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The Other Housing Indicator

Everyone tracks home sales closely for a sign about how the economy’s doing. But there’s another housing indicator you might not know about — home-improvement television.

Back in our younger, more carefree days of home buying and leveraging, cable networks ran shows like “Trading Spaces” and “While You Were Out” , where neighbors and loved ones had a wacky time suprising each other with design.

There were shows like “Clean House” and “Clean Sweep” that helped you get rid of all that clutter (because hey, for awhile there, we were rolling in money!) and shows that exposed some of the wildest things people did with houses like “What’s With That House?” And who could forget the shows that exposed the crazy world of flipping houses for a profit like the maniacally delicious “Flipping Out.”

Then the housing crisis hit —

[Cue creepy organ music...]

And the TV Guide reflected the change: There were shows like “Designed to Sell” and “Curb Appeal” aimed at helping homeowners get their homes sold.

Matchmaking from the other side were shows like “Property Virgins” and “My First Home” aimed at teaching first-time buyers how to close the deal.

Somewhere in the middle there came “Divine Design” because, well, the housing market required a little divine intervention.

But, there were still cultural gaps between the buyers and sellers, with a lot of sellers maintaining a death grip on their trading-up dreams and refusing to lower their home prices to the current market value.

So, as it turned out, it would take an actual intervention — like "Celebrity Rehab" . Only these patients weren’t addicted to drugs, alcohol or fame — they were addicted to the American Dream.

Enter: “Real Estate Intervention,” a show where a tough-talking real-estate agent walks overpriced sellers through comparable homes on the market, and explains why those houses sold in just a few days, and theirs didn't.

Now, four years later, there are signs of hope in the TV Guide: A new show debuting next week, “This New House” will feature “innovative building materials, techniques and gadgets.” One of the hosts, ironically, used to be on “This OLD House.”

Suddenly, we've moved past euphoria, panic and redemption — and we're back to gadgets and new stuff.

Ah, I love the smell of clutter in the morning!

More Signs of Recovery:

Questions? Comments? Write to us at ponyblog@cnbc.com or drop a comment below.

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Contact Pony Blog

  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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