What's wrong with 'House Hunters'
From cooking to custom cars, TV is full of "how-to" shows. But if you're hunting for a house, don't take HGTV's 'House Hunters' too seriously.
This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.
My girlfriend and I have watched a lot of HGTV's "House Hunters," and especially the overseas version, "House Hunters International." In case you haven't seen it, here's the skinny: Homebuyers and a real-estate agent walk through three houses. Then the buyers choose one. As the program ends, it fast-forwards a few months to see what the happy homeowners have done with the place.
As entertainment, this half-hour show is fine. As a tutorial for homebuying, however, it's very misleading.
Whether it's "Property Virgins" (first-time buyers), regular "House Hunters" or "House Hunters International," in nearly every show, homebuyers confront a very real-world problem: being forced to balance needs and wants. For example, buyers have to choose between location and space, or price and features. The lesson? Unless your budget is unlimited, get ready to decide what's really important, because you're going to compromise.
While "House Hunters" is fun to watch, there are reasons not to view it as instructional. First and foremost, the show may be partially faked. A post on Hooked on Houses said some of the buyers are already in escrow on one of the three homes.
The house hunters aren't actually house hunting in some of the episodes because they already bought one. The producers show them two other houses, and they pretend to consider them. Then they pretend to deliberate, and pretend to choose the house that they already chose from the beginning.
I contacted HGTV's media relations department and asked for a comment. Here's part of the response I got back:
As you know, the pursuit of the perfect home involves big decisions that usually take place over a period of time -- more time than we can capture in 30 minutes of television. ... We're making a television show, so we manage certain production and time constraints, while honoring the homebuying process. To maximize production time, we seek out families who are pretty far along in the process.
It shouldn't be a surprise that the show is partially staged. After all, the word "reality" as used in "reality TV" refers only to a production style. The vast majority of "reality" shows I've watched seem to bear no resemblance to anything real.
If you're faking building choppers or living on the Jersey shore, who cares? But if wide-eyed first-time homebuyers follow the prescription offered on HGTV's "House Hunters," they'll be sorry.
How is the show misleading? Let's count the ways:
- Three houses? Give me a break. For most people, a house is the largest purchase they'll ever make. If you look at only three before making a decision, you're a nitwit.
- Buying too quickly. In many cases -- especially on "House Hunters International" -- the buyers are moving to a new country sight unseen and buying a house within a very narrow time frame, sometimes mere days. Moving to another state -- much less another country -- then buying a house immediately is crazy. If you don't have time to get the lay of the land, rent until you do.
- Financing is half the battle. While financing a house isn't nearly as camera-friendly or fun as looking at them, it's nearly as important but is rarely mentioned on "House Hunters." Price is important, but so are terms.
- The devil is in the details. How does this house compare in price with others in the neighborhood? Is the area's employment base and population growing or shrinking? How are the schools? What does the inspection report reveal? There are many things that factor into the price of a home, and they're rarely mentioned in these shows.
- Where's the negotiation? Also critical in homebuying is negotiation, and not much goes on in "House Hunters." It's frustratingto watch the would-be buyers lament that their favorite house "ticks all the boxes" but is $15,000 over budget. Result? They don't consider it. Don't they know that the listing price is the asking price, not the final price? Why isn't the agent telling them?
- Was this show written by real-estate agents? Watch "House Hunters" and you normally see knowledgeable agents and completely ignorant buyers following them like sheep. As with other types of salespeople, agents are motivated by transactions -- the sooner they make one happen, the sooner they get paid. That's why buyers should use agents for information only. If house hunters aren't knowledgeable enough to make their own decisions, they shouldn't be house hunting.
Bottom line? It's fun to look at houses on TV, and it's interesting to compare prices in various places around the country and the world. But while buying a house isn't rocket science, it's not a game show either.
Maybe HGTV should have a warning label, as so many products do these days. Maybe something like "Warning. This show isn't real. Buying a house properly takes longer than 30 minutes."
More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:
Of course, it wouldn't actually hurt to listen to what the buyers say during the show... Many times I've heard them talk about all of the other properties they've looked at - it's just narrowed down to the top three picks by the time the show is aired. Nowhere has anyone ever said they only look at three homes before making a decision, just that they are only showing three in the time they have. This goes hand-in-hand with the response from HGTV - they're looking for people who have already been involved in the search and know not only what they are looking for, but how to get it, as well.
Anyone with half a brain knows more is going on than just what is on the show. Most of the people I know that watch are more interested in the homes themselves than the people looking to buy them.
My wife and I have been watching this show for years, our friends and family, we found out watch it too. Have to admit its fun seeing what other people are paying for similar homes around the country. It kind of gives you a snap shot of how the rest of the country and the economy is doing. Actually have a hard time understanding how a young couple have a 500K first time homebuyer budget, but I guess in large cities that what it takes to have a nice home,
thats not in gangland. But the show is fun to watch and the writer of this article must think the average American is an idiot, because we all know the boring parts of buying a house, and this show just shows the fun parts.
i enjoy watching House Hunters International. It is a great way to see the kind of housing available around the world.
I don't like the regular House Hunters.
Everyone buying says the same thing.
I need granite countertops.
I need stainless steel appliances
I need walk in closets.
And believe it or not, there are a lot of people who do in fact take their home buying cues from shows like this. My parents rehab houses and I can't tell you how many times a potential buyer has asked for something completely ridiculous while offering some insulting amount of money because these HGTV and DIY shows make them think they can.
I love to watch House Hunters because I love looking at houses. However, when the show begins with 2 twenty-somethings who have been dating for a couple of months and have decided it's time to "take their relationship to the next level" and buy a house together, I quit watching. Next level, really? It's way easier to get a divorce than to get out of a mortgage. I also get irritated by the ones who look at a 1000-square-foot house and complain that the master bedroom in one is a good size but the living room is too small. The next house, the LR is great but the master bedroom is tiny, and her clothes and shoes won't possibly fit in that tiny walk-in closet. Space inside a house is finite, people! And then she walks into the kitchen, but is SO disappointed because stainless steel appliances were absolute must-haves! I do think that the desire for granite countertops and SS appliances are largely driven by these shows, and that expectations are way out of line!
Come to think of it, why do I watch this show? Sometimes I do turn the sound off and just look at the houses, so I don't have to hear the stupid comments.
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