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House Hunters: What America's Most Lovably Ridiculous Reality Show Gets Right And Wrong

National Other

America’s relationship with reality TV is primarily love-hate, but with no series are both sentiments so heightened as HGTV’s House Hunters. It's one of the most mockable-yet-self-aware shows on television—even HGTV posted a compilation of Twitter users poking fun at clients on the show. So on what fronts does House Hunters fail...and what does it knock out of the park?



One of the more hilariously frustrating aspects of watching House Hunters is the seemingly endless stream of clueless couples whose list of demands not only far exceed their budget, but simply aren’t realistic. Houses in quiet, safe neighborhoods in the city’s center featuring hardwood floors, granite countertops, open concept floor plans, four bedrooms and fixer-upper basements certainly exist, but often aren't within the standard middle-class family’s budget. The brokers are then tasked with managing their clients’ expectations and nudging the would-be homeowners into trimming their list to fit their budget.



House Hunters would have its viewers believe that all it takes is a walk in a nearby park and a phone call to the broker informing them of the residence they want to purchase or rent. The reality is quite different, of course. In urban markets and popular neighborhoods, the odds of being outbid are high; buyers should be ready to face rejection. There’s always a great deal of paperwork to fill out before the sale closes —including credit checks, guarantor agreements for rent payments, etc.



The closing sequence of every House Hunters episode features a follow-up with the homebuyer, ranging from a few weeks to two years after the initial purchase, to see how they’ve transformed the place and like living there. At first, these concluding scenes appear to be one of the most staged. When was the last time you invited your broker over to tour your new apartment a year after you moved in?

Agent follow-up is part of the bread and butter of real estate: maintaining client relationships. Brokers derive 42% of their business from referrals; staying in touch with and potentially receiving recommendations from former buyers is a primary source of clientele and revenue. Taking names is never enough—remembering them for life is key to sustaining a successful brokerage.



Many episodes feature customers who put down a strict budget at the beginning of the episode, only to plunk down $20,000 more for an apartment with a walk-in closet to end all closets. This is not a model any buyer should follow; a TV show in which the six-month to one-year post-sale check-in features a couple on the verge of bankruptcy doesn’t make for compelling television (or maybe it does, but that’s a different story). One of the most frustrating aspects of watching the show are couples who express dismay at, say, the kitchen wallpaper—and disavow a property to instead purchase an out-of-budget one that fits their surface requirements—without considering that it would be much cheaper to remodel the house to fit their needs.