Be a Smarter Home Buyer by Avoiding These 12 House Hunter Cliches


HGTV is like brain candy for anyone who's thinking about buying a house, and no show is as riveting at this stage of life as House Hunters. Too bad the people featured on House Hunters usually appear clueless about how to select the right home.

Go ahead and enjoy the virtual tours of homes in different parts of the country — just don't use the featured families as role models for your own house hunt. Too many of the comments uttered on the program are shortsighted, severely unimaginative, or simply ridiculous.

1. "I could live with any commute for this house."

The biggest misconception House Hunters creates is that searching for a house is all about the house itself, not about the neighborhood, the schools, or the distance from your job. Those other things might not make good TV, but there's a reason the phrase "location, location, location" has never disappeared from the real estate conversation. For one thing, a long commute can literally kill you. For another, if you have children and the local public school doesn't work for you, you'll end up spending as much or more as your mortgage payments on private school tuition.

2. "The appliances/wall colors/bathroom fixtures are deal breakers."

When you view a house, focus on the features that would be very expensive or impossible to change, such as the number of bathrooms or the square footage. You can change a room's color for a few hundred dollars — less if you paint it yourself. It's not a factor.

3. "We absolutely need a master suite."

Although a large bedroom with its own bathroom and living area has become de rigeur in high-end and even mid-range houses, these spaces are hardly used, according to UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families. Researchers recorded where family members really spent their time, and found that people spend the most time in the kitchen and family room. So a spacious kitchen should be a higher priority when house hunting than a master suite.

4. "How can we both get ready in the morning without his-and-hers sinks?"

An unscientific survey of couples I know revealed that barely any of their schedules have them both brushing their teeth at the same time in the morning. While I can see the attraction of not having to use a sink that someone else left toothpaste gobs in, it's not as if a partner who doesn't wash a shared sink is going to wash a private sink.

One realistic friend put it like this: "Who needs to clean toothpaste off of two sinks?"

5. "I don't want to do any work on the house at all."

It's true that remodeling is a pain. But keep in mind that a home with a brand new kitchen and other up-to-the-minute updates will all be done with someone else's taste in mind — and you won't want to spend money changing a perfectly good kitchen just because you would have preferred a different style of sink or a different countertop.

There is no time more convenient to make changes than before moving in, so why not keep an open mind and look at houses that need some updating?

6. "We need a big yard for the dog/kids."

There's no doubting that a lot of outdoor space can be a plus, but don't ever imagine that pets and children can't live without it. In the city of San Francisco, where most residents don't have yards, there are 120,000 dogs (more dogs than kids, as a matter of fact). These dogs seem perfectly happy taking advantage of dog parks and city strolls.

As for children, the Center on Everyday Lives of Families found that even in temperate LA, neither kids nor their parents spent much time in the yard — even those that had been expensively upgraded.

7. "We really want a private pool!"

When the target is a vacation home, shoppers favor houses with their own swimming areas over those with shared community pools. But private pools come with responsibilities and risks. You rarely hear families on the show include the cost of pool cleaning, replacing parts, or liability insurance in their cost comparisons.

8. "I want vintage charm and an open floor plan."

Whether they are naive or just inventing conflicts to make the show interesting, the many House Hunters families who wish for these two things together are living in a fantasy world. Older homes weren't built with kitchens that open up into family rooms; the kitchen was the domain of servants. Sure, you may find a vintage home that has been remodeled to feature an open floor plan, but chances are that plenty of those charming details were lost in the process.

9. "It doesn't have enough storage space for all our stuff."

If your possessions take precedence over your family's needs in choosing living space, isn't it time to pare down?

10. "We can (or can't) afford this house based on the listing price."

It's so silly that couples on the show pretend to have serious financial discussions based on the asking price, a number that in many markets bears little relation to what the house will actually sell for. This reality is revealed at the end of many episodes, when the realtor is able to negotiate a supposedly unaffordable house into the buyer's price range. On the other hand, where I live in the San Francisco Bay area, everyone knows that a home's final price will be as much as $100,000 above asking.

11. "The washing machine is in the kitchen? Weird!"

This is said on almost every episode of House Hunters International. It's not weird. It's the norm in most parts of the world. If you're going to live abroad, accept that your washing machine may well be in your kitchen and move on.

12. "I want to soak up the culture of Italy with the amenities we had in Texas."

Another gem from the international version of the show. If you are not willing to let go of having an "American-sized fridge" or a big yard, you're probably not going to end up steps from a piazza with a charming cafè. And if maintaining your American lifestyle is the most important thing, tell me again why you're moving abroad?

What comments on House Hunters have irked you?

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Guest's picture

Granite. Man caves. Jokes about the walk-in closet only having enough space for the woman's shoes.

I just cannot with these people.

Guest's picture

My "favorites" would have to be the 2 comments made in EVERY episode of House Hunters/Beach Front Bargain Hunt/Lake House Living:

1. "Love all the natural light coming in from the windows." (Where would it come from?)

2. "This is a great space for entertaining!" (How much time do these couples/families actually spend "entertaining"?)

And another fav if there happens to be a deck or balcony off the master bedroom:

3. "I can see myself sitting out here enjoying a cup of coffee and watching the sunrise!" (Because so many people have THAT kind of time on a weekday morning!)

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