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House Hunters International

Confession: I used to love HGTV. I could sit for hours with the television tuned to my second favorite station. Myles of Style was my show because, yes, Myles is Black, and I root for (almost) everybody Black, but she also taught us how to use our creative skills to level up on a budget. There was Color Splash too, which stimulated my never-ending thirst for bright colors. Incidentally, that is where the idea for my red, back-painted backsplash originated. 

After a while I grew tired of it. Tired of NOT seeing people of color represented on a regular basis. Tired of my shows and favorite hosts disappearing. That’s kind of how my relationship with HGTV evolved from new love into a bitter breakup–it gave me every reason to tune out and no reason to tune in. 

Like that old boyfriend with whom you make up only to break up again, I eventually went back because it had something I needed. So, I went from not watching at all, to scrolling through the app, searching for episodes of House Hunters International to watch. If I wanted to move to another country, what better way to learn than from a sanitized television show designed to make each country look so much better than my own? It became a part of my research process. I’d think of a location and watch all the episodes about that location so I’d have an idea about what I could get with my budget.  

I tried to stay focused solely on places I’d consider moving to, but it was also fun looking at where other Americans were choosing to live. Like the couple who found a home in Nicaragua. Huh? It’s a beautiful country which, right now, is in the midst of some sort of crisis. What would make them move there other than his dream of owning a bar?

Or, what about the Black woman who moved to Croatia? Having never been and no desire to go, I figured it was all white, all the time. But hey, who am I to judge? She found a nice place and decided to take the plunge with the urging of her more adventurous friend.  

As I’ve watched countless episodes, I’ve noticed two things:

  1. There are very, very few people of color.

  2. Americans have unrealistic expectations.

On the first point, it crystallized how infrequently people of color are able to do what I want to do: pick up everything and move abroad. There are a litany of reasons why--lack of resources, fear of flying, discomfort with travel, distance from family, responsibilities, etc. Moving abroad is a luxury and too often, we’re struggling to keep our head above water and our community alive. We aren’t born on second or third base. 

Which reminds me of the episode that featured a young couple who traveled to five continents, got engaged, moved abroad but had to keep their budget low because they were going to start their own business. My people could never…

It’s irksome. 

It’s always nice to see us taking the leap, but I need to see more. As a matter of fact, I need to see realtors of color. I know if I was one-half of the Black couple moving to Panama, I would’ve asked a broker of color, “Hey, so, how do they treat us here?” It’s really a question we have to ask, and should/could be asked on camera. 

On the second point, Americans are so privileged. I know the USD is strong, but do you really think you’re going to rent a two-bedroom two-bathroom house with an authentic feel, decorated in a modern style, with a swimming pool, room for a garden and an office space on the beach for $500 a month? Then complain when the realtor can’t deliver a property that checks all the boxes? To quote the great Cris Carter, “Come on, man.”

I look at myself and I think, “Well, maybe my expectations are a little unrealistic?” After all, I want three-bedrooms, three-bathrooms (for family) with an authentic feel, decorated in modern style (hello Myles) with a swimming pool (I can’t swim). I don’t need the beach or pool, but I do want to have access to tennis courts and golf courses (I don’t play either). 

Are my expectations a little unrealistic too? Am I one of those Americans?

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