Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Unsurprising Fakery of House Hunters

I enjoy watching the popular HGTV program House Hunters, but I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see on the news this last week that many elements of the program are faked.  Indeed, I don’t see how they couldn’t be.  I fail to see why this is newsworthy, well aware that others might question why it even merits a topic for my blog.   

Honestly!  What’s the big deal?  It’s always made sense to me that the show was staged to a certain extent; that by the time the people “chose” their dream home toward program’s end, not only had they long since selected it before the program was even taped, but they’d already signed the papers and been mercilessly wrung through that meat-grinder known as the mortgage application process.  (If you’ve ever bought a home, then you know it’s really not too different from making sausage.)  

For instance, you know those scenes where the couple is playing hearts in the cramped old apartment they hope to vacate soon, and his cell phone rings. “I wonder if that’s our agent,” he says, picking up the cell without even bothering to check his caller ID. “Hello?  Oh hi, Agent!” He leans across the card table and sotto voce, tells his wife as if she hasn’t already figured it out, “It’s the agent!”

She gasps. “Maybe it’s about the offer we made on the house!” 

He returns his attention to the cell. “What’s up, Agent?  Really!  That’s great news!” Whereupon he rudely cuts off the real estate agent and says to his wife, “Guess what, honey?  The seller accepted our offer!  We got the house!” And the wife shrieks in delight as playing cards go flying.   

Seriously!  Did anyone out there ever think for a moment that THAT wasn’t staged?  That the videographer didn’t move in with these people and keep the camera running at all times till the phone call came? 

Really!  It’s not as if House Hunters is some old game show where a favored long-term contestant is furtively being supplied with answers to trivia questions.  So the participants’ life stories are embellished!  Who among us hasn’t padded a resume, exaggerated an employee evaluation/performance report, or cobbled together composite characters in our memoirs?

Frankly, I’ve never cared about the participants’ life stories.  I watch House Hunters for—are you ready for this?—the houses!  I love looking at different houses, and how other people live.  I like to imagine that I’m the one checking out those houses and picking out my favorite.  For the record, the participants rarely pick out the one I like, but then I’m not looking for the same features they are.  

It seems to me that for most of these prospective homebuyers, their primary consideration is choosing a house that will best impress their friends.  They say they like to do lots of entertaining.  To this end, they want a house with an open floor plan.  They want the kitchen configured in such a way that they can talk to their guests while they prepare food and sip from a glass of wine.  I’ve lost count of how many episodes I’ve seen where they say this.  The kitchen could have cabinets galore and acres of counter space and fully upgraded appliances and recessed lighting to die for—but if there’s no way their guests can sit on barstools on the far side of that counter, slurping margaritas and listening to their hostess pontificate while she slices and dices and juliennes and takes an occasional sip from her glass of Zinfandel, then it’s thumbs down on an otherwise perfect house. 

Maybe I can’t relate because even though I do have an open kitchen, I can’t talk and prepare food at the same time.  Nor do I want people watching me do it.  It leaves me open to unsolicited comments and suggestions and critiques—but maybe that’s why I’m supposed to keep them plied with alcoholic beverages.  I do know it’s why I’d keep the bottle and the glass of Zinfandel handy, and all my knives sharpened.     

Of course, they also insist upon a guest room, preferably secluded with its own private entrance to the pool out back.  The wife wants it for when her mother comes to visit.  (Mr. Lucky: “Just give her a sleeping bag and a flashlight, and put her in a pup tent in the backyard.”) Every episode invariably ends with an elegant dinner party or backyard cookout attended by all the friends for whom the couple with their growing brood really bought the house.  

Because of Baby Bear, Mr. Lucky and I just want a house that’s built solidly enough that we’ll have a roof and at least four walls still standing by the time the mortgage is paid off and our Ursine Terror has left to rampage and ransack elsewhere.  I suppose if we wanted to buy another house and went on House Hunters, the producers would embellish our life story by portraying us as wanting an open floor plan not to give the Bear plenty of room to run around and fewer walls to knock down, but because we want to throw lots of parties for our many friends. 

Apparently viewers will find that more fascinating—and certainly less horrifying.    


Phyllis Towzey said...

I don't know, Karen -- I think it would be kind of fun watching the expressions on the real estate agent's case as you test the house by bouncing off the walls to see if it would withstand normal Baby Bear activities, and examine bathroom fixtures to see if they encourage flooding. You could also note that you want a floor plan and patio conducive to entertaining beagles. Might be a very interesting show . . .

Karen Lingefelt said...

Funny you should mention that, Phyllis--recently we were looking at sofas (didn't buy one) and got some very strange looks from sales people who wanted to know why Mr. Lucky was examining all the sofas backs and checking them for durability, because Baby Bear has destroyed two of them with his constant rocking--a self-stimulatory autistic behavior. Another blog topic!