DISCLAIMER: House Hunters makes me cranky so I say “fuck” a lot.
Nothing amplifies the cultural differences between the United States and Australia quite like a House Hunters marathon.
Their obsession with stainless steel appliances and crown moulding, their bizarre insistence on football field-sized master bedrooms (WHAT THE FUCK ARE Y’ALL EVEN DOING IN THERE?) and their inexplicable love of ugly granite counter tops that look like someone projectile vomited beef stroganoff all over the place.
Weird, all of it.
And while here in Australia we’re worrying about housing affordability and how many thousands of avocados it takes to save a house deposit, middle-class Americans are whining because the walk-in closet in the guest bedroom of their $200 000 dollar house is slightly smaller than a mid-sized Hummer.
In my jealousy-fuelled fantasies I often wonder how different House Hunters would look if it was set in one of the major cities of Australia. For starters, it seems pretty obvious that you can get a lot more bang for your buck when it comes to housing in the US, compared with some of our property markets.
What $250 000 buys you in America
What $250 000 buys you in Australia
Actually scrap that.
$250 000 won’t get you shit. That car space sold for $264 000*.
(*I wish I was taking the piss here but I’m not. The struggle is real)
A typical episode of the US version of House Hunters goes something like this:
A young couple is looking to buy their first home in the town they grew up in. They have a modest budget and incredibly high expectations, with a lengthy wish list that often borders on the absurd.
Examples of actual wishlist items from House Hunters:
“Space for chickens”
“Water view from bedroom”
I mean these things are even more laughably absurd to the average first home buyer in Australia, because the number one item on their wish list is usually a plaintive “I just wish I could afford something. Anything.”
If you’ve never seen House Hunters before, the real estate agent shows potential buyers through three different properties, and they choose one to buy at the end. The negotiations usually go something like this:
“They were asking $380 000 for the house but we were able to negotiate them down to $310 000, and they also offered to pay all of our closing costs”.
The happy couple moves into their new mansion. I punch a wall. The End.
And then we have House Hunters Renovation, where we get to see the buying AND renovation process. It typically goes something like this:
“We’ve budgeted $35 000 for renovations, so we’ve hired a designer to give us a whole new kitchen, two new bathrooms, paint and hardwood floors throughout, a solid gold bathtub, an indoor waterfall, a refurbished attic space to store all of my unused dishwashing sponges and a mudroom-slash-day spa* for Dorothy and Reginald, our pure breed daschunds”.
(*THIS ONE IS FUCKING REAL I SWEAR TO GOD. A day spa for their fucking dogs. Now you’re just trolling us, America)
And seriously, how the hell are tradespeople in America so cheap? I couldn’t get a plumber to even TURN UP to my house for less than $300. Tradies in my area charge more per hour than lawyers do.
BUT, WHAT IF HOUSE HUNTERS WAS SET IN SYDNEY…?
VOICE OVER: First-time buyers Damon and Erin are looking to buy a house in their hometown of Sydney. Damon is an IT specialist and Erin works in marketing. In order to put together the deposit, Damon sold one of his kidneys on the international black market and Erin spent the last 12 months working a second job as “weekend receptionist” at a “gentleman’s club”.
(cut to shot of sheepish-yet-hopeful looking young couple)
VOICE OVER: For Damon, the choice was a no-brainer….
DAMON: I mean, I already had two working kidneys, so it made perfect financial sense to sell one of them in order to try and get onto the Sydney property ladder.
Damon and Erin look to buy their dream house
VOICE OVER: Damon and Erin are looking to buy their dream home. Like all young couples they refuse to compromise on location, and are looking to buy anywhere within a 90 kilometre radius of Sydney, in order to enjoy the urban culture and cafe lifestyle that comes with inner city living.
ERIN: We’re hoping to buy a two bedroom, asbestos-ridden dump with old carpet in every room, because nothing feels as luxurious underfoot as 40 years’ worth of accumulated dirt, fluid splatters, pet hair, dried-up puke and vintage booger crust.
DAMON: We’d also like structurally sound walls and a functioning toilet, but we need to be realistic. Our budget is only $1.5 million dollars.
Damon and Erin’s wishlist
DAMON: I enjoy cooking, so I want 1970s yellow laminate benchtops, pock-marked vinyl flooring and an old electric stove with at least one working element.
ERIN: We love to entertain, so I’d prefer something that didn’t have a toilet in the kitchen. But it’s not a deal breaker for me.
DAMON: I want the house to be on a main road. At least four lanes. If we could back onto a train line too, that would be great.
ERIN: It needs to be close to work, so ideally we’d be looking at something like a four hour daily commute in peak hour traffic.
HOUSE 1: Charming Squat For Inner City Hipsters – $1.4 million
DAMON: Wow, this is under our budget. It needs some upgrades though.
REAL ESTATE AGENT: It’s got a kitchen, a bathroom and it’s structurally stable. So it’s liveable.*
DAMON: Mate, for $1.4 million dollars it would want to be fucking liveable.
(*real life comment from real estate agent about this real life shithole of a property #onlyinsydney)
HOUSE 2: Cute Art Deco Toilet Cubicle With Kitchenette – $600 000
ERIN: (grimaces) I told you I didn’t want a home with a toilet in the kitchen.
REAL ESTATE AGENT: (rolls eyes) Yes, but it’s well under your budget. You can’t always get everything on your wish list as a first time buyer. I mean, think of the benefits. You can empty your bowels AND the dishwasher at the same time.
HOUSE 3: Burnt AF Shithole in Trendy Location – $900 000+
ERIN: Ummm, is it even safe for us to be in here right now?
REAL ESTATE AGENT: No. And while we’re on the subject I am legally obliged to disclose that this property is completely unliveable in its current state.
VOICE OVER: Damon and Erin have seen three very different properties, and have decided to buy house number one – the charming squat. Sydney is a sellers market, so the property has gone to auction. Let’s catch up with them to see how they went.
(doorbell sound effect) DING DONG!!
(Cut to scene in inner city café. Damon and Erin are drowning their sorrows in avocado toast and skim milk soy lattes)
ERIN: (dejected) The house went to auction on the weekend. There was a bidding war between a couple of ageing baby boomers, three wealthy developers, two professional property flippers and a handful of buyer agents acting on behalf of Chinese billionaires. The house sold for $1.8 million over the reserve price.
DAMON: (sighs) I guess this means we won’t be moving out of my mother-in-law’s garage any time soon. Sydney can go fuck itself sideways.
For the record, those images were from three actual properties sold in Sydney. Read them and weep.