Misadventures In Real Estate: What House Hunters Didn't Teach Me

So among the many ways I’ve realized I’m maybe an adult now is that I enjoy watching HGTV.  I used to find the shows incredibly boring, and now I’m like, I should also find myself a flea market at which to purchase furniture that I will repaint and have look amazing, except that I am self aware enough to know that my own project would never turn out like that.  Anyway, even before I enjoyed HGTV, I watched House Hunters, because my parents were into it.  If you’re not familiar with the show, you should watch it, because it’s weirdly entertaining, but if you don’t want to, the premise is this:  a person or family is looking for a home, over the course of the episode they see three different places, deliberate for a little while, and then choose one.  The fun of watching is making bets with your friends/family over which house they will choose.  Generally speaking, among the three homes, one is perfect but incredibly overpriced or in a less desirable location, one is a fixer upper at a great price in the perfect neighborhood, and one is a sort of middle-of-the-road pick.  I will caution that if you live in a large city, it gets really, really depressing when you see episodes where they’re looking at places in the midwest, and you realize that you can basically buy a palace in Iowa for the price of a studio apartment in Manhattan.

Anyway, it’s a fun watch, I recommend it.  What it isn’t is an accurate representation of the real estate process, which I didn’t realize until I went through it myself.  For instance:

You’re going to look at way more than three places.  I realize this is a TV show and can’t cover the whole home search process.  And yet I maybe believed that everyone would look at three places and be like, okay, of these, I can choose one.  And maybe some people can.  One of my friends looked at one condo, immediately put an offer on it, and done.  I looked at literally all of the condos in the city.  Every single one of them.

Your price point and offer are not as negotiable as you want them to be.  This is going to depend on your situation, and the market you’re looking in, but in general, on House Hunters, a lot of people end up going way over their budget because they find somewhere great, or they offer something significantly below the asking price and get the place.  As a single person buying a place, I definitely didn’t have the option of going over my budget, because at the end of the day, it’s just me on the hook for it.  If you’re a couple or a family, their might be multiple salaries coming in and more wiggle room in your budget.  As for lowballing on offers, this failed for me multiple times, no matter how many times I was like “But they do this on House Hunters!”  Again, it’s incredibly dependent on your market; in big cities, things tend to be a lot more competitive and it’s often expected you’re going to offer close to the asking price.

Making an offer is the most nerve-wracking thing ever.  On the show, all the angst is over picking the place, and once that’s done, there’s a tiny bit of tension while they wait to hear back about the offer, but nine times out of ten, they get the place.  What they skip over is the 9000 pieces of paper you have to sign to actually make an offer, and the subsequent terror that on one of those pieces of paper, you actually signed over the rights to your firstborn child.

Your place will not be in the state you think it will be six weeks after you move in.  At the end of every House Hunters episode, they do a flash forward to six or eight weeks after the people have moved into their new home, and it’s always painted and they’ve got their furniture set up and it looks great, or if it was a fixer upper they’ve made some sort of significant progress on the renovation.  I’ve officially been in my place six weeks and it looks alarmingly similar to the day I moved in, except that there’s now food in the refrigerator.  It’s easy to make grand plans about painting and getting new curtains and rugs and furniture, but it turns out (at least for me) the timeline for making this happen is significantly longer than on TV.

So, House Hunters:  fun to watch.  Not an accurate representation of the real estate process.  Next time:  we cover what’s on each of those 9000 pieces of paper in your offer.

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