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?

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All Comments

  1. Monika says:

    Hi Roger,
    Thanks for your reply!
    I had to smile when I read why you often don’t have the opportunity to practice the local language. Well – I felt caught. Sometimes I act just the way you describe it. Shame on me:-(!
    Talking about HHI: A couple of weeks ago I found a kind of extension of HHI, unfortunately
    I don’t know the English title. Could be something like “HHI renovations”, “HHI fixer upper” or so on. They move as well to foreign countries, but buy a property and always renovate it. Do you watch this as well? I like the before and after comparisons and I like to follow the creative ways they turn a shabby housing into a comfortable home. I’m wondering how
    they manage the furniture/household thing, because they never talk about the (costly) relocation of their stuff. The timeline is an other question mark for me. I can hardly believe that e.g. a complete reno of an appt in a city center takes just three to six months.
    Off topic: Yesterday I came – following a link of a link of a link . . . – straight to your “14 weird things”-article. Today I went for a stroll through your other pages and I like it. Your suggestions are competent and helpful and your answers respectful and kind.
    Can it be that there is no “insider tips-corner” (or something like that) or did I miss it?

    1. Roger Wade says:


      As for responding in English when someone speaks to you in German, I’d say at least 99% of the time it’s much appreciated so don’t stop. Partly for the reasons I mentioned, very few English speakers are actually trying to practice their German, so almost everyone will be relieved to hear you speaking in English. I was once able to practice German with a young Turkish guy working at a kebab stand in Berlin because he hadn’t been there long enough to learn much English.

      I’ve seen the HHI Renovations show in the listings, but I haven’t watched it yet. Now that you mention it, I’ll make a point to check it out because I also enjoy the (seemingly infinite number of) renovation shows on US television these days.

      Do you remember the link where you found my article? I wrote it just for laughs because I enjoy the show so much, and it’s fun to see that at least a few people have found it and read it.

      I appreciate your remarks about the rest of my site, as that is essentially my real full-time job. And I actually get more questions about Switzerland than any other country, probably because it’s so confusing at first. It’s natural to assume that you should start by exploring Zurich, so it can feel odd when people tell you to skip it instead. I don’t actually have areas for “insider tips” except in the comments themselves. But if you are interested in writing about Switzerland or helping in any way, that would be fantastic. My own experience and research can only get me so far, and I’m sure there are many wonderful places that I’m not yet aware of. Thanks again for the comments. -Roger

  2. Monika says:

    I’m living in the German speaking part of Switzerland, near Zurich, and I’m watching “House Hunters” for about 8 months by now. (They show it on a commercial German TV channel). I enjoyed your “14 weird things” very much and agree with all of them. Looking at the show from a Swiss point of view I must admit that it really doesn’t upgrade the image of US citizens (talking about clichés such as US Americas are not opend minded, rather superficial etc.). There are two more points you might add to your list. 1st: Why does American couples nearly always need two sinks in the bathroom? Here in Switzerland this is just not standard, even not in family appts.
    2nd (but even more important): Why they usually don’t even have a basic knowledge of the national language of the country they are moving to? How will they get to know the people and and the culture on a deeper level than a Japanese tourist without showing a serious interest in the national language? Any ideas?
    Kind regards from Switzerland

    1. Roger Wade says:


      Thanks for the reply and you make some great points. As for the sink thing, I can tell you that the vast majority of houses and larger apartments in the US built in the last 50 years or so have “dual vanities” in the master bathroom. So most people here are just used to it. Women here in particular are used to spreading their bathroom supplies out and spending 10 to 20 minutes (or longer) getting ready to go out, or taking off makeup at the end of the day. When you never have to wait your turn, the idea of having to wait for your partner to finish and have their things in your area feels like a step down. I’ve lived in Europe and Asia so I’ve seen that it’s mostly a US thing, but I will admit that it’s nice if you’ve got the room and the money.

      As for the language thing, in some episodes you see people saying they are taking lessons or trying to learn, but you are right that those are rare. My hunch is that more people actually try to learn the language and it just doesn’t make it into the episode. Also I’m sure that many partners of people who were moved by their US companies are coming somewhat grudgingly, and they probably plan on staying within the expat communities. That isolates newcomers, of course, but it’s possible to do. And if you will only be there for 1 to 3 years it may feel overwhelming to try to become fluent in the local language and then leave again shortly after.

      There’s another aspect to it, for better or worse, for English-language speakers. In a way it’s sad, but pretty much everywhere we go we can find people anxious to speak English with us, sometimes just as practice. And when we DO attempt to practice the local language ourselves, almost every time the other person will instantly detect our English-language accent and then switch the conversation into English to help move things along. I actually studied German for 4 years in high school and I try to keep my skills up if I can, but whenever I try to speak German in Germany or Switzerland or Austria, I get my answer back in English. It’s frustrating and it makes actually becoming fluent in German very difficult. My American brother speaks fluent German because he’s lived in Germany for about 20 years now. I hope that helps answer it a bit. -Roger

  3. Eilene says:

    Like so many others, I enjoy the show, mostly because I like seeing how people live in other countries, but find myself Yelling at the TV over things like…”I couldn’t live with that color!” (ever hear of PAINT?) or – “the kitchen is too small” (I’ve lived with a 6X9 kitchen for 55 years and yes, two of us COULD work in it at the same time), or how about the person who HAS to have a gas stove? Or an ‘American’ kitchen (HELLO, you’re moving to ANOTHER COUNTRY!). EVERYbody seems to expect to do LOTS of entertaining and of course there are those hordes of expected house guests to consider. But my biggest pet peeve OF all… wifey claims the huge walk-in closet (which still probably won’t be big enough for her needs), if he’s lucky, hubby can have the broom closet in the hall! I suppose if you’ve got the means to make such a change, you can afford to be picky but whatever happened to being grateful for what you get/have and putting your ingenuity to work?

  4. Pam Latham says:

    I’ve been watching it for a couple of days.Its mostly about the dogs liking the house,the kids liking the house,a whining wife or ugly granite..I should feel better since Ive discovered it’s fake,but I don’t.Every show seems like an ungrateful person worse than the one before.

  5. Margaret says:

    I’m American and enjoyed this blog and share many of the sentiments here. I have lived and worked abroad and am also dismayed at how ignorant and entitled the people on HHI are. This is a distorted view of Americans. Housing prices in America have skyrocketed in metropolitan areas, yet the show always has Americans expecting a palace in central (name your major city) for $1000 US a month or less! The average 1 bedroom apartment in the San Francisco area is $3000 US a month, and it will be a crap apartment. Yet in the show, Americans will sneer at a perfectly fine place in Europe, that is overall much more than they could afford in America, for $800 a month! And I just have to get this off my chest – people on the show rejecting nice places for trivial reasons like they don’t like the light fixtures! I assure you any American in a competitive rental market in America would never make such complaints – they would simply change out the light fixtures. Watching this show, you would think all Americans rent apartments that are decked out like something from Architectural Digest. Oh, and one other pet peeve – the obsession with dishwashers. Most people, and I include rich people, do not run a dishwasher after every meal. If there are just a few dishes, it is far faster and better for the environment, to wash them by hand. It just kills me when there is a single person, or a couple with one person who doesn’t work, and they insist they can’t survive without a dishwasher! I make six figures US and hardly ever use my dishwasher!

  6. Valerie says:

    Hi I actually tried to contact the shower to make comments but doesn’t seem to have any wire that you can actually give them comments I don’t get annoyed that they seem to make out that anybody can just go and move to another country which they obviously can’t I want to move to Spain and I’m English and I still have to go through all the procedure I just watched a episode of in London and are they apartments were $2700 when one really thinks about it that is so cheap for London my son is living in an apartment smaller than the ones that they were showing on the show for the same price and he lives in Miami I sometimes wonder when they show these apartments how realistic are they.

  7. Edna says:

    Love the show even though it’s staged (better word than fake). There is an episode where two girls moved to Finland with three cats. On every show I look to see if the places they tour would work for my cats.

  8. Sonia says:

    I love the show even though I don’t care about the participants too much. They have an obsession with ovens, dishwashers and everyone needs a tub because they take long baths after work. I have two tubs and honestly have never taken a bath. I really like it because of the scenic photography and usually I Google the location and learn about it. It is a nice geography class. Americans should need to complain because they are presented as spoiled and rude travelers.

  9. Michelle says:

    We have applied and have a cat. She was a big consideration in which apartment to choose. We weren’t sure if we would move her over but we wanted the option to do so if we thought it was suitable. We just started the process to move her. If we get on the show, I wonder if it will make the cut lol. Though I did google that other people had cats, I am just not sure if they moved them. I haven’t seen the episode. There may have been one where they gave away their cats and moved their dog.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      Wow, I hope you get chosen. I’ve watched at least 300 episodes and I’ve maybe seen one cat or I might just be imagining that. Keep us posted if you get the call. -Roger

  10. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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