Recently, St. Pauli Girl complained of my habit of watching the Cartoon Network in bed. She had a point; we both know “We’re off on the road to Rhode Island” from memory. So in a magnanimous gesture, I now flip the channel to HGTV after my cartoons are over where we watch a show called “House Hunters.” The show features various couples trying to move out of their clustered apartments/homes to something bigger and nicer. The drama is heightened as they view three homes, and in the climax, they tell us which one they bought.
I believe all of the shows must have been taped three or four years ago, back before the housing meltdown and when sub-prime mortgages were hot rather than toxic. My favorite part of the show is when the couple announces their budget, the size of which always amazes me, and after I give them the benefit of the doubt that they maybe just won the lottery or inherited a fortune, they proclaim they bought the house with no money down.
And so here is an example of how an episode gets developed:
(HGTV producer is invited into a small, rundown house in an old area of town where he meets young couple Joe and Sheila Smith)
Producer: Your home is a lot nicer on the inside. We’ll probably stick with exterior shots.
Sheila: This really isn’t our home. It’s my mom’s. We live in the garage.
Producer: Great! Let’s check it out.
(Sheila leads the group to the garage which holds a bed, couch, small table and microwave oven next to a large empty space.)
Producer: Hmmm. When you said garage, I thought you meant bedroom converted from a garage. But, there is lots of space here.
Sheila: That’s because my mom is at work. She parks the car there when she comes home.
Joe: Makes it tough to sleep in on Saturdays when she gets up early to go the market.
Producer: Good one, Joe. We can use that line. Let me make a note that we’ll want to film some when your mom is here. Next, let’s talk about budget. Tell me about your income.
Joe: Well, I work the graveyard shift at the Grab-n-Go and Sheila has her own business. She’s a substitute home-school teacher. If someone home-schools their kids and needs a day off, they call Sheila.
Producer: Wow! There’s a demand for that?
Sheila: Not as much as I had hoped.
Producer: Fine. We’ll put you down as entrepreneur, and we’ll say that Joe is in retail. Any rich relatives that can help you out?
Joe: Just her mom. She’s kind of nudging us out. Every day she parks a little bit closer to the bed.
Producer: No problem. I think we can safely assume a $600K budget.
Sheila: Dang! Is HGTV giving us all that?
Producer: No, we can’t do that. We can give you a nice house-warming gift though. Maybe a fern.
Joe: We only have about $400 in savings. Is that going to be enough?
Producer: Oh yeah. I know a guy who will take good care of you. Yoshii. He’s a mortgage dealer. They call him Samurai Mortgage Broker because he’ll slice your mortgage about a hundred ways and then sell the parts to investors.
Sheila: That sure is nice of those investors to give us a nice house like that.
Producer: Well, of course you’ll be paying the mortgage. But the good news is that not only do you need no money down, Yoshii will also give you a $2,000 refund.
Joe: Wow! How can he do that?
Producer: Because investors love this investment. Plus your interest rate will be 4%. Now it is variable, but one thing we’ve learned in the past 15 years is that mortgage rates always go lower and house values always increase. Buying a home puts you on the road to wealth.
Joe: And to think I just wanted a man cave.
Producer: Now let’s talk about show specifics. First, we’ll be showing you three houses to choose from.
Sheila: Do we get to pick out those three?
Producer: No. HGTV does that for you, with some help from Yoshii. Actually, with a lot of help from Yoshii.
Sheila: Doesn’t that limit our options?
Producer: Look, do you want the $2,000 or not? Anyway, as you look at the houses, remember, America is looking with you, and you are the entertainment. So you’ll need to be commenting on the house. We’ve got some standard lines to help. When you can’t think of anything else to say, use one of these. First, there’s “I really like the open floor plan.”
Joe: What does that mean?
Producer: It just means that you can see the living room television from the kitchen. But don’t say that. You’ll want to say something like “we can keep an eye on the kids from the kitchen.”
Sheila: I still don’t understand open floor plan.
Producer: Well, notice how right now, you can see the lawn mower all the way across the garage. That’s an open floor plan. When your mom gets home and parks her car here, it becomes a closed floor plan. Another thing to say when looking at a kitchen or patio: “This will be great for entertaining” followed by “we do a lot of entertaining.”
Sheila: But we really don’t do much entertaining with Joe working nights.
Producer: Do you ever eat dinner with your mom?
Sheila: Every night.
Producer: That’s a lot of entertaining. And if you can’t think of anything else, you can always say, “It’s a little small” or “Needs to be updated.”
Joe: But what if that’s not true?
Producer: It’s always true. You can never have a house that’s too big or that doesn’t need updating. What is the number one, most important thing you’ll be looking for in a house?
Sheila: A big private master bathroom that we don’t have to share with anyone.
Producer: Great. We’ll tell everyone you really want a big backyard.
Joe: But we don’t. I hate mowing.
Producer: This is to fool America. Lately, they’ve gotten pretty good at guessing which homes people buy and quite frankly, they’re losing interest. So we put a little red herring out there to make it trickier. They think you’re going to choose the house with the biggest backyard, then bam! You actually end up with the big fat master bath. See how it works? Lastly, remember you are on television, and you are essentially performers.
(He gazes at Sheila for a minute)
You’ll want to dress nice. Maybe something lowcut. Also, do you have any slutty friends that might want to be on tv, I mean, could help you in your house hunting?
Joe: What about Gayle? Remember that one time--
(Joe is cut off by Sheila’s icy glare.)
Joe: Okay, so, what about me? Should I wear a sports jacket, maybe a tie?
Producer: Nah, you won’t matter. Everyone knows it’s the woman who picks out the house. Besides, by the time we’re done editing, you’re going to look like a doofus anyway.