I’ve been watching House Hunters off and on for, I don’t know, 40 years now.
OK, not that long. But it seems like the show’s been around forever.
I never make a point of turning it on. But there I’ll be, stretched out on the couch while I surf the channels, and it will just suck me in like some cosmic vacuum.
The HGTV staple has barely changed in its 13 seasons, except that it has branched out from Southern California and now follows often-hapless home hunters in the far corners of the world. Oh, and it’s dropped that moment of feigned drama when the prospective buyers answered a fake call from their realty agent telling them whether their bid had been accepted. What, you’re telling me the videographer didn’t follow them around for three days while they waited for word?
The show is formulaic, cheesy and often poorly acted — although in the buyers’ defense, it’s hard to emote in any genuine-seeming way over maple kitchen cabinets.
Still, the darn show is addictive.
I remember talking early in the show’s run with a woman who worked for the production company that made House Hunters. At the time it was HGTV’s highest-rated program, and at least according to her, the producers didn’t have the slightest clue why.
Evidently a whole lot of people besides me get a voyeuristic thrill out of peeking into other people’s bathrooms. It’s like hitting the Sunday open houses without leaving your La-Z-Boy.
Much as I love tagging along on the house hunts, though, I can hardly watch the show without yelling at least once at the TV. As someone with plenty of experience in both hunting for and owning homes, I get irritated by the naivete of some of the buyers and the lack of direction by some of their agents.
I watched an episode the other day in which a buyer complained repeatedly about the kitchen cabinets, which were new but — gasp! — white. I wanted to throw a shoe at the screen. Why wasn’t that agent telling her that if she could afford half a million bucks for a house, she could afford to have the cabinets refaced?
So, rather than put my flat screen at risk, I hereby offer my insights to future House Hunters participants.
• Granite countertops do not a kitchen make. Yes, they’re lovely, but maybe you should open the drawers to make sure they don’t require the kind of force that dislocates elbows, and turn on the faucet to verify that the water flows in more than a trickle.
Oh, and by the way, there are other kinds of countertops. Very nice ones, in fact.
• Location, location, location. It didn’t become a real-estate cliche without good reason. You can replace carpet and reconfigure rooms, but that freeway noise? You’re stuck with it.
• For the love of God, price a couple of cans of paint before you reject a house over the blue in the baby’s room.
• You might want to think twice about going right from an efficiency apartment to a McMansion. Furniture costs money, you know.
• No, an ugly bathroom should not stop you from buying a house you otherwise love. But don’t think pulling out that iron tub won’t cost you.
• Five bedrooms for two people? Really?
• Two-story great rooms look dramatic, but check the heating bills if you live in Minnesota.
• Don’t give the yard short shrift. It takes hours to knock down a wall but years to grow a tree.
• After a few months of two-hour commutes, you’re going to kick yourself for choosing the sparkly new Colonial on the outer reaches of exurbia over the fixer-upper 10 minutes from your job. Even if it does have hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances.
And remember what I said about countertops? Ditto appliances.
Seriously, those house hunters need me to tag along.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.