had average ratings of 235,000 viewers for its fifth and final series in 2007.
But now co-presenter Liz O'Kane and her family are considering whether to leave their south Dublin home to seek new opportunities in the Middle East.
"I'm working for several clients at the moment as a buyer's agent and I still have a newspaper column, but my house-swapping website SwapLocation.com has become very quiet in the past 18 months," she says.
"My husband is an architect and I'm currently getting a qualification as a tennis coach. We're both self-employed and in that sense we're lucky that we have options. We won't leave permanently, but if we do leave, this would be a medium-term solution and I'd rent out our family home," she adds.
John McGuire -- whose show about twentysomethings moving out of their parents' homes, I'm An Adult Get Me Out Of Here, was watched by 159,000 of us on average in its second and final year in 2007 -- is also pursuing new opportunities.
Earlier this week he and chef Olivier Meissonave launched Dax Café Bar in the former building of the Dax Restaurant in Upper Pembroke Street in Dublin. "The café bar is in what used to be the boardroom of my mortgage brokerage business, which has more or less collapsed," Mr McGuire says. He also owns several rental properties in south Dublin and has a share in a motor insurance company.
TV3 also got in on the act, broadcasting two seasons of The Overseas Property Show in 2006 and 2007, although it had property developers pay for their properties to be featured on the programme.
Presenter and former estate agent Andrew Fowler is now the director of property acquisitions for a serviced apartments business, while his on-screen co-presenter Joanne Ryan is a communications manager for the Community Games Organisation.
The channel's morning programme, Ireland AM, also began to look at property matters some years ago, featuring contributor Fiona McLoughlin, founder of private home sales website PrivateSeller.ie.
Although her website has never been busier, her customers are having difficulties getting mortgages, prompting her to branch out into business consultancy. She has also been involved with a business competition in conjunction with Ireland AM and is a co-founder of a new web design business.
While it seems that TV3 was playing catch-up with RTE to some degree, TV personality Brendan Courtney and former estate agent Mark Daly started the trend back in 2004, with their series Holiday Home Detectives.
Courtney has continued to work in television and presents RTE's fashion series Off The Rails, while Daly now works full-time as a senator.
With programmes about buying houses firmly out of the picture, a small number of home makeover programmes will remain on RTE's schedule.
"By 2007 the property boom had waned and we made the decision not to re-commission any more property buying programmes. We felt it was more appropriate to mirror the national mood of 'don't move, improve' and shifted our focus instead to home improvement series like Room to Improve and Showhouse.
"These series focus on investing money back into your own home with an emphasis on extension potential and interior revamping," says Grainne McAleer, RTE's commissioning editor for daytime and lifestyle programming.
About The House, presented by Duncan and Tanya Stewart, and Room To Improve, presented by architect Dermot Bannon, both have a safe future for the moment. The next series of Bannon's show airs in the New Year.
The broadcaster has also reinvented its Showhouse programme, presented by interior designer Neville Knott, who will also return to our screens with a new series next year.