Richard and Cindy have a problem. House #1 has the lanai overlooking the Pacific that Cindy has always dreamed of, but there's no place for Richard to practice his golf swing. House #2 has the space they need for entertaining, but shares a road with two other homes, and privacy is high on their list of must-haves. House #3 has the Olympic-size infinity pool with adjacent Jacuzzi, but none of the native tile work that attracted Richard to the island in the first place.
We know all this because Richard and Cindy are featured on an episode of a TV program that lets us puzzle along with couples faced with just such dilemmas. Each week, on shows like Beachfront Bargain Hunt and Lakefront Bargain Hunt (oh, the irony of that word, "bargain"), those looking for that perfect vacation home—or to simply relocate and enjoy the good life—agonize over their choices. And it's really hard, folks. You always think you want to have that kind of wealth, but the grass is always greener. You'll learn that firsthand if you're ever faced with choosing between the sprawling Southern estate that requires a ten-minute drive into town and the four-story Victorian where the dining room only seats eight and the guest suite doesn't even have a walk-in closet.
For those unfamiliar with these shows, I offer the following synopses of some of the most disgusting, along with recaps of recent episodes. (These are quoted directly from the HGTV website, verbatim and without embellishment.) I think you'll be relieved to learn, as I was, that you don't have to be rich to own a vacation home in paradise. In some cases, you can snatch one up for just a few hundred thousand dollars. Or, if you feel like splurging a bit (and why shouldn't you?), you can even buy your own island—easy on the eyes and the bank account.
More on this after you've had a chance to get acquainted with these couples and their particular challenges.
Show synopsis: We follow families as they leave the mainland behind and head to the Caribbean to live on island time. Join their search for an affordable slice of heaven, touring gorgeous homes on white sandy beaches. You don't have to be rich to live in paradise!
Episode recap: Cliff and Janine Peek decided that the New England winters were no longer for them, so they packed up and headed for the Caribbean. The Peeks, who are avid boaters, were drawn to the huge yachting population in Sint Maarten and are hoping to find something on the Dutch side of the island. They particularly like this side of the island because of the blowing trade winds and the lack of property taxes on the Dutch side. They hope to find a place that's close to their boating activities as well as a quick drive to the French side where they like to shop and dine. The Peeks will have the expertise of broker Jonathan Schaede from Sunshine Properties to help them find their new island escape.
Show synopsis: We're traveling to some of the most exquisite beach destinations around to help buyers search for their dream homes on the sand. Follow the entire process from start to finish as each episode introduces a prospective buyer and agent and takes us along for the entire journey of their search. And for these Beach Hunters, it's all about location, location, location.
Episode recap: A couple that loves the outdoors relocates from the suburbs of Chicago to a beach home on the Emerald Coast of Florida. They hope to find a home within their $1.25 million budget that has good rental potential and is large enough to accommodate all six of their children when they vacation together.
BEACHFRONT BARGAIN HUNT
Show synopsis: Each week we follow a family making their beachfront living dreams come true — on a budget! We'll follow them on the house hunt as we discover some of the most surprisingly affordable beachfront locales that prove you don't need to be a millionaire to live right on the beach.
Episode recap: Catherine and Andrea live in Meriden, Connecticut, and are soon to be married. But before they walk down the aisle, they're hoping to find a weekend getaway in the coastal community of Westerly, Rhode Island. Catherine spent her childhood vacationing along the shores of Westerly and feels there would be no better place to relax and unwind after a busy week. Andrea loves the idea of a beach house but isn't so sure they'll be able to find a property within their budget of $375,000, so they enlist the help of a local real estate agent to aid in their search for an affordable seaside retreat.
Show synopsis: Follow American couples as they travel overseas searching for the perfect home that matches their criteria. Lots of bedrooms, room for entertaining, plenty of parking, and it has to be a castle! Hundreds of castles are for sale all over the world and each episode of Castle Hunters will take viewers inside some of Europe's most incredible properties. From the South of France to the rolling hills of Ireland, our home seekers will decide if the manor lifestyle is for them and make an offer or keep searching for their fairytale ending.
Episode recap: A couple from Washington D.C. discovers that their dream of bringing up their daughter in an Irish castle is more accessible than they expected. Tim and Mary will tour three castles across Ireland, trying to find a balance between ancient history and modern practicality. The hand-carved spiral staircases and 70-foot towers are magnificent. The only question is, can they baby-proof them?
LAKEFRONT BARGAIN HUNT
Show synopsis: Dreams of living on the dock of the bay can come true, even on the tightest budget. We show home seekers how to find the lakefront property of their dreams without breaking the bank. Each week we help a family discover an affordable location that proves you don't need a boatload of cash to live on the lake.
Episode recap: Mike and Penny are from Gaithersburg, Maryland, and they love getting away. After Mike discovered Deep Creek Lake a few years earlier while skiing with friends, he decided this would be a great place to take Penny. After visiting, they both fell in love with the year-round attractions that the area offers. Since they recently purchased a boat, now seems like a great time to invest in a lakefront property. With the help of a real estate agent they hope to find the perfect vacation home for under $300,000.
Show synopsis: It's House Hunters ... with a tropical twist! Follow some lucky buyers who aren't just looking for a house, they're looking the ultimate getaway — their own private island! Follow families as they tour three separate islands, complete with vacation homes and gorgeous beachfronts. Then see which beautiful tropical island escape they choose!
Episode recap: Now that they've sold their successful chain of retirement communities, Larry and Luba are taking the time to enjoy the good life. They've decided that an island in Fiji would be the perfect home base for their upcoming adventures. And they don't want to be tied to the resort communities so they've set their sites on the undeveloped islands in Northern Fiji near the remote town of Labasa. With a budget of $3-5 Million dollars, they've tasked Chris Krolow with finding them an island paradise.
Look, I don't hate Richard and Cindy.
That's not true. I do. I hate them. There. I've said it. It's my blog, and I can say anything I want. I hate Richard and Cindy. My God, it feels good to let that out.
It's not that I begrudge them their wealth. I just think it's in very poor taste to flaunt it on television, when some viewers are undoubtedly struggling to pay rent on their one and only apartment—an apartment that doesn't even have a lanai. And there's something about the entitlement of these house hunters—not only to live in the place that best suits their dreams, but to find within that place the exact features they demand. The view of the lake isn't enough. There has to be an open-concept kitchen. They all want an open-concept kitchen. Apparently, the open-concept kitchen is a necessity—that, and an en suite bathroom. These are the two must-haves. And if they can't find a house (or castle) that has those things, they'll have to renovate, which is going to cut into the money they were going to spend on a private jet. They really enjoy flying.
I once watched a local realtor lead an American couple up beautiful, winding terra cotta stairs to an irresistibly unique three-bedroom Costa Rican getaway with antique wooden ceiling fans, exquisite tile work, and one-of-a-kind stained glass that caught the morning light. This heavenly refuge was up among the treetops, with views of crystal clear ocean waters from nearly every room in the house including the bathroom, where one could gaze through a wall of glass from the huge sunken tub. Spending an hour in this place would be a once-in-a-lifetime treasure; living in it, a blessing too wonderful to hope for. But Becky wasn't sure. "The kitchen's a little small," she said, scrunching up her lips in false apology, "I was hoping for a chef's kitchen." "Oh, you cook?" asked the realtor. "No," said Becky, "But I was going to learn."
On another episode (don't judge me—I spend a lot of time on airplanes and they offer these shows for free), a couple found a perfect place, but it was $100,000 over their budget. Now, for most normal home buyers, that big a jump would be at best a hardship, and more likely a non-starter. But for this couple, it was just naughty spending fun. They snuck each other a cutesy look like two people deciding whether to indulge in dessert after a meal. "Should we?" "Oh, it's so perfect. Let's just do it." And everyone giggled.
Note this: in many cases, our "bargain hunters" of the week are seeking a second home, for vacationing. Most people I know can't afford vacations, let alone vacation homes.
So yes, I suppose I hate these people. I wish they had more humility, more gratitude—hell—more discretion. Why are they conducting their searches on TV? Do they need the money? Doubtful. I'm not even sure they get paid. No, the Curmudgeon believes these couples participate so they can show the world how charming and selective they are, and to display their fascinating lives. Episode after episode, you'll see these icons of narcissism and white privilege (the couples are always white, even when they're not), striving for self-celebration in the form of a home. It's that sense that they should have things that reflect their tastes. Because they're so charming and fascinating.
Well, the Curmudgeon is disgusted.
Don't misunderstand. If I ever become wealthy enough to afford a little piece of paradise, I'm not saying I won't grab it. It's just that you won't see me sharing my search for the ideal second home with television viewers. It's tacky, it's insensitive, it's arrogant, and besides, I don't want the hoi polloi knowing where I live.
Now it's off to my closed-concept kitchen to eat my jealousy.