Ever since it joined the standard TV offerings available to many Canadians, some people have developed a serious obsession with HGTV, and as real estate professionals we have indeed been a little affected by that fact. Especially since the show that most HGTV fans watch the most – and binge watch at that – is ‘House Hunters’.
On the off chance that you haven’t been sucked into this show yet, the premise behind it is that a person – or couple – planning to purchase a new home meets with a real estate agent, tells them about their budget and gives them a (grocery) list of must-haves.
Their agent then leads them around three different properties and they all discuss the pros and cons of each one. At the end of the show the home shoppers reveal which of the properties they have opted for and then we get a two minute glimpse at their post purchase ‘happily ever after’. And all of this happens in 60 minutes (excluding commercials) and presents an interesting, but frankly unrealistic, look at the home buying process works.
But are there any real-life lessons for those potential home-buyers who watch ‘House Hunters’? Actually there are, and these are some of the most important.
Agree on a Budget and Stick to It
Any real estate agent will ask you for a budget so they can narrow down the options shown to you and not annoy or disappoint you by showing you a home that is way out of your reach. On House Hunters, regular viewers know that often ‘the couple’ has a conflict in this area from the get go, with one seemingly willing to spend a lot more than the other, despite the planned home purchase being a joint one.
This is something to be avoided at all costs in real life. If you’re house hunting with a partner and you cannot agree on what you should spend, one of you is going to be set up for disappointment before you even set foot in a home. A good rule of thumb? Multiply your yearly household income by 2.5 – this should give you a conservative number you can afford.
Make a Realistic Wants List
Every time we happen to catch an episode of ‘House Hunters’ we are often surprised – and slightly amused – by buyers who hand their poor agent a laundry list of major wants – jet tubs, granite counter tops, pools, acres of garden, three master bedrooms – but then proceed to give them a budget that would never cover all of these things. And then get annoyed when they are shown homes that don’t have all of those wants.
In the real world, when shopping for a new home you simply have to be realistic and understand what you can actually hope to get for your money. If you do some research and look at MLS listings in your desired area on your own, you should be able to see exactly what your money can and can’t get you, taking the price of certain upgrades into consideration. And listening to your agent – and allowing them to be honest – will help a lot too.
Understand the Difference Between a Need and a Want
It’s not unusual for a House Hunters couple to get all riled up because they need a vaulted ceiling – or a meadow view, or a huge lawn – and the homes they are being shown don’t meet these needs. These are good examples of home buyers failing to understand the difference between a want and a need. A need? A functioning bathroom, a bigger kitchen because meals are prepared for a family of four. A vaulted ceiling is nice, but it’s not a need. Obsessing over certain features could mean overlooking great properties that don’t meet your perfect criteria but actually come pretty darn close.
Try writing a list of needs and wants before you look for a new home. Then, number those items according to priority, with “1” being non-negotiable, “2” being preferable, and “3” being something that would be nice, but not necessary.
Ignore the Decor and Envision the Potential
Some episodes of House Hunters make me want to scream at the screen, and it’s often because a buyer refuses to see beyond the decor that’s in place and look at the potential. I particularly recall one episode in which a bachelor was shown a home that was completely gorgeous, met most of his wants but did have a slight con; tacky wallpaper on the kitchen and living room walls.
For some reason this man simply did not get that stripping that paper off would be an inexpensive, weekend long fix and he ended up buying a home that didn’t have all that he had initially wanted – all because of that wallpaper.
While it’s sometimes hard to look past a current home owner’s choice in paint, decor, or wallpaper, – and they really should have been advised to stage better if it’s truly dreadful – don’t miss out on a prime piece of real estate just because you can’t. Seeing past minor cosmetic issues could also put you at an advantage over other buyers who passed on a house because they were blind to its potential.
Understand Home Buying is Just Not That Easy
No, sorry to say, the chances are very, very slim that you could see three homes, find one you love and be moved in in a month, as the couples and families on the show seem to do. Actually HGTV got in a little trouble over that aspect of the show a few years ago when it was discovered that many of the buyers featured on the show were already contracted to buy one of the homes before their episode was filmed, and the other two homes were set up ‘comps’ that they had dismissed weeks – or months – before.
The fact is that shopping for a home can be a long process, and closing can be too. A good real estate agent will be able to make the whole process as expedient and painless as possible but it’s going to be a lot more than 60 minutes before you are in your new home!
In the end, the moral of this little rant is that yes, go ahead and enjoy House Hunters. I often do, when I have some rare downtime and am looking for something a little light and fluffy to watch. But when you begin a home search of your own keep in mind that in this instance at least, life is not going to reflect ‘art’!