I have always aspired to be a world traveler; I never will be, but it’s a nice dream to have. That’s why I love HGTV’s Househunters International. It gives me the chance to vicariously visit countries from Ireland to Kenya without leaving home. Even better, I have the opportunity to shop for a new home and renovate it without lifting a finger (except to grab the remote). What could be easier?
Househunters viewers have visited Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Chile – the list goes on and on – and all from the comfort of their own living rooms. Homes range from inexpensive shells for renovation, some under $20,000, to extravagant estates for a million or more. My favorites are the renovation projects; buyers purchase old homes that are in extreme disrepair and rehab them. Some of the homes are ancient structures built centuries ago. It’s so exciting to see the buyers renovate some of these archaic buildings into beautiful living spaces.
It’s amazing to see what can be purchased in other countries, especially properties on the water. I love seeing the beachfront properties that are renovated into livable spaces with breathtaking views. It’s surprising in some cases to see the amount of land and amazing vistas buyers are able to get for their money. In some countries, waterfront property is incredibly expensive; in others, especially in Central America and some of the Baltic countries, waterfront property can be purchased quite reasonably. As a rule, the farther from major cities you travel, the more reasonable the price.
The premise of Househunters is that you get basically three choices; the realtor takes buyers to these properties, pointing out the advantages of each. It can be a little frustrating sometimes because, as realtors will do, they try to show a property that is out of the buyer’s budget, or a home that doesn’t meet the specifications the buyer has laid out in advance. But that’s the part of Househunters that can be the most entertaining; often the buyers choose something they didn’t know they wanted in the first place and it turns out to be literally their “dream home”. Of course, this can also serve to bring some of the home buyers down to earth; many of them want more amenities than their money will buy.
Househunters has been criticized recently by some participants who indicate that the show is misleading; they have implied that the show is rigged and that the buyers have already chosen the home they want from the beginning and the home tours are just for the benefit of dramatic artifice. In my opinion, who cares? I think most viewers don’t actually believe the home-buyers are only visiting three homes and they realize there is a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvering to make the show more appealing. That’s not what most people watch Househunters for anyway; most of us just want to see what others do to spruce up their homes, and what life is like in other countries.
The fun part of Househunters is that you get several options, and regardless which home the buyers select, there is always your imagination. You can choose one of the other options in your own mind and imagine redecorating it in the style you prefer. And meanwhile, you can see the sights of Madrid or Buenos Aires or the islands of Fiji while you mentally renovate your dream home.
The househunters also visit famous landmarks, castles and all sorts of stunning landscapes. How often would you have an opportunity to see old and new homes in Croatia, stylish apartments in Paris, modern high-rises in China, houseboats in Amsterdam or stilted tree-houses in Costa Rica? Just the thought of living on a houseboat in Amsterdam is intriguing; perhaps not practical for everyone, but something to dream about nonetheless.
It’s also interesting to see how people live in other countries. You quickly learn that not everyone leads their lives the way Americans do. Many of the homes the buyers view don’t come with appliances; people take the appliances with them. It’s often a rude awakening for some buyers to walk into a kitchen and see it stripped of everything. The kitchens are often much smaller too; and the appliances can be tiny (mini-fridges and two-burner stoves, often without ovens), especially in city apartments or condos. Many times washers and dryers are not on separate water lines, but located in the kitchen or bathroom. Americans are also not pleased to discover dishwashers and dryers are not always a given. You may have to wash your own dishes or hang the wash out to air-dry. Well, when in Rome!
City living versus country living can be an eye-opener for American home-buyers. City apartments are usually very small, and in certain cities, such as Paris, the prices are astronomical. Homes in the country vary from ancient farmhouses to more modern structures. The older buildings are usually in terrible disrepair, but imagining what can be accomplished with some of them is fascinating; and often we get to see the results. Many times the renovations take so long though, you have to just imagine what the results will be. The more modern homes are not always appealing either, and can have dated fixtures or lack closets, making renovating costs expensive. Another peculiarity is that toilets and bathrooms are at times separate, a feature that seems to freak some American buyers out. But most of them seem to roll with the punches and make do, often transforming the homes into more livable spaces than they originally contemplated.
Let’s face it; most of us will never have a chance to see the wonders of the world, or even anything other than the sights out our own back doors, but with Househunters International, we can live anywhere for free. Real house hunting will never be this easy!