Everything I know about real estate I learned from House Hunters (Sponsored)

The following post is sponsored by HGTV's House Hunters, which is convenient because House Hunters is the only show on television that I religiously watch. Also, I just spent the last five months house hunting. Also, I'm watching House Hunters right now as I write this post in my HH pajamas. (I don't have HH pajamas. Also, House Hunters and I are on an "initials only" basis because we're super tight. xoxoxo, RW)
As many of you know, I spent my entire pregnancy eating inordinate amounts of watermelon and watching House Hunters and House Hunters International. As "lifelong renters" Hal and I were more interested in seeing what kind of money bought what, where, than planning our own home purchase. It was actually House Hunters International that first inspired us to start looking into purchase options. Because wouldn't it be rad to buy a rural Italian villa in which to summer? (I just wrote that with a very posh English accent. Do you have any Grey Poupon?)

I assumed we'd rent this house forever. We were under that impression when we moved in and signed the lease. That was not the case. And after years of calling ourselves "lifelong renters" we decided that with four children, we wanted something a little more secure. Especially after we spent the last four months looking at rental homes, none of which could promise we'd be able to rent for longer than two years. (All of the owners confessed they might, in a few years, want to move back and/or sell.) It was then, we realized if we wanted to root ourselves we had to buy. If we wanted to give our children a home to grow up in for longer than a lease agreement we had to do what we could to make it happen. (Even the home we're in Escrow with has a family currently renting the property who will have to move because of the sale. I feel terrible about this as someone who has experienced it firsthand but am also (further!) convinced that renting as a family of six is less than ideal.

So! We got an agent, a mortgage broker and I traded my dreams of "summering in St. Martin" with "spring, summer, fall and wintering in Los Angeles."

In the four months we scavenged through listings and toured homes to both rent AND purchase in any/all neighborhoods within a ten mile radius that fell within our budgetary (and familial) needs, it came down to the following three options (cue House Hunters music):

Dunt. Dunt dunt dunt. Dunt dunt dunt...

1. "Turnkey in Undesirable Area!"

Dunt. Dunt dunt dunt. Dunt dunt dunt...

2. "Overpriced dream rental"

Dunt. Dunt dunt dunt. Dunt dunt dunt...

3. "Fixer in Great Neighborhood"

In the end we decided on...

(Pregnant pause.)

3. The "fixer" in our preferred location!

...Because all of the problems it has, (kitchen needs major work, second bathroom needs a remodel, garage will eventually need to be converted for office so that Archer can have his own room when he decides he's ready for one) every one of them is fixable and nothing's really in need of any immediate attention. Plus, I kind of like the idea of putting our own finishing touches on a house. Some tile here, some more tile here. A little bit of tile over there. (I love tile. Tile and knobs. And interesting light fixtures. And tile. Tile?)

I actually prefer a house that isn't turnkey ready (Cue Hal's eyeroll) and am what my real estate agent calls a "purist" aka someone who prefers a "romantic disaster" to the recently remodeled. Which, in this market, works to our advantage. (Updated appliances? You do not sell me! Granite Countertops? Hogwash!) Where's the soul!? And yes, kitchen countertops can have souls. They can! I want a house with ghosts, dammit! Happy, wonderful ghosts with original fixtures and floors and funky nonsensical nooks and imperfections perfectly perfected over its 85 year lifespan! And tile. A big ol tiled-up Esteban, you know? AN ESTEBAN!

To hell with Steve. Esteban is SO much more romantico.


I'll be live-tweeting the season premiere of House Hunters at 10:30/9:30 central which airs February 16th on HGTV. As you know, Twitter has LOTS of room for entertaining and what better way to tweet than from your BRAND NEW IPAAAAD. (I'll be giving one away c/o HGTV. Details forthcoming.) Look forward to seeing you then!

Updated to add: I will not personally be on House Hunters! I'll just be commentating on other people's televised House Hunting experiences from the point of view of someone who can't stand the term "man cave" but is very much a fan of "men" and "caves"... so long as they're separated by punctuation.



Rebecca | 1:15 PM

While we didn't live in a home with as much history as Esteban, we did love updating our home after we bought it... Shockingly we did NOT go with cherry cabinets and granite counter tops like every. other. house.


YES. I grew up in a suburban tract house (parents still live there) and over the years they remodeled their kitchen (all spanish tile) put in new floors, repainted the exterior and put WONDERFUL touches in the property to make it their own. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Arnebya | 1:23 PM

For some reason, your Grey Poupon comment too my mind to "Would you please pass the jelly?" Huh. Good old Polaner All Fruit unexpectedly stealing mah mind.

I can't wait for the premiere. I giggled b/c seriously, HH is only one of less than a handful of shows I watch regularly and look forward to. I could house hunt forever and ever amen (I secretly still stalk people whose houses we wanted when we were looking 10 yrs ago. I want to know what they did inside).

I hope Esteban works out. Fingers crossed that the paperwork is easy and inspections are all clear. And tweeting from a new iPad? I die.

Anne | 2:03 PM

Did you see the HHI episode with Design Mom? When the opening scene came on I blurted out, "I KNOW HER!", except I don't really know her. HGTV is a bit of an obsession at our house.


YES I've seen Design Mom's episode! TWICE. It's my absolute favorite. So is she.

Katie Allison Granju | 2:10 PM

Rebecca! We totally have to find you some HH pajamas!

-Katie from HGTV

Anonymous | 2:10 PM

I hope the current tenants don't have kids or you'll have quite a battle getting them to move out if they don't want to go.
Courts have a thing about evicting people with kids; we learned that during our fun times as landlords.


Anon - We have FOUR kids and we're getting the boot from our rental. It has everything to do with the verbiage of the lease agreement.


Katie - UM. Please?

Allison the Meep | 2:25 PM

I love the idea of a fixer-upper because you get to make it very specifically yours.

We bought a house that we loved the bones of and was perfectly in our price range, and has a gorgeous yard. The previous owners even remodeled a lot of stuff, so that's all considered new. Except...I really hate their style. So every day, I look at an ugly-ass kitchen that is technically nice, but so ugly to me. And the same goes with the rest of the house. We just have to deal with some ugly until we can afford to remodel and make it our style.

So the idea of going in to something wonky and turning it into something that you adore is so dreamy to me.

Jadzia@Toddlerisms | 2:38 PM

I completely agree with you on the fixer. Buy a house that has already been "done" and you end up paying twice--once for the "fixes" the previous owners did to THEIR taste, and then again to make the place look like YOU want it to look.

At least that's what I told myself when I bought a fixer in LA--and ended up having to go on an HGTV show to get some of the renovations done! (They paid for the designers, I paid for the work; I ended up saving a lot of money, got a designer I never could have afforded, and got to be on TV so every guy who ever dumped me could see how cute I still am, ha ha ha.)

Sadie | 4:11 PM

We bought our house 4 years ago and had some remodeling planned, but then the Hubby lost his job. We worked damn hard to keep our house and stay above water. Thankfully, we still have our house, but all our remodeling dreams have been pushed far into the future. With that said, fresh paint, window treatments and light fixtures go a long way! Can't wait to see what you do with the place!

Anonymous | 4:17 PM

I totally understand the nerves of a first time home buyer, but it is a lot of fun to do the little things that can make it YOUR home. But, I have one question! What the hell is an Esteban?


Laura | 4:21 PM

I love this blog more everyday! haha
Wow!!! You sound just like me! I also prefer to be able to make all the choices with the house. If a house has already been fixed up or renovated I don't even want to look at it!

sharon magner | 4:25 PM

Very exciting! Homeownership can sometimes feel like a noose around your neck, if times get tight, but you are giving your kids stability and there's no price tag on that.
Maybe HGTV will do a show on you and your move! I'd watch it.


Melissa! An Esteban is a Spanish STEVE! (House is Spanish.) Steve as in STEVE: http://www.girlsgonechild.net/2011/10/househunters-hollywood-episode-1.html

Kim | 5:28 PM

I am SOOOOO with you on the granite counters. Give me some character! I don't want my place to look like every freaking cookie cutter house on the block. Give me some arched doorways and stained glass windows and ah, I dunno, something "romantic" as you would call it. :)

wonderchris | 5:41 PM

Esteban - LOVE it!!!

Oh, and thank you for letting me know (like the post was directed to me) about the Babycakes mixes. THANK YOU!!!!

Jana | 7:11 PM

Ooh, yay! My brother- and sister-in-law just finished filming for an episode of House Hunters. I look forward to your review when their show airs!

Anonymous | 9:47 PM

I almost never watched TV until I discovered HouseHunters while setting up the DVR to record a basketball game for my husband. Now I'm addicted. Now I watch HouseHunters and HH International, and that's all I watch. My kids (10 & 12) really get into it, too. I think it is such fun to peek into homes around the world and see how others live, and what some consider a functional kitchen or a adequate bathroom.

Billie | 2:36 AM

I love house hunters! I'm always shocked and saddened by how cheap some houses are in certain areas of the US! In Canada we didn't have the housing crash that you guys did. We are just finishing gutting a house. In fact we're supposed to be able to move in tomorrow. I bought the house without even seeing it. We were out of town for a few months. It had been recently taken off the market after being listed for over 2 years! The neighborhood was fantastic and the inspector gave it a thumbs up. That's all I needed! If I've learned anything through my HGTV addiction, it's that you can do anything with a house. I had faith that even if none of the 100s of people that had been through it could get a vision for it, I would be able to do it. You know what, it's fantastic (now!), in fact yesterday I had a couple of real estate agents come through the house. They were shocked and said it was possibly the nicest house within a 50 mile radius.

stef | 7:02 AM

GOD I love this place more every day. My guy and I watch House Hunters and pretty much just spend the whole time whining about how everyone wants "upgrades" and "stainless steel appliances" and "granite countertops", "hardwood floors", and "a craft room." Our 1940s bungalow still has the original peach/black tile and basketweave floor and I love it's crumbly originalness. I'll take hardwood floors, yes, but original slight shabby ones over new engineered laminate.

Preeetty pumped to see the inside of this new place of yours.

Maria | 10:34 AM

Oh my God, HH International is my favorite show. Mostly because I am a masochist, and I like to see how much the price of a studio in my neighborhood in Brooklyn will get you in other parts of the world. It usually makes me cry, throw shit at the TV, and wonder why I make such bad decisions.

annafly | 2:26 PM

Would you mind sharing what camera you use? The picture quality, (especially of your kids) come out sooo beautiful. I'm shopping around for a new camera....thanks!

connie t | 8:02 PM

I set my dvr to record the show. I like to watch House Hunters. I am sure your house will look great, once you are done. I just bought a new house to build. It was neat picking out all the colors and stove and dishwasher. I am getting white. I used to have stainless steel appliances and those are such a pain to clean all the time.

MB | 8:50 AM

LMAO Oh I completely agree with you Rebecca! I adore HH and HHI!! and I would love a romantic mess to fixer up. (I AM going to learn to tile before I die! And I just know I was born to lathe!) Makes me nuts how disdainful people are about anything but granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Hello people?...stainless steel is the Harvest Gold of this decade. Wish I could go back and watch a show from 15-20 years ago with people saying "oooh I must have black appliances ...that's a deal breaker!" LMAO and gold bathroom fixtures!

Amy | 4:04 PM

Ohhh, me too! I so adore character in a house. We just bought an 87 year old stucco tudor last May. It's our first house, too, and far, far, FAR from perfect. Except that it totally is.

It's old, it's well maintained but not kept up to date. And I couldn't be more in love with it.

Gina | 9:01 PM

Thanks for making me laugh. I owe my bedroom remodel as a teenager to my mom's HGTV rapture. Hooray for roots! One day I will set down some of my own.

Badger | 1:46 AM

Can't imagine a Brit ever saying 'rad' but there you go.

Good luck with all the house stuff, it's very nerve wracking but incredibly exciting at the same time. xx

Anonymous | 5:30 AM

If you refused to leave your current abode the owner would have a tough time getting a court to grant an eviction notice, based on the fact that you have four kids.
Our last house had a horrible kitchen -- Spanish tile floor, glazed Mexican tiles all over the walls -- so artsy-crafty, look how "original" my decor is. We had that crap torn out and put in hardwood floors, cherry cabinets, brushed steel appliances and lovely granite countertops.