HGTV's reality show House Hunters is one of my favorite television programs, but honestly, I don't know why. It drives me mad. It makes me speak to my TV, an inanimate object. It sometimes makes me change the channel with a belligerent click of a button so that I can watch something more edifying and soothing. Like Hell's Kitchen, or one of those cable news shows where people with opposing viewpoints gather around a table and interrupt one another with their shrill bickering.
The reason why House Hunters makes me so crazy is that it features a nearly endless parade of young couples -- and I'm sure they're thoroughly vetted to make sure the annoyance factor is firmly in place, because I am just that cynical -- who demand endless luxury on budgets that are neither.
For instance, the girls and I were watching a show filmed in Virginia a couple of days ago. They were newlyweds; he was an Army veteran whose back had been injured while he was serving in Iraq; she was working somewhere, obviously, but also studying for her Master's degree.
Their budget was about $230,000. The realtor, with a pained expression, expressed severe doubt that they were going to be able to find a house that met all their needs in that price range. That marked the first time in the half-hour program that I was so happy that my life's path didn't lead me to trying to get people to buy houses, because I'd be in jail.
The man was hoping for a large soaking tub, preferably with jets, so that he could continue the re-hab on his back at home, which I thought was reasonable. But he also wanted a swimming pool. She wanted a lot, starting with stainless steel appliances. Granite counter tops. Two sinks in the master bathroom. Hardwood floors. And pretty much every other big-ticket item you can think of.
So the realtor did his best. He took them to two different model homes where the items they desired were upgrades from the basic package. The couple was loudly horrified when they were told that those hardwood floors throughout the entire downstairs? A $7,000 upgrade. The granite counter tops instead of the standard upscale laminate? A $4,000 upgrade. An extra sink in the master bathroom? A $2,000 upgrade, due to the fact that more plumbing had to be run and the entire room's floor plan reconfigured to accommodate the longer vanity.
Outrageous! they exclaimed. Just totally, like, not fair!
In the end, they chose one of the model homes and added so many upgrades, they went over their original budget by some $30,000. Because, you know, black appliances (the standard package) are entirely unacceptable. So now they've got shiny luxe surfaces to prepare their generic boxes of mac-and-cheese on.
The second couple, in an episode filmed in North Carolina, had a bigger budget, but no more sense than the first couple. They, too, were rigid in their expectations and there was no intention of finding a house that met their basic needs -- four bedrooms, big back yard for the kiddies, open floor plan, office space for her home-based business -- that they could work to upgrade as they lived their lives. No, it all had to be there RIGHT NOW, THIS VERY MINUTE, even if it strained their budget to bursting.
One house was entirely eliminated from the running because the solid-surface kitchen counter tops weren't granite and the sink? It was not under-mounted.
"Oh, well, then, BURN IT DOWN," I said to the television. "Seriously. Light a match and set fire to that dump."
"Mom," cautioned Meelyn in a wary voice. "You know how you get..."
"It's their fault," I mumbled irritably.
The next property, a new build, caused the couple to view their hard-working, unappreciated realtor with barely disguised disdain. "There is....carpet," the woman of the couple said, uttering the word 'carpet' in the same tone that another person might have said 'hard-packed dirt.' "There is...carpet...in this room."
The room in question was a space that was meant to be either a formal living room or a home office, neither of which is exactly incompatible with....carpet. And the carpet was not bad. This was a new house, after all, and so the carpet was pristine and unviolated by someone else's incontinent dog. It was a low pile rough oatmeal color, which I found attractive, but.....carpet.
"Well, that will just have to go immediately," her husband said impatiently. "We don't want....carpet."
The couple and their realtor made their way to the kitchen, which had black appliances, all brand new. As one, they turned to the real estate agent with expressions of incredulous horror.
"Well, THIS certainly isn't what we were expecting," the woman finally managed to say through tight lips.
"We have to have stainless steel," her husband elaborated. "We won't consider any property that doesn't have stainless steel appliances. And the master bedroom had only the one walk-in closet."
Now, see, if I were the realtor, I would have taken my clipboard and started beating them with it about their heads and necks. But instead, seated on the sofa in my living room, I shouted, "Get the gasoline cans! The kerosene! THE MATCHES! Burn that heap down and tie the realtor up and leave him to roast like a luau pig! How dare he show you a property without stainless steel appliances!"
"Mo-o-om...." sighed Aisling, "you remember that they can't hear you, right?"
In the end, that couple also went over their budget because living on tuna-noodle casserole seemed preferable to trying to scrape out an existence in a house -- one couldn't really call it a home -- with only one walk-in closet in the master bedroom. How could they subject themselves to that indignity?
Fortunately, there are just enough nice couples on House Hunters that I don't have to fall completely apart and sit there in my own living room (which has hardwood floors, the original ones to our 1880s house, underneath the carpet that covers them) biting the remote and tearing the stuffing out of the cushions. But, oh those horrible, smug people with their demands to have it all, right this very minute, unable to contemplate life in a standard kitchen! They make me insane.
I hope their stainless steel is a constant source of grief to them as they fight a losing battle with the fingerprints. I gain strength from this thought.
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