Reality Bites: House Hunters International

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Of all the programs I've written about in this weekly exercise in masochism, I think I've seen more episodes of House Hunters and House Hunters International than anything other than COPS and Cheaters. And this is solely because my wife is obsessed with it. I blame the Downton Abbey hiatus and the fact she doesn't like watching baseball, coupled with what I suspect is a not-so-subtle desire to move overseas.

Then again, living in the state that elected Ted Cruz to the Senate has me coming around to her way of thinking.

Watching HHI, you can count on one of two things happening. First: one person will be so set in his American ways his expectations for what's available in, say, Strasbourg or Taiwan will border on the ridiculous: a 2,000 square foot apartment in the city center, or a garden bathtub, or an ice maker. This behavior should send his other half into a divorcing rage, but rarely does. "Let's keep looking, honey. I'm sure we can find a converted 19th century cottage with an attached two-car garage," said while the resident real estate agent grinds her teeth into powder.

Second: the budgets these people have to work with are usually laughable, either because they're wanting to spend far less money than their demands warrant, or because they have so much to spend it wouldn't make any difference what house they chose. These latter types are the ones I'd like to feed into a wood chipper, but are generally restricted to the domestic version of the show, so more on them later.

One thing I'll say about the show is it can be fairly eye-opening. Europeans, especially, put up with a lot less living space and a lot more carpet in their bathrooms (bleagh). This was certainly the case in "Lovestruck in Weymouth," one of The Episodes I Watched. Heather, from Australia's Gold Coast, moves to Weymouth on the southwest coast of England for Craig, a fisherman dude she met at - I think - a rodeo. Oh, those decadent Antipodeans.

Actually, this brought up a third thing that sometimes happens: namely, the guy considers moving far away from his work so his lady can have the space she wants. Many of Heather and Craig's choices, admittedly, are hampered by the fact that Craig is roughly 12 feet tall (especially the 17th century cottage built for 17th century English dudes). Unlike in another episode I saw, where the wife (who didn't work) convinced her husband to get a house in the mountains some 90 minutes from his job (I think they were in Costa Rica), Heather and Craig opt for the house a mere three minutes' walk from his boat. Well done, and don't worry about those rising ocean levels, kids.

Just for grins, I watched the episode of regular (read: domestic) House Hunters that followed. I should point out there are seven(!) spin-offs of the original show, including the previously discussed International version, On Vacation (for people unable to use the Internet), and Renovations (for those looking for a unique fixer-upper opportunity). There's also Million Dollar Homes and Island Hunters, which are HGTV's way of pointing and laughing as you sit on your 12-year old futon and eat frozen pizza while your ill-behaved brood fling dirty diapers across your two-bedroom apartment.

Anyway, in "Bigger is Better in Minneapolis," a newlywed couple is looking to move out of their one-bedroom apartment in Minneapolis into a larger house in the 'burbs. Unsurprisingly, this brought up the aforementioned issue I often have with the American version of this show: the ridiculous budgets. Lindsay and Ryan have a paltry $525,000 to buy a house in the *suburbs*.

Fine, she's a manager or something, but he's apparently a mere sales rep. Either they're really pushing the envelope on that "what you can afford to spend" formula, or I've significantly misjudged the desirability of living in near Siberian conditions. To further emphasize the differences between domestic and foreign priorities, childless Lindsay and Ryan argue about whether or not they need more than 4,000 square feet (here's your answer: only the Duggars need more than 4,000 square feet). Oh, and Ryan wants a three-car garage.

I emphasize with Lindsay's reluctance, not just because Ryan is a hugely passive-aggressive pain in the ass, but because she does show some hesitance maxing out their mortgage (this was shot post-2008, wasn't it?). In the end, it doesn't matter, and they end up going with the nearly 5,000 square foot behemoth, complete with space in the cavernous garage for Ryan's beloved snowmobile.

Way to stand your ground Lindsay, now that you caved on the square footage, the door's open for anything: pot-bellied pigs, indoor bowling alleys, fetish drungeons. The possibilities limited only by your husband's burgeoning perversity, which has been dangerously inflamed by your inability to set limits.

... It's possible I'm reading to much into this. Still, 5,000 square feet is a big freaking house.

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