14 Weird things you learn watching House Hunters International

Like many of my friends, I'm somehow addicted to “House Hunters International.” As a travel writer who has lived in many foreign countries myself and visited about 100, I find the show even more relatable than most people do. But in some weird ways the show seems to exist in its own universe where different rules apply.

As a HHI fan who also has access to the internet, of course I've researched and read that the whole premise is fake. I realize that House Hunters are only asked to apply AFTER they have signed a lease or contract for a new place abroad, and that the two fake-out options are sometimes not even on the market. Still, I love the show and I wonder how many other people find some of the things below to be as odd as I do?

1 – All home prices are quoted in even US dollars, even when no Americans are involved

Obviously I know that this is an American production company and it's produced mostly for an American audience, even if it is also shown on obscure cable channels around the world. But still it feels odd to me when an Australian couple is renting an apartment in Brussels and the rents are all quoted in multiples of US$100 rather than in Euros or Australian Dollarydoos.

Most actual people really struggle with currency conversion rates, and yet there is never a scene where a House Hunter even blinks after hearing different prices in US dollars.

2 – They make it seem like anyone can legally move anywhere just because they feel like it

This one is more of a pet peeve rather than weird. About 75% of the House Hunters are being moved by their jobs, or are students, or one of them is originally from that country. But it seems that the other 25% of House Hunters explain that they just felt like moving to a new country for personal fulfillment or a change of pace. “I always wanted to live in Amsterdam so I'm finally doing it!,” they say.

As someone who has traveled and lived (as a tourist) in many places around the world, I can assure you that almost no country allows you to just move there because you want to. The best case scenario is you do a mountain of paperwork to prove that you have a fortune in the bank or are buying an expensive local property. But for most people you can't legally stay longer than 1 to 3 months, and you definitely can't get a local job. I can't help but think that House Hunters International inspires hundreds or thousands of viewers to follow their own dream of living abroad, only to eventually discover that it's impossible.

3 – House Hunters drastically overestimate how much they'll need an oven

Every American kitchen comes complete with an oven, so naturally it feels weird when an apartment in Thailand doesn't have one. It seems like nearly every House Hunter is aghast when they see this, and having an oven becomes a key dealbreaker. But no one ever seems to wonder why they don't have ovens in most Tropical countries.

As someone who has lived in Thailand for 6 months I can tell you that they don't sell many things there that you can cook in ovens such as cake mixes. And it's always so hot that the last thing anyone wants to do is roast a chicken and have to crank your A/C up to overdrive just to compensate. You can actually buy a cheaper chicken on the corner that is already roasted perfectly. Really, how often does any of us use an oven unless we are constantly baking cookies and such?

4 – Nearly every House Hunter thinks they need a guestroom, even though it's often a terrible idea

Having a guestroom is a luxury that all of us would like, but somehow nearly every House Hunter seems to think it's almost a necessity. I'm always baffled by couples with a budget of US$700 per month in a crowded city who would rather have a guestroom in a remote neighborhood rather than live without one in a far more desirable central neighborhood.

Two-bedroom apartments are always 30% or 40% more expensive than a one-bedroom in the same building, and if your budget is barely enough to scrape by, a guestroom should be way down your priority list. That's why they have hotels. Is it worth living in a distant neighborhood for 52 weeks a year just so your family can save a few bucks on a hotel for a week?

5 – It's nearly impossible to tell which house they actually chose

Considering the rigid format that every episode conforms to, I assumed that I'd eventually figure out how to tell which of the three places is chosen before the final segment. But somehow I struggle to guess with even 40% accuracy and none of my friends can do any better. On the rare occasion that the real estate person says they “might be able to negotiate the price down” I think that's usually the one they pick.

Aside from that it feels like tossing a three-sided coin every episode. I recently saw an episode where the third house seemed like it had all the best features of both of the first two, making it the perfect compromise, and yet it was eliminated first for some trivial reason that they barely touched on in the house tour. Has anyone else cracked the code so they know which one was picked?

6 – The producers seem to think that it's entertaining that every couple has wildly different preferences and that the real estate person should settle it

Most of my friends seem to enjoy watching House Hunters International just like I do, and they are all as frustrated as I am over the staged drama. HE wants to live in a penthouse with its own pool and SHE wants to live on a farm on the edge of humanity, and it's somehow up to the poor real estate person to mediate and find the perfect solution.

If I was the sort of person who screamed at my own TV I would shout, “Sort that out yourselves before punishing an agent by turning them into a marriage counselor!” But then I remember that it's all fake anyway, so it's just the premise that the producers insist upon for some reason.

7 – House Hunting parents assume that stairs are as dangerous as keeping a box of hand grenades sitting around

As a non-parent perhaps I should try to be more understanding on this, but are toddlers tumbling down staircases on their heads really as common as the House Hunters seem to fear? My informal calculation is that there are around one billion staircases in the world, and somehow Earth's toddlers have a pretty good survival record.

Even more baffling is when a parent points out a “very dangerous staircase” during the initial tour, and then they end up moving into that one anyway. My guess is that staircases are mostly just an obvious scapegoat for a home they didn't choose.

8 – House Hunters seem to make bigger sacrifices for dogs than they do for children

I've lived with dogs a few times in my life and one trait in them that I admire is that they are extremely easy to please as long as you spend time with them and feed them once in a while. Yet on House Hunters International it feels like most couples are more concerned with their dog's approval than anything else.

“I'd prefer the beautiful little house in the cool neighborhood, but Mr. Bananas prefers a slightly softer type of grass than it has, so I'll move to the run-down neighborhood with poor transport connections because the yard is slightly larger.”

And when a couple finds the perfect home with too-few bedrooms for their kids it's like, “They sell triple bunk beds around here, don't they?”

9 – No one moving internationally ever owns, or at least mentions, a cat

At the risk of opening the dogs vs. cats debate, isn't it weird that maybe one third of House Hunters move internationally with a hard-to-please dog, and no one ever mentions moving with a cat? It's obviously true that cats are easier to please when it comes to real estate choices, but you'd think that once in a while someone would mention how much their cat would enjoy looking out the big window out front? Or is this just me?

10 – They make the right choice 100% of the time

Just once I'd like to hear a final segment where one person says, “This neighborhood is even dumpier and more dangerous than I realized at first, but I gave in and we signed a lease so it is what it is.”

11 – Every House Hunter continues to be thrilled with the idea to change countries

As I mentioned, I've actually lived in many different countries and I know literally hundreds of expats in different places. At any given time probably a quarter of them are in the process of trying to move back home or somewhere else because living abroad is never as easy as shows like this make it look. And many others are really unhappy with the shit apartment they rented because they didn't know their way around yet. And somehow, literally 100% of House Hunters are gloriously happy and are sure they made the right move.

It's got to be in the contract that they sign before filming begins that they MUST report that they now have complete life satisfaction after the traumatic move to a strange land. If I was a conspiracy person I'd think the whole show is sponsored by the ‘Move To A Different Country Corporation.' Either that, or the producers have just decided that everybody loves a happy ending.

12 – Pregnant women don't get any more pregnant “Two months later”

My suspicion has always been that they film that final “X months later” sequence right after they film the house tours, leaving only enough time to put their belongings back in place. But I can't prove it, even though I've read many blog posts by people who have been on the show. Perhaps it's the part of their non-disclosure agreement that they take seriously?

For one thing, the weather almost never seems to change, even in places like Sweden where every two months it should look completely different. And pregnant women who appear to be about 7 months pregnant STILL appear to be about 7 months pregnant “Two months later” when they are all moved in. Does anyone else find this suspicious?

13 – Most people now say “price point” instead of price, asking price, or price range

When I went to business school in the 1980s the professors would use the term “price point” to describe dots on a supply and demand curve and that sort of thing. Somehow in the last 5 years or so, non-economists picked up on the term and they use it to mean a variety of different things. How the hell did this start?

Often people use price point when they really mean price range, which is just as easy to say and has a totally different meaning. “And what is your price point?” “Oh, we'd like to keep it between US$1,500 and US$1,800 if possible.”

14 – House Hunters who've just arrived in a new country have more parties than all the rest of us put together

When I first started watching the show I thought it was kind of funny how so many House Hunters put such emphasis on having a great place to entertain all their new friends, even before they've visited the supermarket for the first time. But sure enough, almost every episode for many years would end with the new residents surrounded by more friends than I've ever had at one time, sometimes even including the real estate agent.

Perhaps it got too complicated to wrangle all of the extras for those party shots because they seem to be few and far between lately. Still, one day I would love to be invited to a party even half as fun as the ones in those final sequences on House Hunters International.

Are there any other weird things that I missed about House Hunters International?



20 Responses to “14 Weird things you learn watching House Hunters International”

Adriana says:

From what Ive read about the show, to apply you need to have already bought the property and then,, the show will take you to see two other houses, and then you “pick”. Sometimes the two other houses they take you to are not even for sale. It makes sense because they are not going to risk sending a whole crew for you not to buy in the end. I just watch it to see properties around the world and how much they cost.

 
Sharrif Sayeedi says:

I emailed them to stop post them in US Dollars and use it for the country they’re travelling to, like UK people move to Australia using British pounds. Yet they don’t even bat an eye when hearing a price in US dollars. It drives me insane, I just want them to stop posting US dollars as a price and use it as a side price. I understand that TV shows don’t have to go into much detail, and can often be fictional, but they could at least do that to be more realistic.

 

    Sharrif,

    I agree that it’s annoying. It’s an American show and most of its viewers are American, but I still wish they would say their budget is “€1200 per month, which is about US$1,400” or something like that. It’s just weird. -Roger

     
Bill says:

I love and hate the show, The dogs or pets have a major voice in the places, the constant need for a Bathtub, “Suicide Kids” who will throw themselves off any balcony or down the stairs. People who move to a another country without any income or job and all of sudden will “Find” a job in that country. Its just too much at times to believe.

 

    Bill,

    Thanks for your comment. It’s good to know I’m not alone in these thoughts. I can’t stop watching the show, but I also can’t believe some of these things that are so common like the “suicide kids.” -Roger

     
Diane says:

You fail to mention the fact that all these people moving to different countries just assume all their families will afford to fly over to visit. Most don’t figure in ever returning to the U.S. for grand children, graduations, weddings or to spend any time with family at all. I moved to Florida from Ks for 18 mo. And in that time had to return twice for holiday’s and once to babysit for a week. Cost me about $1,000 eat time so I finally decided you can’t be a part of your families lives and live 1,500 miles away too. I gave up and moved back. Also all those idiots who think you can just meet I’ve and open a BnB…. I ran one here for 3 years and people and laws and low income make that a ridiculous choice to think you can depend on it for income to pay for some overpriced home. Thanks.

 

    Diane,

    Those are more great points. I can’t stop watching the show even though so many aspects of it are so unrealistic. And as you say (and I think I discussed in the article), it’s actually very rare that a person or family moves to a new country and stays there to live happily ever after. Almost everyone ends up leaving in a shorter time than they expected. -Roger

     
2Natasha Konti says:

I cannot understand why none moves to USA but everywhere else country. Is not it odd?

 

    2Natasha,

    There are many odd things about House Hunters International, but I think I understand this one. The show is made by an American production company and the whole point is to show “international” housing markets to Americans. They might have some foreign buyers on the normal House Hunters (domestic) show, but I rarely watch that one. Thanks for reading. -Roger

     
Adam Sandlet says:

When you move to a different country..you don’t know the city etc. You might stay in a motel for a couple of weeks until you have more understanding about the area. You rent a place for couple of months and after maybe you can find something better. You need a temporary rent to start with..

 

    Adam,

    Yes, that’s yet another unrealistic thing about the show, as if there weren’t already a long list of those. The whole premise that you can stay in a hotel for a few days and then decide from exactly three properties, and then move right into one of them, is absurd. -Roger

     
Jennifer says:

your piece is spot on! I especially like the point about the OVEN obsession of Americans. Buy a conventional toaster oven for sakes.
So I was watching yet another *Amsterdam* episode when I finally had enough of spoiled Americans complaining and critiquing almost room in every apartment or home they’re shown in Europe. It’s usually the “oh it’s so small” or there are stairs everywhere ( as if many people in America don’t live in two-story houses ) the oven, I can’t turn around in the bathroom and my favorite, “You call that a bedroom???” Doesn’t anyone brief them that homes are smaller and Europe before they go or is that all part of the put on by the producers to cause a bit of drama? I find it to be quite rude and insulting to the realtors. It just further drives the negative stereotype that many abroad have of Americans as spoiled over-consumers, etc. I guess the producers don’t care because it’s shown here only?

I was going to write to them and asked them to put on people that are more upbeat and easy-going and open-minded with regards to what comes with moving to a whole new country and what to expect and not be so rude sometimes too.

Change up the formula of the boring cheapskate and “adventurous” one. How about just a normal couple?
No you can rarely guess what they’re going to pick ….they purposely edit out things that would lead you to believe they were going to choose a certain one and that’s so annoying!
All that said I still do love the show because you get to see the prices abroad and tour foreign towns and cities for a bit!

 

    Jennifer,

    Thanks for the comment and it’s really fun to share notes with other people who can’t stop watching this show. One thing you mentioned that I didn’t put in the article is a great point, in that for some reason almost half the people on the show come across as jerks in one way or another. That would be understandable if it was a secret camera or something, but these segments are nearly scripted (according to those who’ve been on it). And I agree that it’s the Europe shows that are the worst. Usually Americans (but not always) say it’s their dream to move to Paris, and then complain about the room sizes and the kitchens and the lack of oven and the lack of a dryer and everything else, often in the home that they chose before they even applied to be on the show. Who would agree to be a house hunter who comes across as an idiot that clearly shouldn’t have left the US?

    All of that said, I still watch almost every episode on my DVR, although I often skip the ones set in Australia because everything usually looks just like the US. -Roger

     
Jennifer says:

Me and my daughter too! We always skip Australia..
we say that’s the closest lifestyle/house type to America..

Laughing so hard at last sentence of first paragraph. One more
thing to add to the scripted shows…the stiff, cringe-worthy and super
obviously staged acting during the which one should we choose ending.
Also, you probably already picked up on this…95% of the time after the first choice is eliminated, they will end up going with the second one that they talk about out of the remaining two!!

 
AU says:

It’s great that there are some in-depth observations here, but there seems to be a level of frustration that the show is not authentic. I have to disagree. Many of the episodes are very similar to real life scenarios for people moving from the US to another country. Yes, the premises of the show is to show US Citizens becoming expats. Explains the pricing in US dollars and the reason no people are moving to the US. The show is designed to entertain and that is why you all are reading this. Just enjoy and suspend reality for a short while

 
Karen says:

Hilarious article and comments–spot on! In my experience (“Ballet in Lausanne”) the reactions are real, if a bit overemphasized. Trust me, it’s not easy to discuss places without seeming nit-picky and boring (“yep, it’s a floor…” “it’s smaller than I’d hoped”). If everything is fine, there’s no basis for comparison. Also, they film for 5 solid days and edit it down to 20 minutes, so everything that doesn’t move the episode along is chopped. No time for nuance, unfortunately.
And yes, “two months later” is the same week. They move all your stuff out (or cram it into the third bedroom ;-)) in the AM, and put it all back at the end of the day. Whee?
Re: glossing over the bad parts: I’m happy with our apartment, even though it’s not what I had hoped for. A year later, we love it here and have no plans to return to the U.S. unless something drastic changes.

 

    Karen,

    Thanks for the kind words and for chiming in with more information! I was pretty sure those “months later” shots were all done around the same time, partly because it always looks like it and also it would cost a LOT more to get a whole crew back there for another day or two. However, I recently saw an episode where the people bought a house that needed a whole new kitchen (according to them) and the “6 months later” shot actually showed the new kitchen. It might have been one of the many Puerto Vallarta episodes. And it makes sense that they might just move your stuff around to get the needed few shots of an empty room like that.

    I’ve read a few expat blogs where people described the filming process and I can imagine how challenging it must be for the renters or buyers. The one thing that still puzzles me is that a few people agree to be on the show and most of their comments are, “Why is this apartment in central Paris so much smaller than my house in rural Ohio?” And “how can these people live like savages like this, without a walk-in refrigerator?” Since they’ve already rented or bought a place there you’d think they would know how comments like that would come across.

    I’m glad you are enjoying your place in Lausanne and I assume that the majority of people are being honest when they say the same. But you’ve got to admit that it seems a little suspicious that everyone is gloriously happy with their exact choice? Again, I assume the producers just prefer a happy ending. -Roger

     
Jessica says:

I can’t seem to stop watching it even though it drives me crazy. It seems no one did any research about what is normal for homes in the country they are moving to. So many people are shocked the homes are so much smaller than their giant house in the USA.

As a parent of three children I’m amazed at how many parents will pick a smaller house that they don’t really like just because it has a bathtub. It is so ridiculous to me. Like its impossible to bathe a child without a bathtub.

I feel bad for almost the real estate agents. Its amazing to me how these couples wish lists can be so wildly different. One couple says the budget is $900 the other says well actually I think $1200 would be okay. One wants downtown one wants suburbs.

 

    Jessica,

    I agree on all of those points, and that I can’t stop watching. The show is addictive even though the producers do all of these things that make the viewers crazy. -Roger

     

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