{living in sin} Why Eric & I Won’t Be Appearing on “House Hunters” Anytime Soon

by Rachel on June 21, 2012

I’d always been vaguely aware of “House Hunters,” and could, from time to time, find myself getting sucked in and then just kill a Sunday afternoon thinking about what it would be like to need a condo in Vancouver or a starter home in the Chicago suburbs. And then, not long ago, Eric and I started watching a bit of “House Hunters” because we figured we could finally, actually relate. Except…no. We could not relate at all.

But right around the time we wrapped up our house hunting, it came out that “House Hunters” is actually kinda really fake. Tragic, right? No. It’s a huge relief. It means that people aren’t actually that obtuse when it comes to making huge decisions and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. A lot of people were really surprised to hear that HH is a sham; while there were some major clues before, now that I’ve gone through the process, I can see that the writing was on the freshly-painted walls. (Don’t worry; a Magic Eraser should take it right out.)

Real people don’t have such raging boners fors granite countertops. The people on “House Hunters”? This is like their Number One Thing. Why, exactly? I don’t get it at all. It’s not that I hate granite countertops exactly — though I admit that my lip would curl every time they would be mentioned as something that made the house attractive — I just don’t get why they are the end-all, be-all. I feel like whenever couples are discussing houses on the show, granite countertops are used to forgive so many sins. “Well, my work commute would be an hour and the foundation does need to be replaced…” one says. “But the countertops are great!” the other says. Annnndddd we all know which house they are going to choose. (The house we chose actually does have them, and I still do the lip curl whenever I think about them them. They look fine, so I don’t know why they bother me so much; I think it’s just that I just think they are overrated so I dislike them on principle.)

Real people have knowledge of home improvement techniques that can be done in a day for around $30. This magical, still-unknown-to-HGTV product IS CALLED PAINT. I can’t wrap my head around the number of people on this show who get really uppity about the color of a room. “Well, that pink just has to go,” they say, arms folded, as they list the cons of a house. “And that shower curtain is so ugly.” In what world are these people living that you wouldn’t buy a house because of its interior paint? I don’t consider myself a DIY expert but come on. These people really seem to have no idea what any kind of improvements would cost. They are heartbroken over the paint but then turn around and say, “Well, we can just rip that wall out and put your fish tank right there, no problem!” as they look at a clearly load-bearing wall.

Real people actually care about things that gender stereotypes do not allow those on “House Hunters” to care about. I feel like every episode features a guy who cares about whether or not the place has a man cave and a woman who cares about something relating to the babies or the kitchen. (I will give HH credit for showing a good amount of mixed race and gay couples, but stereotypes still persist in those episodes.) When Eric and I were looking, one of the first things we determined in nearly every house was where my office would be. If I couldn’t have an office after we’d accounted for at least one room for a potential spawn, we weren’t interested. I would love for just one woman on “House Hunters” to demand her own office, Virginia Woolf style! And speaking of potential spawn, we both talked about them. It wasn’t him shouting, “Baby! We can hang my plasma TV over here!!!” while I was wailing, “But I’m worried there isn’t enough backyard for our unborn babies to play in!!!” While there were definitely some things one of us had less to say about (I’m still trying to understand Eric’s preoccupation with cool/modern bathroom sinks), it wasn’t split down gender lines quite as clearly as “House Hunters” always is. And from the dining room to the patio to the laundry room, we both had a lot of opinions.

Real Realtors are awesome. I’m not saying the Realtors on “House Hunters” aren’t good people, but they sort of fade into the background. Our agent, Mary, was our rock. I can’t say enough good things about her (and if anyone is looking for a house in the Houston area, I highly recommend you speak to her!). During our first meeting, when we weren’t sure yet if she would be The One, she straight-up told us, “I’m very good at my job.” I was impressed by her confidence and, turns out, she has every right to be so confident. I was pretty skeptical that the seller would give us some of the things she advised us to ask for, and I was anxious and impatient during the times she told us to wait things out, but in the end, she was right every time. And while I would hope most Realtors would know more than I do about this stuff, we met another Realtor during the process and that experience affirmed my belief that Mary is exceptional. Someone like her would never would have us choosing between three houses that actually all seem kinda shitty.

Real house hunting comes with real drama. Isn’t that the whole thing with reality TV? It’s overly dramatic, and sometimes they have to stage it to make it that dramatic? Yet “House Hunters” has absolutely no drama! Eric and I experienced far less drama than a lot of people do, but the week when we were waiting to find out if we’d get the house we’d put the backup offer on — while our option period was quickly flying by on the other house we’d already put an offer on — was so drama-filled, and the night we found out we didn’t get the house was a pretty sad conclusion. (We were out to a nice steak dinner when he got the call; I’ve never seen two people lose their appetites faster.) Seriously…why is this show not the “Toddlers and Tiaras” of real estate?! I want to see tears! I want to see cutthroat Realtors! I want to see two couples waiting to hear back on the same house! Reality TV is unscrupulous, so why they won’t show house hunters fighting for the place they want like it’s a $5 DVD player on Black Friday is beyond me.

{ 30 comments }

1 Deva @ Deva by Definition June 21, 2012 at 9:54 pm

We like granite countertops, and we talked a LOT about babies when house hunting. Our countertops are laminate that looks like granite. We want granite eventually – granite or corian, but it wasn’t a “ugh. I wont’ buy this house for that reason” sort of thing – it was a want, not need. We wanted 2 bathrooms, but we NEEDED two toilets (so 1.5 baths – what we got – is perfect), if that makes sense.

Houses that needed renos? We both know the realities of even small renovations and had a limit to what renos we were willing to do, and if a house needed more than what we were willing and able to do, it was taken off our list.
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2 Rachel June 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Yeah we had the same approach to renovations. It was disappointing at times, because there were some houses that were great except for that $25,000 worth of work they needed…we had a pretty strict limit/budget on things we were willing to do to get it move-in ready. But the fact that you know get to work on the wants for years to come is always exciting.

3 Deva @ Deva by Definition June 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Yeah – we had a similar approach with one or two houses. There was also the GORGEOUS reno that was between two fixer-uppers. I am happy with our house – and I can’t wait to see yours :-)
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4 Andrea @ Run, Eat, Date, Sleep June 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm

What I’ve never understood about House Hunters is why the mortgage process isn’t shown more. It’s probably the single most important aspect because without money, there’s no home. And more people need to know the truth about getting a mortgage, and that it’s super hard to get one!

5 Rachel June 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Right!? And I honestly think there’s real story there! I mean, I like looking at places as much as anyone, but the drama surrounding getting approved is probably going to be more interesting. Not to mention the fact that they make buying and doing renovations look ridiculously easy.

6 Andrea @ Run, Eat, Date, Sleep June 22, 2012 at 9:21 am

I keep saying there needs to be a reality TV show about my family and our mortgage company. There’s so much drama with clients and realtors. It would make great TV!
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7 Haley @ Housegirl Haley June 21, 2012 at 10:38 pm

I really enjoy watching House Hunter’s, fake or not.
I love your view of the whole “granite countertop situation.” Just the other day I was telling the bf how I hated the people (usually the women) who whined and complained about granite countertops. Seriously? The house is awesome, but you’re going to walk away because of the countertops. How about you make do for a little while, and then save up some money and change the countertops yourself?

And don’t get me started on the whole paint color situation. Haha.

8 Nik June 22, 2012 at 6:25 am

I read an article the other day that actually said most of the couples are already under contract for a certain house before they go on the show! So the rest of it is just for TV, and that’s probably why they don’t show the mortgage portion more. They’re told to react and act a certain way when they already have done the research themselves and put an offer on a place.

9 Nik June 22, 2012 at 6:28 am
10 erin June 22, 2012 at 7:48 am

omg granite countertops – i don’t care for them at all. granted our condo has it. and honestly if i had the money i’d rip it out. but that’d be a waste of money.*sighs*

the paint thing – i don’t get it at all. we had all neutral walls, and ended up painting a few rooms. but that’s the cheapest thing anyone can do and it’s so much easier!

and house hunters did make it look deceptively easy (which is why i prefer property virgins or my first place). buying our condo was a NIGHTMARE. the most stressful thing ever. it almost makes me never want to buy or move ever again.

11 Rachel June 22, 2012 at 7:56 am

What was so nightmarish for you? I’m always curious to hear other people’s experiences, so please share if you are comfortable!

12 erin June 23, 2012 at 8:28 am

our mortgage lender basically screwed us over so many times. basically he told us such and such money that we needed to bring to the table. which was fine. but for the 3 days prior to closing, NO one could get ahold of him not even my realtor. day that we were supposed to close, we never closed. i kept calling and calling, and people at the office were saying he wasn’t there. i had to leave my job to go there, and turns out he was totally there. he came to us and said that we had to bring more money to the table. and there was no way we could cover that amount, so i had to swallow my pride, and ask my parents for the additional money (which we paid back with interest, cuz that’s how my parents do business, and i respect that).

and later on after closing, we realized that all we were doing was paying interest, not paying down our mortgage – which our realtor never caught as well, and he had been doing this for over 30 years. obviously the mortgage lender skirted around that issue.

but we kept paying our mortgage. this was embarrassing for both me and my husband to realize this is what happened to us. lesson learned. i think the mortgage process is really extremely complicated, and incredibly crazy stressful. and it wasn’t helping that the value of the condo kept dropping, and we have only been here for 4 years. there have been at least 5 condos owners that bought and sold within the time we’ve lived here, and they’ve sold it for $50-$75k less than what they bought it for.

i kept avoiding the whole refinancing issue because i’ve had really bitter feelings towards the bank, but we had an adjustable interest rate, and 5 years is coming up. so last year, we started trying to shop around for a new interest rate, and found that we couldn’t switch companies because of the fact that the value of the condo is lower than what we owe. my checking bank had referred me to a mortgage lender that had my mortgage payments, and i started working with him. my husband and i met with him. and a lot of our communication was through email, and we worked with him for a year. one of the issues we kept confronting is we had a maximum of what we were willing to pay monthly, i knew our finances, and every time he came back to us with a number, it would always be at least $800 more than what we could realistically afford. I kept saying are you freaking crazy! and stuck with my guns. i knew what we could afford, and i was not understanding why the bank would come back at us with a high number, that was really 60% -80% of our income. we finally were able to reasonably refinance our condo with a lower interest rate, and basically the same mortgage payment.

i still never want to go through it again. i harbor bitter feelings still. even after refinancing. i always feel bad for people who i’ve learned had to foreclose. but i really think it is the bank’s responsibility to ensure that people are really truly able to afford what they’re paying. and i find that the bank will push people beyond that limit. and that is where i think people get into so much trouble because if the bank says you can afford it, does not mean you can afford it. people really need to sit down and break down their budget all across the board – food, shopping, eating out, electric, gas, water, phone, cable, monthly membership, and I mean everything. not just mortgage. the bank will never factor those in.

13 Rachel June 26, 2012 at 8:09 am

Wow, that truly does sound awful! I’m so sorry that happened to you.

14 Stina June 22, 2012 at 8:16 am

I felt the same way buying my condo! I swore up and down I was going to die in that place rather than ever buy anything again. (I’m moving in a couple months…)
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15 Dori June 22, 2012 at 8:00 am

I don’t watch House Hunters. but I am obsessed with For Rent so I have to assume it is the exact same fakeness. For Rent has the same obsession with granite countertops! And we have them in our new apartment, which is just funny to us because of the show. I have the same gripe that you do about things like paint. On For Rent, they HATE certain apartments because the current tenant is messy. Um, it won’t look like that after they move out! Anyway, I’m really happy for you that your new house worked out! I enjoyed this post.
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16 Tara June 22, 2012 at 10:33 am

Sometimes when it’s super messy, it’s hard to envision what the place would look like with YOUR stuff. I looked at some condos while I was looking that were not staged and were so full of the current people’s stuff that I just couldn’t see how I would use it and moved on.

17 Stina June 22, 2012 at 8:20 am

With regard to the paint and decor aspect, I kind of get it. It’s not a deal breaker on it’s own, but if it’s really teribble/ doesn’t align with your taste it makes it much more difficult to picture yourself in the space.

I didn’t experience this so much when I was looking at condos because I was looking at a lot of short sales and foreclosures many of which were totally stripped, but when my parent’s were considering a move, I went on a lot of house visits with my mom. Some of the houses we looked at were so cluttered with stuff or so horrendously decorated (or both!) that it was next to impossible to envision moving it to that space.
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18 Rachel June 22, 2012 at 9:35 am

Good point. I think that the horrendously decorated/colored are definitely an exception. I guess I feel like a lot of places on HH that people get really bent out of shape about seem fine. One thing that helped was our Realtor showed us a lot of different properties within our complex so we got an idea of how they all looked decorated. Seeing that made it a lot easier to get past decor that wasn’t our style.

When we were looking, we actually came across a house online that I immediately started referring to as “grandma’s house” based on the decor. It was pretty old-school/tacky. But once we saw it in person, it was easy to love the house and see past the decor. Actually, we walked in and the first room we looked into was the first-floor bathroom. It had this INSANE wallpaper — pink floral + birds. I’m sure Mary was not expecting the shouts of “FUCK YES!” and “WE’RE SO KEEPING THIS!” that she then heard coming from the bathroom. Unfortunately, the second floor seemed really uneven (like…set a ball down on it and it would probably roll) so we had to eliminate it. I was kinda bummed though…grandma’s house had character!

19 Stina June 22, 2012 at 10:34 am

Yeah, I do agree with you on the first point. On HH people do seem to get extremely bent out of shape over things that aren’t that serious.

My condo was totally grandma-chic when I moved in! I’m still trying to figure out how to work with the pink tile, tub and toilet in my main bathroom to turn it into some sort of modern-vintage chic…
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20 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat June 22, 2012 at 8:28 am

I almost always hate the women on the show – they complain about absolutely ridiculous details!
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21 Mary June 22, 2012 at 10:46 am

It’s hard to make an argument that House Hunters perpetuates stereotypes unless you watch all (or at least a high percentage of) the episodes. I’ve certainly seen episodes where the woman’s office is part of the reason for the move. There are definitely couples that play into the stereotypical roles, and yes, more often that not it’s the woman who’s swooning over a big closet than the man. But I think that’s an unfair statement that the show does perpetuate old fashioned stereotypes. I generally keep a pretty good lookout for that kind of thing, watch House Hunters a lot, and respectfully disagree.

22 Rachel June 22, 2012 at 10:54 am

Fair enough! I definitely haven’t seen every episode, and I’m glad to hear that not all episodes are that way.

23 Victoria @ The Pursuit of Hippieness June 22, 2012 at 11:16 am

This made me laugh so hard! I am admittedly an HH junkie but I ALWAYS roll my eyes at the people whining about paint color. And my best friend’s family was on another HGTV home improvement show where they staged her “surprising” her Mom by coming home from college even though she had really already been home for a week. Welcome to reality TV, I guess…
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24 Rain June 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Usually the women on this show really bother me. I know it’s over-acted but they come up with the most funny things that they don’t like, and you are right, most of them are easy fixes! And sometimes they act so dramatic about one negative thing, and end up with that place any way. I get annoyed by that show!

The house hunters international is at least a little more interesting because you get to see what your US dollars could get in another country, sometimes it’s more and sometimes it’s less. Plus the beautiful areas where people end up looking.
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25 stef June 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm

We watch just to complain about people wanting 1. granite countertops 2. “upgrades” (what does that even mean?) 3. stainless steel appliances 4. a craft room. It’s like they’re required to say these buzz words every time! Of course, yes, I’d *like* hardwood floors and stainless appliances but will they kill a house for me? Def not.

Also, on Property Virgins I haaaaate how they say “You’ve been approved for a mortage of $350,000 and have $30,000 for a downpayment so we can look at houses that are $380,000.” Mathematically yes, I understand this, but who honestly looks at houses exclusively within 10% of their TIP TOP mortgage approval amount?
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26 Deva @ Deva by Definition June 24, 2012 at 9:15 pm

We definitely did not – we looked at houses well UNDER our tip-top mortgage approval amount. We had to consider other bills – heating/water/sewer/garbage – which all had to fall under what we could afford monthly for our house.
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27 Kalee June 24, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I agree completely on the paint! That is ridculous and with everything else they could focus on, it seems like they use it to create drama. I guess they always have to have something going on, but I think the mortgage process and the relationship with the realtor would be more entertaining to watch.
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28 Sara June 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I hate three things on HH and you nailed two of them.
1. Granite countertop lust.
2. Paint ineptitude.
3. This phrase, “Oh this closet is nice BUT WHERE WILL ALL YOUR CLOTHES GO?!” Every woman on the show says this. Every single one. It makes me rage.

29 Lynn Townsend June 27, 2012 at 10:07 am

I’m about a month settled into my new place; my husband and I were very careful while we were looking to note the difference between structural and cosmetic.

Carpet instead of hardwood? Cosmetic (and we’ve already replaced the carpet on the 2nd and 3rd floors)

Paint? Easy… we’ve got 2 bathrooms left to paint (someone decided the master bathroom should be pink… and not even a nice pink. It’s powder pink. Gross! and most of the hallways were painted this horrible poo brown. We’ve fixed almost all of it.)

Wall not being at least 11 feet with no windows (to fit our king-sized pier cabinet bed that I refuse to give up?) Structural. Move on to the next place.

We had hella drama getting our place, too. We bid for another house that we liked a LOT, but the sellers bank jerked our chain too many times on it and we finally walked away. Of course, now I live right down the block and have to look at their For Sale sign every day. I’ll be glad when it sells and I can stop being cross about it.

Banks are a pain in the ass, too. Our closing got pushed off and pushed off and pushed off to the point where we were at risk of being homeless. Our lease was expiring at the apartment and they’d already rented it out to the next tenant starting June 1. Yikes! We finally closed on May 7 and moved in on the 12th, but we didn’t have time to get all the floors and painting done before we moved, which meant a bit of hassle after we got here.

I agree tho… I never, ever want to do that again!
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30 Rachel June 27, 2012 at 10:19 am

We’re going to be two houses down from the house we didn’t get and we’re so worried we’re going to be bitter about it and hate the neighbor! Especially because it sounds like they wanted to change all the amazing things (decor-wise, that is) that we loved about the house!

Structural vs. cosmetic is a quick and easy way to break it down when you’re house hunting too…great advice!

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