2010-12-16 / News

Finally, a television show I can watch

Flotsam and Jetsam
By Donna Drago

I don’t watch an awful lot of television.

Even though I can choose among some 900 channels, I find myself shrugging and saying “there’s nothing on,” more often than not. I like the CBS lineup on Tuesday nights, which includes “NCIS” and “The Good Wife.” I will watch either golf or football on a Sunday afternoon – especially if the weather is crummy; and on a summer evening I will watch the Red Sox. Aside from the national news at 6:30 p.m., that’s about the extent of my TV viewing. Until recently, when I discovered the one show that checks all of the boxes for me.

I have become addicted to House Hunters International. For the uninitiated, HHI is a show that combines international travel, which is one of my passions, with looking at real estate, another big interest of mine.

In a half hour episode a couple visits a foreign destination that has attracted them for various reasons, and they work with a local real estate agent to visit and examine properties in their pre-determined price range. They usually look at three different options and then the couple makes an offer on their favorite home. The final scene takes place a few months later when the couple has moved in, bought their own furniture and done some decorating to personalize the place.

You always get to learn something about the couple or family who is making the international purchase, why they chose the location and what they are looking for in a property.

Some of the buyers have a lot of money to spend and their budgets can be upwards of $1 million, but I find the shows where they are trying to get a deal on the cheap the most interesting. Recently a young couple living in London managed to score a cute country vacation house in rural Bulgaria for the equivalent of about $25,000. Now, I have no desire to live in, or even visit Bulgaria, but HHI goes to farfl ung locations like this so I can “tag along” to learn something about the place.

In the past week HHI has visited Thailand and Vietnam, the Seychelles, Greece and Italy. In the show shot in Thailand, a British couple bought a brand new fabulous penthouse apartment with a view of the Indian Ocean, completely furnished for less than $400,000. It included a rooftop deck with a spa pool, marble floors, state-of-the-art kitchen appliances and every upgrade imaginable. On this episode all three options were equally fantastic and I found myself unable to choose which place I liked the most. Now, I want to go to Thailand! The episode in Greece was like that too – every house had beautiful sea views and was crafted in the charming vernacular style of the region. I would have bought any one of them. In a greater percentage of the shows, one property usually stands out as being much better than the others. In some locations the people can’t find a property in their budget and either have to settle for a condo, when they really wanted a house, or lower their expectations. It’s like real life – sometimes you can’t get everything you want.

The shows give us something to talk about – sometimes we are amazed by the modernity of places we thought were thirdworld countries. Sometimes we are astonished by how backward the amenities are in places we thought were part of the modern world. Mostly we are amazed by either how much or how little things cost depending on your whereabouts.

I think I love this show because no matter where I travel I can’t pass by a real estate agent’s office without looking at all the pictures in the windows, comparing the prices and asking myself if this is a place where I could actually live. When I am walking through a foreign village and I see a “for sale” sign in a window, I always have to peek in, take a walk around the building and imagine what the views are like from the upstairs windows. Some travelers like to peek in the windows of Gucci or Fendi, or they spend time checking out the windows of Saks or Harrods, but when I “window shop” I look at other people’s homes.

House Hunters International is on most nights of the week at 10:30 p.m. on HGTV. My husband likes it too, but he typically falls asleep before it comes on, so I only wake him up if the destination is a place I know he would find interesting – like countries that surround the Mediterranean.

Some nights they run several episodes in a row so we can open a bottle of wine, get cozy in our pajamas and do a little globetrotting without having to leave our house and without having to spend any of our own money. It makes for a great night.

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