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HGTV – House Hunters

As promised, here’s my “reality busters” post about the much loved, oh-so popular HGTV show, House Hunters. This show is a cornerstone of the network’s franchise and has even produced spin-offs in the form of “House Hunters: Where are They Now,” “International House Hunters,” and most recently, “Tiny House Hunters.” It’s a brand that is going strong and a show that has tremendous impact on the public. And it’s that impact that sometimes makes me the tiniest bit crazy. Because, once again, what we see on the big screen is pretend (PRETEND, PEOPLE… REPEAT AFTER ME!) and doesn’t often resemble the actual process of hunting for or buying a home.
If you’ve never seen the show, here’s the basic format: a camera ready couple meets with a Realtor because they’re ready to buy a home! They tell the Realtor what they’re looking for and provide a “Wish List” and a budget.

Flash forward the Realtor meeting with the couple in the next act and ushering them through three properties that include some, but never all of their “wish list” items. Each home is almost always just at or over their max budget. The couples talk about what they like — love the terraces overlooking the golf course, hate the teeny-tiny master bathroom – in each home and are then sent off to make a decision about what house they should buy. In the final act of the show, the Realtor calls them with the happy news that they got their first choice and life is grand. There’s a brief epilogue where we see the cutie-pie couple living the high life in their new abode. So, let’s give this show a little reality check!

The opening sequence of most episodes introduces us to a new couple as they meet their Realtor and share their specs for the dream home they hope to purchase. The Realtor nods sweetly, makes a few notes, and then asks their budget. This is when I expect to hear the “Jaws” theme, because the budget very rarely meets their wish list. If they ever want to rename the show, a better moniker would be “House Hunter: Champagne Taste/Beer Budget.” REALITY: The above scenario is actually the truest thing about this show. I often meet with clients who have a wish list a mile long, but don’t have the funds to pay for it. The reality of working with a good real estate professional (and something the show does not often depict) is being able to have an honest discussion about what a client’s budget can truly buy in a given market. It’s not a fun discussion to have, but it’s an important one and the foundation for a true partnership between home buyers and their Realtors.

In Act Two, we find the trusty Realtor showing his/her clients three properties that might be of interest to them. None meet all the criteria of their home-buying wish list and most of the homes are above or very near the top of their budget. REALITY: I give the show a big thumb’s up for helping viewers understand that unless you’re building a custom-home, you’re not going to be able to check off each and every item on your wish list. In fact, I ask my clients to prioritize their wishes… Yes, I understand that you want an open floor plan, a gourmet kitchen, an expansive master suite and views of the water. But, give me your top two or three. What’s negotiable and non-negotiable? Because, if you tell me that you can’t live without a water view, I’m not going to waste our time showing you land-locked houses. So, props for the reality of an overindulgent wish list, but a big thumbs down for showing clients homes that are over their budget. If you take away one thing from today’s post, let it be this: be realistic and completely clear about your budget with your Realtor. Let them know how much you have to put down, how much you can comfortably afford each month and if you want to earmark any of your home-buying funds for future renovations. The absolute worst thing for all of us – Realtors and home-buyers alike – is to fall in love with a house you cannot afford. It’s unethical, unprofessional and unacceptable. Budgets are your friend and if your Realtor doesn’t agree, you need to find a new Realtor!

After walking through three homes, the couple retires to their favorite restaurant to discuss the pros and cons of each home and make their final decision. They call their Realtor who quickly writes up the offer and VOILA! They have a new home! REALITY: Three homes? Who are we kidding? Today’s home-buyers are smart and savvy. They do their homework and know what they want and don’t want. But, it’s their Realtors job to support them AND expand their search beyond just what they found on MLS. Plan to look at many homes in your new-home search and make notes. As you look at houses, you might decide that the outdoor kitchen you thought you couldn’t live without isn’t as important as the main level master suite you hadn’t thought of. Also, the process of bidding on a home is not as streamlined as what we see on the show. I get they’re working within a thirty minute window, but real-life clients need to be prepared for counter-offers, bidding wars and ultimately NOT getting the house they originally wanted. Fortunately, if you’re worked with me, you’ve seen more than three homes so you’re well positioned to recover from that setback and bid on another equally-delightful home!

There it is, friends… a down and dirty look at a show I love to watch and hate to live. Keep living in the REALITY of the here and now and give me a call. Although it might take more than thirty minutes and three houses, I am sure that we can find a perfect home that won’t break the bank for you and yours! Oh, and Happy Labor Day! I hope you have grand plans for this end-of-summer, backyard barbecuing weekend!

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