Thursday, May 19, 2011

House Hunting

In the vast wasteland of cable tv programming, I still manage to find a few shows on which to waste some time. I rationalize that it is for relaxation before I go to bed (although when I read in bed I am usually asleep in minutes). Or, I tell myself I watch this stuff for the stories they tell. One such show is Househunters on HGTV. Every episode tracks a person, couple or family as they begin their search for a new home. They may be leaving their home and homeland because of a new job or a new relationship or to start a new life somewhere else. You meet these people and hear about their lives - at least a few minutes of their lives- and then you are invited into their search with a savvy realtor who is going to help them find the house that best meets their wish list. Some of the episodes follow Americans who are relocating to some exotic place like Mongolia or some tropical island where they will have to settle for much less than they are used to. Even many European countries offer an opportunity to downsize. Most of the shows however feature Americans who are moving within their own borders. They begin their home search with a wish list: big master bed room, upgraded kitchen with granite counter tops, large master bath, big bedrooms, bonus room, spacious dining and living rooms, and a deck/porch/secluded back yard for entertaining even it's just the pets that are being entertained. The helpful realtor is given the wish list and then he shows them three homes and he and we viewers are allowed to listen in on their critical thinking process. And it is critical, most of what they see they don't like. The kitchen needs upgrades (mostly those granite countertops), the master bathroom needs to be bigger, the closets don't come close to meeting the need for all their clothes, and the back yard is small or lacks privacy. All of the houses shown usually need work which adds on to the asking price which is already at the top of their budget. The impression I get is that these people come with a learned sense of entitlement. The American dream of home owning is one that expects you can own a new home or one with upgrades like a jacuzzi tub, hot tub and granite counter tops - just because you should. How dare some one try to pawn off a home that needs work or has a small bathroom. I feel sorry for the poor realtor who has to listen to their complaints many of which sound pretty petty. "Oh, the colors are awful." What, no double sinks in the bathroom?" I don't know if we can live where we can see the neighbors house from our back yard!" It makes you think that most Americans have a low threshold for suffering. I wonder if most home buyers are like that. It is tv, after all and reality tv is not always what it claims to be. So, I watch it with a grain of salt. Then, I go to bed, happy that I have a bed to go to. First, I turn down the heat, glad I can live in a heated home. When I get up and use the bathroom and take a shower, I am thankful for running water in our house. Then, I make my way to the kitchen which has a coffee maker that runs on electricity and as I sip my first cup it is with gratitude for my Mr. Coffee four cupper. I make my oatmeal on our electric stove and toast a piece of bread in our electric toaster and feel blessed I am not living in a tent. What else do you need? Watching Househunters reminds me what is really important. That's reality.