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?
OCTOBER, 2018 EDIT: I have now figured out how to eliminate many contenders and sometimes actually guess the right property before the final segment! I'll add that segment to the bottom of this article.
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?
BONUS – How to sometimes predict which house they've chosen before the final reveal
Based on a comment left under this very article and a bit of additional internet sleuthing, I have cracked the code at least in some cases. Here is what to look for:
It's important to realize that in almost all cases the House Hunters are actually LIVING in their house before filming begins, and that they empty it out to some degree for the segment when they are supposed to be first seeing it. Evidently the producers help them move their personal belongings out of the place, although in some cases they might actually just be moving it around within the house as they are filming. They only film one room at a time so it might be easiest for them to just ask the House Hunters to put their personal stuff in boxes and then just move those boxes to rooms that aren't being filmed at the moment.
So with that in mind you can actually eliminate many of the contenders with confidence. For example:
- If they are looking for a furnished place and are shown an unfurnished place then it's not the one. There is no way the producers are going to remove ALL of their furniture when they don't have to.
- If a place appears to be lived in by someone else during the showing (clothes in the closet, baby toys, farm animals in the back garden etc.) then it's not the one. It's true that many apartments are shown to potential tenants before the previous tenants have moved out, but in this case the House Hunters ARE the current tenants so you'll never see anyone else's stuff.
- If a place is missing something major like a refrigerator or even the whole kitchen (which is the way rentals in Germany are offered) then it's not the one. There's no way the producers would remove a refrigerator or whole kitchen just to match the way they might have seen it originally.
Even when none of the above situations are true you can sometimes figure out which place they picked or at least eliminate one of the contenders. Just consider that they (almost certainly) already live in one of the places and consider how much work they would have to put in to make it look like they didn't. Any property that looks like it would be a HUGE project to make it look empty is probably not the one.
Any other theories?