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Judging A Generation Of Home Buyers Based On TV Shows like ‘House Hunters’

October 13, 2010 · 67 comments

in Home & Garden, Personal Finance

I was reading a post over at Lenpenzo.com last week about his kitchen remodel, and I especially enjoyed it for two reasons:

  1. We recently remodeled our kitchen ourselves, so I could identify with his experiences.
  2. Len confessed that he wasn’t really paying attention to his wife when she requested the remodel expand into the bathroom based on some leftover granite they had from the kitchen.  Part of the reason for the distraction?  Len was watching the show ‘House Hunters’ on TV.  He literally paid the price for not listening!  I really appreciated his honesty here; not only did he admit to not paying attention to his wife, but he admitted it was over a tv show.

I am a big fan of shows like House Hunters and Property Virgins. (Although I hate that name by the way.  The host has to obnoxiously scream ‘VIRGIN’ at least 5 times each episode.)  For those who don’t know the premise of these home shows, a real estate agent shows three properties to a prospective home buyer.  At the end of the show, the buyer usually picks one of the three homes, the deal always go through, and everyone claps and is happy.  Oh, and the house is always perfectly decorated 2 months later when the crew comes back to check to see how everything is going.

Usually, the people looking for a home on these shows are young and recently out of college.  Often times, their expectations are completely unrealistic.  One woman in her early 20s wanted to live on the ocean in California for $220,000.  Shockingly, she couldn’t find a home that fit her budget – go figure.  So, she was forced to look at condos that were about 30 minutes away from the beach.  (Waaah!)

I laugh when I watch these programs.  Many of these home buyers are so clueless, I just crack up.    One episode I watched recently showed a house that was 2400 square feet, but the paint colors weren’t right, and the buyer was whining about this and that.  Guess what?  2400 square feet of house is too much for anyone just out of college!  My gosh, we had to live in an apartment for 2 years to save up money for a down payment on our little 1,000 sq ft ranch that only had one bathroom.  (Gasp!)

So where do these ‘kids’ get these expectations from?  Were they raised in a house worthy of Teen Cribs?  How do they have all this money?  Where did these high standards come from?  The attitude of some of these people makes me want to smack them through the tv.  I guess I was raised more modestly, which is a good thing because I am generally happy with whatever my surroundings are.

I know the home buyers on these shows are a small slice of people that are actually in the housing market.  However, based on the people portrayed, most young people can afford a house over $300,000 that is move-in ready.  I always think of friends and family from previous generations that lived in a 1200 sq. ft house their whole lives and had only one bathroom.  Now, these young’uns must have a master suite with a walk in closet.  How come what was good enough for generations previous isn’t good enough for young people today?  Are kids getting more and more indulged with each generation?  I can just hear my grandma saying “why do they need all that space.  That is just a waste”, and I agree.

Have you ever watched these shows and thought “What are these kids thinking?”   Or “I must have chosen the wrong career?”

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle October 13, 2010 at 7:44 am

My favorite is when they gripe about paint colors in the place they’re looking at and knock it down on their ‘list’. Don’t they realize how easy and low cost it is to paint a room?


Kris October 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Oh I know- the same is true for carpet. Just tear out the carpet, paint the walls, and it is like a new house. However, I think some people can innately ‘see’ it, and others cannot.


Nicole October 13, 2010 at 8:05 am

One of the benefits of not having a TV is finding out about these kinds of shows on the internet. (I also am pleased not to watch Jersey Shore, which even my students have told me about.) A lot of undergrads aren’t very realistic, but I do wish more of these reality shows were like Supernanny or the Gail Vaz-Oxlade. This house hunters sounds like it needs a sit down and reality check component. What’s your down-payment? Is it 20%? What’s your income? Are the payments under X% of that? When are you planning on moving? Might you need to move for your job? Is renting or buying most appropriate? Can you afford a 15 year mortgage? Do you need the additional flexibility of a 30 year? What do you do when your agent or mortgage broker tries to scam you? Etc. Then it might be satisfying like listening to Suzie Orman tell people you can’t afford to buy that.


Kris October 13, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Nicole – you didn’t expect a FINANCIAL lesson on tv, did you? Come on- figuring out how to pay for it is BORING.

By the way, I have never watching Jersey Shore in my life, and that Snooki just scares me. What do people see in her anyway? I guess I would have to watch Jersey Shore to find out, and it just isn’t worth it.


Nicole October 13, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Is Snooki the short one? I saw a picture on Punch Debt in the Face’s blog and they all looked alike except the short one.


Everyday Tips October 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I think a Snooki is short and has dark, straight hair. I don’t know if she is short compared to the others because I have not seen a picture of the cast.


The Biz of Life October 13, 2010 at 8:09 am

I have to admit I’ve never watched any of these shows, but these unrealistic expectations might explain why foreclosures are so high. Sounds like they need a guy like Larry Winget to give them some financial coaching and set realistic expectations. I think all these shows focused on celebs and millionaires have caused brain damage to a lot of people…… everyone under 30 thinks they need a pimped out crib. 🙂


Kris October 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Biz – I do think the media has presented a skewed view of reality. However, I think Americans in general have done a good job of it too. Whenever I look at all the new house that are built and everything, they are all mammoth. Like the only option if you want a new house is 3000+ square feet.

I just read that 120,000 foreclosures are occurring a month, and that we probably are not at the bottom. Do these youngsters think they are immune? Probably not, because I think people may age think they can afford more than they can too.


Olga October 13, 2010 at 9:40 am

Just last night a young couple had been approved for $500k house…even my son asks what in the world do they do right out of college? Totally gives wrong impression. And the demands on footage and bathrooms and garage and so on…oh, my. We do entertain ourselves for an hour every other night watching it. Very mindless show and a good laugh.


Kris October 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Olga – I do like the mindlessness of it to, and kind of the wonder. Meaning ‘I wonder how in the world they can afford that’? 500,000?? Yikes! What will they do with all that space? I can only predict where they will be in 5 years…


Pete October 13, 2010 at 9:43 am

I’ll admit to watching these shows on occasion, and it’s amazing to me how clueless so many of these people are, and how much they overspend on their homes. It always ends up with the couple finding a house that is at the top or just over their price range, the wife or husband falling in love with it, and then finally them buying a house that they can’t afford. It just makes my blood boil too when the agents push people into buying homes they can’t afford. They should do follow up shows 2 years later when the couple is unhappy living in a home they can’t afford, on the verge of foreclosure.


Kris October 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I completely agree on the allure of a follow up show, although it would probably be incredibly depressing. Maybe Dave Ramsey should spearhead that show…


Len Penzo October 13, 2010 at 9:57 am

My biggest pet peeve is actually with the real estate agents – not the buyers. The buyers will tell their RE that they have a budget of $250,000 and are interested in a 3 bed 2 bath house with a pool in the north part of town. What does the RE show them? Lots of four and five bed homes in the south part of town that all cost close to $300,000. And no pool.

The best part is that the buyers end up purchasing one of those houses even though it isn’t even what they wanted in the first place. LOL

All the best,

Len Penzo dot Com


Kris October 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Those agents do bug me. The other night, on a Property VIRGINS rerun, the couple said they had a 6,000 down payment. The hostess said ‘ok, so you are looking in the 200,000 range’. What???? (I think that was the numbers, I can’t remember exactly.) Anyway, it was nowhere near 20 percent, or even 10 percent.

I remember when the agents tried to steer us in the high range also, but we fought it, and bought much less. However, many are just swept away, hence our problem today.


etinca October 13, 2010 at 10:41 am

LOL – I’m in my upper 50’s & we still live in a 1200 foot home with one bath by choice. It’s fully paid for, and since our 2nd bedroom is just used occasionally as a guest room & mainly for off-season storage, why would we move into something bigger? Also, I never understood the giant master suite, as all I do in the bedroom when not in bed is get dressed.

And Len, I’ve had the exact experience in the past with almost every real estate agent I’ve dealt with (& car salesmen, for that matter). Showing the higher list-cost houses, I can kind of see, as I would be willing to try to get them to reduce the price if I liked the house; but larger size, wrong area of town, etc? Makes no sense.


Kris October 13, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I also chuckle when the couples squeal over the giant bedroom. I want to fit my king size bed and a dresser, that is all I need. Don’t forget all the draperies you will want hanging all over the bed too. Oh wait, that is a design show…


Money Reasons October 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm

That’s one of my biggest complaints against those types of TV shows. They cherry pick couples that have the income to enable them to buy the big houses. This in turn, give people a false sense of what is normal. So the viewer then in turn goes out and tries to find something similar, but can so they go in massive debt. It’s like telling kids it’s okay to smoke, everybody is doing it… Bad shows, BAD!!! Unfortunately, also entertaining 🙁


Kris October 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Very true ‘also entertaining’. I don’t think these couples truly can afford it. They are just going along and doing what people tell them they can afford. As soon as the wife/girlfriend falls in love with the house, it is all over!

I wish they did work some financial common sense into these shows. But then it might not be as ‘fun’ for some I guess.


Money Reasons October 13, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Sad huh… Let’s ruin some young couple’s life just to make the show more entertaining…

Talk about exploitation!


Invest It Wisely October 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm

That is how you get trapped into the rat race. I personally don’t see the point in paying so much for a big space that you might not even use, either. Were prices to come down significantly more then maybe I could see the advantage, but going into more and more debt to keep up an expensive lifestyle? The tradeoff is too much for me.


Kris October 13, 2010 at 1:53 pm

But Kevin, you saved ahead of time for a reasonably sized condo, what were you thinking? How boring… 🙂

You are right, many of these people will be trapped, or we will be bailing them out.


thisisbeth October 13, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I quit watching those shows after I bought my house. I watched them to get an idea of the process, and even then, I was often dumb-founded by the things people found important. It completely reminds me of things my generation “needs” NOW that our parents didn’t get until they were quite a bit older.


Kris October 13, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Beth – I do not understand why my generation has to have the biggest and the best, like it is entitlement. I have no problem with people buying what they want, as long as they can afford it.

I think we bought our first house for 96,000. Definitely not 400,000 like you see a lot of these youngsters buying!


Sandy E. October 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm

@at Len, re your pet peeve — part of the reason why realtors show clients houses that don’t meet their stated requests, and seem to even ignore them, is because the realtors are taking them to the houses that Their agency has listed for sale first! That way they can tell the sellers of those houses, “oh yes, I have prospective buyers.” In addition, they don’t have to split the commissions with another agent from another company. It’s frustrating, aggravating and a waste of your time, but so long as they get your signature at the houses you viewed, then it makes them look good with the sellers that they have listings for.


Squirrelers October 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I actually get a kick out of House Hunters, though I haven’t seen the other one. Actually, at one time we got on a run of watching HH, but life has gotten too busy of late. Maybe blogging has taken up that time:)

It’s really interesting to me how home purchases are not thought out rationally and logically, but emotionally to a large extent. This plays out in some House Hunters episodes. People get attached to these structures, and don’t realize that the could make their lives easier by buying what they need rather than what they want, if working under a modest budget. I’m not a fan of stretching to buy a house. Another topic for another day, I suppose!


Kris October 13, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Squirreler- It is a very emotional process for many. I think my current house was emotional. I saw the backyard with a hill and an open area, and I didn’t even care about the house. I could just picture my 3 kids running around and sledding, and that was all that mattered. (It didn’t have granite countertops by any means, and there was plenty of linoleum. But it did have a lot of grass.)

I got hooked on these types a shows a few years ago when I blew out my knee and was forced to sit on the couch with my leg in this contraption for 12 hours a day. That was back when ‘Trading Spaces’ and such were popular. I have been watching home shows ever since.


Sandy L October 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Since I have had a lifetime of fixer uppers, I do like watching the shows. I get a kick out of the people who have no vision whatsoever.

I think the key is the ads that say “brought to you by the Home Depot or Lowes” Of course home improvement stores want people to believe that big homes are the Norm because then there’s more house to fix up and upgrade.

I still like the shoes and I still spend loads of money fixing them up, so I guess I’m who they’re targeting.


Kris October 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Sandy, I had to laugh at first because your comment said you still like the ‘shoes’. I was then wondering if your comment was for this post, and I am glad you still like shoes. (I prefer sandals… 🙂 )

I wish, wish, wish I had the skill to demolish and remodel. I can pick things out, I just can’t put them together. Did you like fixing-upping? We had a major remodel 2 years ago, and it was kind of fun, although going without a kitchen did get old…


Margie November 4, 2010 at 8:12 pm

My husband and I went to the Home Depot to look at some formica or similar type countertops for our kitchen. The man that waited on us made the statement that he was surprised that we wanted that kind of countertop. He said that most people want to upgrade to granite or something similar. He seemed to be looking down his nose at us. Needless to say we left there with no countertop. These HGTV shows, promote people spending thousands of dollars for expensive counter tops etc. No wonder there are so many foreclosures these days. HGTV has made people think they have to have the most expensive, and best of everything in their homes. An aquaintance on Facebook just bought a house, and put a picture of the kitchen on her page. The kitchen was really nice, but she said they hope to upgrade to granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. I think HGTV has ruined a good thing for a lot of people. Buy what you can afford, not what you think someone else is going to envy. They won’t envy you when you are kicked out on your butts because you couldn’t afford your house and credit card payments!


Barb Friedberg October 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Yes, actually, I wrote a post last week on the same topic! One frequent comment repeated on theses home buying shows really annoys me: “The kitchen must have granite countertops!” Why and who says. The Jone’s are in debt, do not try and keep up with them. Although I’m addicted to HGTV, one must take the shows with a grain of salt!


Kris October 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I love HGTV and TLC. I completely agree- they all want these marble counter tops and artisan-crafted cabinets. I want to smack them all in to reality. I need to go read your post now! Had I seen it before, I would have linked it to this post too!


Barb Friedberg October 13, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Kris, It’s kind of like TV in general-you don’t want to believe it has much relationship to reality. After all, what high school choir sounds like the kids on GLEE?


Kris October 13, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Barb- I know, but I do think a lot of home buyers do think like this. They have the absolute bare minimum for a down payment and then buy as much as the broker says they can. It is scary and sad. Lets just hope these couples don’t divorce either, because then the house will just end up foreclosed (in many cases).

I still have to watch Glee. I have heard so much about it, but haven’t really sat and watched it. I will put that on my to-do list!


Roshawn @ Watson Inc October 13, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Okay, I will confess that I have at times indulged in these shows. My wife and I love Sandra from “Property Virgins” and think she unfairly gets a bad rap. The only critical thing I have noticed is Len’s point above: she sometimes steers people beyond their budget just because she thinks they can afford it. She doesn’t have any direct financial motive since she is not being paid as a Realtor. I also liked House Hunters as well. I just don’t have time, and unfortunately many of the episodes are reruns. (the fact that I know that they are reruns means we have definitely watched too many of them).

Anyway, I think you are right on with respect to Kevin’s comment. They deliberately leave off the financial implications of the decisions in favor of ratings. It’s nice to leave everyone with a nice, warm and fuzzy feeling afterward rather than “I knew they were morons,” which may reflect badly on the show (although also entertaining) 🙂


Kay Lynn Akers October 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I love these shows and even posted 5 real estate lessons from House Hunters some time back.

I like to see what you get for your money in other parts of the U.S. and the world. California standards are smaller than the Midwest but large compared to Manhattan.


Evan October 14, 2010 at 1:07 am

Its actually kind of funny if you compare the shows of HGTV today vs 3 years ago. Today they are a lot design on a budget, turning your basement into an apt etc. vs. FLIPPING houses for 20% gains in 2 weeks


Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog October 14, 2010 at 8:58 am

You’re totally right on this. I watch these shows frequently too and wonder if they know what they are getting into. They usually say how high their upper limit is (sometimes they just say what the bank gave them) and go spend that. I dont know why they think they need to own a house that big or that expensive. Evan has a good point as well, the shows have changed so much. Just look at the financing options that people went through. Now it’s mostly traditional fixed rate loans, but earlier shows I’d get introduced to a new type of loan every time I watched the show!


Kris October 14, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I totally wish they would take 5 minutes and show the different financing options and how it would affect their house payment. But, as I said, that may not be exciting enough. Maybe I will make up my own show where I host it and smack these couples into reality? That would be fuuuun!


Max October 14, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I love these shows as well. What makes me laugh about House Hunters is that they only look at the 3 houses, and then choose 1 from those 3. I mean, who only looks at 3 houses?

I also wish they would show someone buying houses in a lower price range, like under $110,000 or something like that, where you really had to start making some tougher choices than between having 3 or 4 bathrooms.

House Hunters International is even better though, the problems of people looking for vacation homes overseas.


Kay Lynn Akers October 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I would think they look at three but only film their top three choices. There’s no way I could have purchased our home with only 3 choices.


Max October 14, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Yeah, they probably look at more than 3 houses or prescreen them in some way. I remember the first 3 houses I looked at, and it wasn’t very pretty.

I do remember one show they did in Chicago I believe, where the couple was going to buy a house that had a massively flooded out basement, so I suppose they do look at some houses that are not as nice.


Kris October 14, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Very true Kay Lynn. I looked at probably 50 homes online first, and then probably 20 more in person, and that was years ago, when it was a sellers market!


Kris October 14, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Max – I often wonder if they really look at a lot more houses and only pick 3 to feature? I would be an idiot to only look at 3 houses, chosen by someone else.

I love House Hunters International. I want to move to Costa Rica where there are monkeys in the trees in your backyard.


Kathi March 17, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Houses are typically built out of concrete in Costa Rica. My husband and I bought land there about 6 years ago. We haven’t built on it though because airfare costs went up and flying a family of there for vacation is expensive now. Still love Costa Rica, especially Playa Potrero area.


Kris March 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I have never been to Costa Rica but I have seen some properties on House Hounters International. It would be so fun to just see monkeys out in nature and such.

I hope you can build your dream home soon!


Khaleef @ KNS Financial October 14, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Every time I watch these shows, I think that the buyers are misguided idiots! Watching Property Virgins is worse, because I think that Sandra is an idiot and pushes the buyers to make very unwise decisions!


Kathryn Fenner October 27, 2010 at 11:04 am

I love HGTV–makes my gym time fly. I am a moderate fixer-upper–I cannot do major carpentry, but I do have vision–have punched in tow new windows in my house, for examples–with help of contractor, and do a lot of upgrading myself.

That said, I recently viewed some houses with my 27 year old nephew and his SO. She grew up as a sort of princess, and he so much did not that he has lived in his car. He wants a large garage, because he works on his car all the time–and sees no reason to move from a rental until he can get that. A fireplace would be a plus for him, and he’d like to be close to his job.

She wants perfect everything, and turned up her nose at a house with a second bathroom in need of a facelift, favoring a house with just one bathroom! Talk about lack of vision–I pointed out to them that they could just shut the door on the ugly bathroom until they were ready to upgrade it. Both houses under consideration were small–1100 sq ft and maybe 1400–and I suggested that the smaller one might necessitate a move sooner when they had the kids they planned on, and that the “perfect” kitchen and bathroom were made that way with very cheap and flimsy cabinets, while the slightly larger, unrenovated house has the original sturdy wood cabinets.

For my husband and me, the smaller house would be perfect, although we do appreciate a second toilet option. The kids would be better off with a house they’d put a bit of labor into and be able to live in comfortably longer.

Realtors usually don’t steer people into more expensive houses for the small commission upgrade. They want happy clients so they get repeats and referrals. It’s lenders who put people into mortgage loans they really can’t afford. Back before the 1990s, lending criteria were a decent indicator of affordability. Then “liar loans” and other “creative financing” options took over and crashed the market.

Two young Big Law lawyers could afford a $500K house fairly easily, btw.


Kris October 27, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I wish I was more handy. I think I would like to be a ‘flipper’ and do a lot of the work myself. However, it just seems like a risky proposition, especially since I can’t do much of the work myself. I admire those that can use a wet-saw and install tile and such. My tile would probably just slide down the wall after about 2 days.

I worry for your niece- her SO may not be real compatible since they are from completely different lifestyles.

Thanks for visiting!


Liz November 14, 2010 at 3:22 pm

As a twenty-something facing a future of renting (at least for now!) I watch those shows and wonder a) what have I done wrong that I can’t afford a house NOW?, b) what must I do to be able to afford a house quicker, and c) is a house really worth it? Sometimes I’m relieved to rent, because if something really serious needs fixing it won’t be me worrying over how to pay for it. I’d just never be able to fix something up right now, for lack of funds rather than lack of knowledge or dedication. That said, at least if I owned the place I could fix the little things that mean a lot, like the new window screen busted by a neighbor (goodbye fresh air!), the lack of a fan in the bathroom (steamy!), and the needing-TLC hardwood floors (splintery…).


Randy December 1, 2010 at 2:22 am

I like this article. This will be my First time to this blog. Greatful for sharing this. I will revisit this website. I was a home stlist for 5 years. My home decor hint of the day is this: Don’t overcrowd a home. Walking area is a must. Thanks again…


painting contractor manhattan January 7, 2011 at 7:11 am

That is why I hate those types of TV shows. They pick contestant that have money to buy the big houses. This in turn, give people a false sense of what is normal. So the viewer then in turn goes out and tries to find something similar, but can so they go in massive debt.


Julius Clavijo February 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Ernest Hemingway~ Theres nothing noble in becoming superior to your fellow males. Accurate the aristocracy is being superior for your former self.


Alan March 29, 2011 at 7:36 pm

My Favorite show is House Hunter International – Not only do the kids get the walk in closet, but it’s a vacation home in Costa Ricca to boot! I saw one episode where a young couple was shopping for a vacation home with her parents money and didn’t seem to appreciate their good fortune. That bothered me a little. Loved the post!


Christina Nolen August 3, 2012 at 10:19 am

It’s really interesting to me how home purchases are not thought out rationally and logically, but emotionally to a large extent. I found your article interesting. Thank you for sharing it with us.


QUALITY STOCKS UNDER 5 DOLLARS April 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Nodody ever seems to consider what might go wrong when they purchase a home only looking on the bright side of things is almost always a bad idea.


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