Fans of HGTV are familiar with the House Hunters series and its progeny, House Hunters International and House Hunters Renovation.
For the uninitiated (and those for whom the title is a bit too cryptic to decipher) House Hunters involves one or more people—usually, but not always, a couple; and usually, but not always, attractive—looking for a home in a specific geographic area aided by a local real estate professional. Over the course of thirty minutes (minus 8 or 9 for commercials) the parties view and assess three properties, each one ticking off some—but never all—of the boxes on the parties’ wish list.
Yep. Three. No more. No less.
As if choosing a place to live were like The Dating Game.
“So, house number one: What is your idea of a nice romantic evening?”
“Great question. I think my idea of a romantic evening would be lying down beside you on my deep orange textured shag carpeting, where I’d gaze with you winsomely upon my velvet avocado wallpaper and show you what seven thousand dollars below budget feels like.”
“That sounds, uh, interesting. House number two: same question.”
“My idea of a romantic evening is sitting with you before a roaring fire under my vaulted ceiling with exposed beams, surrounded by real linen blend wall paper and sustainable bamboo hardwoods, eating ramen soup and hot dogs.”
“Wow. You must really like ramen soup and hot dogs.”
“No. That’s just all you’d be able to afford after paying the mortgage and utilities.”
“I see. And house number three?”
“Well, I can’t offer either velvet or linen wallpaper, but I am in a good neighborhood and right on budget. That being said, a romantic evening to me means taking you to my kitchen, showing you my huge peninsula…”
You get the idea.
And if only it were that easy.
We could make it even easier, I suppose, by posing it like that age-old philosophical question: If you were marooned on a deserted island, what is the one thing you absolutely would have to have with you?
Only in this case, it would be, if you could live in one place and only that one place for the rest of your life, which place would it be?
It would be a tough choice—especially for me and the Jarhead, who have moved so often our friends and family probably think we’re in witness protection. Or on the lam.
In case you’re about to check Google or the FBI website for our names and photos, let me save you the trouble: The only thing we’re guilty of is criminal indecision.
And in case you were going to check Google or the American Psychiatric Psociety website for a list of psymptoms of psychological disorders, let me save you that trouble, too: What we have is a type of addiction where you can’t live in a house without modifying it in some way, and also a form of hoarding where you are unable to sell a house you’ve fixed up without first living there—if only for 385 days, like our last one.
And if you believe that, I have a lovely bottle of windmill noise cancer pills to sell you at a good price.
Seriously, though. If we had to choose a home from a pool of just three, it would be like having to choose only one cat from the shelter (as in, next to impossible) or asking my friend Von to select a piece of chocolate from a Belgian sampler (meaning, delightful or deadly, depending on the odds of finding a piece that contains cashews, almonds, or coconut.)
Fortunately, we aren’t forced to choose a project from just three pitiable properties. UN-fortunately, that means we can end up touring five, ten, sometimes fifteen houses before finding one that can be saved without spending more money fixing it up than can be made when it’s time to sell it. And if we’re outbid by another buyer or can’t put together an offer that’s acceptable to the seller, then we’re right back at square one. I’m not suggesting what we’re doing would make for a bingeworthy TV series, but there is plenty of drama.
And just for the record, we’re not going through these homes whining about laminate countertops, popcorn ceilings, or carpeted floors like many folks do on House Hunters.
Some of these people truly could use a lesson in perspective, come to think of it. Perhaps HGTV should develop another program called Get Over Yourself, where the participants from House Hunters tour three properties whose occupants are barely keeping a roof over their head so these jerks can understand just how effing good they have it, and maybe learn not to be so glib and condescending when talking about their own tastes and preferences.
Nor am I walking through our prospective projects in four-inch heels, false eyelashes, and a Brazilian blowout, and screaming at the mouse droppings in the kitchen, the chickens roosting in the garage, or the dude sleeping on the pile of clothes in the back bedroom. To be fair, the mouse droppings are the only item from that list that I, personally, have run across while touring a home, so it’s probably not fair to judge Christina until I’ve walked a mile in her designer platforms. But I like to think I’d know enough to shut my mouth and slip back out the front door so as not to get us shot or shanked.
Even without the chickens and the squatters, some of what we’ve run across during a tour or a remodel would still give you pause. A basement filled with rotting clothing and garbage may not shank you, but it will make you stop and think about the date of your last tetanus shot. As will the carpets covered in cat, dog and human waste; the rusted-out razor blades you pull out of the furnace vents, and the long, thin lines of sticky yellow-brown liquid that adorn the walls with bits of fuzz trapped in and around it like bees suspended in fossilized tree resin.
And let’s not forget about the graffiti, the freezers filled with rotten food, the cat litter clogged toilets, and the wobbly outline of a child’s hand drawn repeatedly in colored marker next to the scribbled words “Natalie’s time out hand” that you hope was written by a living, breathing child named Natalie, and not by a vengeful spirit come to haunt her.
Wow. That sure took a turn toward the dark and surreal.
If you’re not afraid to find out what’s around the next corner, be sure to tune in next time for Mill Street Blues III: Love It or List It.