House Hunters International

Some weeks I try to solve the mysteries of the world, digest what’s bothering me, or use this as a cathartic device for venting about injustices out of my control.

This is not one of those times.

My wife Claire loves to watch HG-TV, which sucks on a number of levels. Not only does it invent potential home projects (we should re-do all the cabinets in the house!) and waste valuable TV time (it’s like she doesn’t even know that Starship Troopers is on again!), but also…it’s stupid.

That said, there is one show that I actually enjoy, and that’s House Hunters International. It’s pretty straightforward: People (typically couples) look at different houses in exotic locations in the hopes of finding a vacation home to purchase. No offense to Tel-Aviv, Paris, Italy, etc., but I only watch the ones that take place in exotic, tropical locations. It’s amazing to watch.

Unfortunately, it’s still far from a perfect show, mostly because of four recurring issues that will not die. These are my House Hunter International pet peeves.

Locked In

I get that some people might like it for unique reasons that truly are important. For instance, the couple I’m watching now got married in Thailand, have family in Thailand, and visit (from England) every year. I think that’s a great reason to have a second home in Thailand. Unfortunately, this is what you typically get:

“My husband/wife and I visited Costa Rica years ago and just fell in love with it. Now we’d like to purchase a vacation home here.”

Hey, that’s terrific. But if they were to move up the coast to Nicaragua, you could get a similar place for about a third of the cost. Don’t believe me—compare Costa Rica listings with Nicaragua listings for yourself.

I am certainly trying not to suggest that Costa Rica and Nicaragua are identical countries—far from it. But, when it comes to the perspective of some couple from Wisconsin looking for a few weeks out of the year in a tropical setting…yeah, they’re basically the same. Same goes for the countless islands in the Caribbean – if you’re trying to find a secluded area with a great beach, you shouldn’t limit yourself to a single part of one country where you had spring break fifteen years ago.

Watch the Budget

Now that we’ve mentioned the money issue, let’s focus on that for a second. Occasionally you’ll get the couple on House Hunters International who is filthy rich and looking for a place for around $2 million. Those episodes are fantastic because you get to see amazing houses AND spoiled people bitch about minor details.

Unfortunately, more often than not you get the other end of the spectrum, where people have a budget of $200,000 – $250,000. This could be fine (once a couple had a budget of <$100K and were thrilled with a charming shack on the beach), but unfortunately, this is what you typically get:

“We know we don’t have a large budget, but IDEALLY we’re looking for a house close to the beach…with a pool…and three to four bedrooms…and close to the city.”

This seems reasonable, but once they actually start looking for houses, those “ideal” features become expected. And they’re shocked when they can’t find what they’re looking for. Shocking.

On the other side, sometimes you have people who are too concerned about the budget. I know that seems ridiculous—let me explain. Yesterday, I’m watching this episode in Fiji. On this particular show, the featured homebuyer is a bonafide crazy person **insert topical Charlie Sheen reference here** with ridiculously specific tastes. In it, she had a budget for $500,000 (from her parents, of course) and found her absolute dream house…for $525,000. She spent the last part of the show complaining about how worried she was about it.

Ummm…it’s $25,000 on a half-million dollar house.

1) The sellers will probably be willing to negotiate

2) If you’re so concerned about your budget that you can’t go a fraction over for a second home in Fiji, MAYBE you should either lower your budget or lower your expectations.

Party Central

This problem might stem from my lack of understanding when it comes to the upper class. Again, some couples are sensible, but this is what you typically get:

“Ooooh, this area will be great for entertaining!”

Seriously, this happens ALL THE TIME. If you watch House Hunters International, you’d think that every couple is constantly hosting extravagant dinner parties.

Obviously, this can be quaint, but it becomes a problem when it affects what kind of house these people buy. When couples start turning down houses because they “only have three bedrooms” and there wouldn’t be enough room for guests, now you’re being ridiculous. While it’s a great idea, it’s still a couple of thousand dollar roundtrip plane tickets per couple, and they would have to vacation with you every year. It’s an awful lot to ask, especially when it comes to determining the type of house you purchase.

Won’t Someone Think of the Children?!

This one happens more frequently than I would like:

“We love the house—it’s everything we’re looking for. But…I’m just not sure how safe it would be for the kids.”

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should acknowledge that I don’t have kids. However, even if I did, I think I would still think this has to be one of the stupidest things to consider when you’re buying a vacation home. Seriously, what the hell? I swear some of these people are just saying this because they think it makes them look like good parents. It actually makes them look like idiots.

Look, your kids are going to be there for about a month out of the year (at the most). Furthermore, those oh-so-important concerns about child safety? Yeah, they’ll be irrelevant in about three years when your kids grow up. And that decision determined what vacation home you’ll most likely own the rest of your life. Smart move.

Now, shut up and show me another picture of that beachfront property!