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Jun 18, 2015

The Definitive Ranking Of HGTV's House Hunting Shows

It's time to look past all of the granite countertops and hardwood floors to decide which show is truly the cream of the house hunting crop.


A few words before we begin:

For the purposes of this ranking, a "house hunting program" has been defined as one in which the main purpose of the series is for prospective homebuyers to tour multiple properties and decide which among them to live in. This leaves out certain programs, like Property Brothers and Love It or List It, which do feature house hunting but are arguably more focused on home renovation.

This ranking has attempted to take into account every house hunting program that HGTV has ever aired, although that is by no means a guarantee that I haven't missed a show or two. Sorry.

OK: Let's do this.

16. Rent or Buy; Overseas and Underpriced; Living Country; Living Alaska; Living Big Sky


Did these shows all air on HGTV? Technically. Did they make enough of an impression to warrant more than a tie for last place? No.

15. House Hunters on Vacation


Listen, House Hunters is so great that it makes sense for the network to try to produce as many varieties of the format as possible. This one is, alas, a total dud. While the other HH series follow people looking for a long-term living situation (and spending their own money in the process), HH on Vacation is simply about people choosing a house to stay in for a short vacation, paid for by HGTV. It's hard to get invested in the three choices when you know that the family will only be there for about a week. Even the families themselves seem a little disinteresed. Sigh.

14. Island Life; Caribbean Life; Hawaii Life


Is it unfair to lump all the Life shows together? Maybe. But you can't argue that any of them really stood out enough to deserve their own place in the rankings. They're all just watered-down versions of House Hunters, and with the focus falling so heavily on island/beach property, there's just not enough variety to help spice these shows up.

13. Island Hunters


Basically the same as the above, but with the added benefit of being part of the Hunters franchise.

12. House Hunters Off the Grid


For those who want to commune with nature, there's House Hunters Off the Grid. Alas, the conceit of the show is also what brings it down; you can't go "off the grid" without losing a bit of the intrigue that comes from watching people bicker about bathroom finishes and kitchen countertops. At least this series was set in a variety of unique locations around the world, so that even when the homes were kind of boring, the visuals could still be interesting.

11. Tiny House Hunters


Perhaps the quirkiest member of the Hunters family, what with unique property types like yurts being up for purchase, Tiny HH still falls short of many of HGTV's other house hunting programs. With such tiny properties, the actual process of touring the potential homes loses interest quickly. "Let's take a look at the kitchen" just doesn't have the same effect when the kitchen is literally right next to where you're already standing. Maybe if episodes were shorter in length Tiny HH could succeed, but trying to fill a full half-hour block with minuscule properties feels like a stretch.

10. My House, Your Money


This show didn't last too long, but the premise — young homebuyers get financial help from their parents — is basically the millennial dream. Tbh, ranking it this high is basically just a result of a personal fantasy that my parents might buy me a large home in the near future. Heavy emphasis on "fantasy."

9. My First Place


My First Place is like a slightly more realistic House Hunters. Rather than looking at three houses before choosing one, the homebuyers on MFP sometimes attempt to buy their chosen home in the middle of the episode. We see negotiations stall, deals fall through, and disheartened couples restart the home search they believed was already finished. While this sense of realism is generally intriguing, MFP is brought down by that very same realism. Episode structures can be hard to follow and the entire thing has a less polished feel than many of its contemporaries. Still, it's a solid series.

8. For Rent


Similar to My First Place in some ways — the emphasis on the searcher's checklist, for example — this apartment-hunting show differentiates itself in a few important ways. First, it retains a sense of consistency by having host Jodi Gilmour lead all of the apartment tours, and second, it includes a short ~design~ segment at the end showing Gilmour sprucing up the chosen apartment.

7. Beachfront Bargain Hunt


The biggest issue with this show is that, because of its framing, all of the homes being toured are budget properties. Now, generally it's fine to have realistic portrayals of the kinds of homes most people in the country can afford. But when budget properties become the show's sole conceit, you never get the fun surprise of seeing a big-budget search and beautifully luxurious homes. And that's nice to have every once in a while.

6. Lakefront Bargain Hunt


The same as the beachfront version, but set on lakefronts. This one gets the slight edge because I like lakes better than beaches. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

5. House Hunters Renovation


OK, now we're getting to the cream of the crop. And HHR is a solid performer in the expanded House Hunters realm. It gives you two-in-one — a regular episode of House Hunters with an extra half-hour of renovation-based content. The only issue is that the renovation aspect of the show threatens to dilute the first half. When you know they are picking a fixer-upper, it's hard to get invested when a realtor shows off a move-in-ready property.

4. Property Virgins


One of the best things about Property Virgins is that it provides viewers with a sense of comfort and consistency by having the host and realtor be one and the same. It's not quite as predictably formatted as House Hunters, which could be a benefit or a detriment depending on how you feel about that kind of thing. But no one can deny that Sandra Rinomato was THE BEST.

3. House Hunters: Where Are They Now?


This is one of those ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT ideas that I can't believe HGTV didn't come up with sooner. Given how many episodes end with the homebuyers still in the middle of a renovation, even if the follow-up is months later, it makes perfect sense to develop a way for viewers to see the final results of all of these renos. Also, given how many couples seem like they are headed for divorce during their original HH episode, it's nice to see when they've managed to rekindle the romance.

2. House Hunters International


It's no surprise that the top spots are occupied by the original members of the House Hunters family. Why does International rank just below the domestic version? Despite how awesome it is to be able to see how properties differ all around the world, part of the appeal of the House Hunters format is being able to place yourself in the shoes of the homebuyers on any given episode. And when they're in an overseas environment, that makes it just slightly more difficult to do. Still, International is a classic that deserves to be treasured by all.

1. House Hunters


A true legend. The one that birthed basically all of the other programs on this list, if not in name, then in format and conceit. House Hunters satisfies that powerful desire we all possess to witness and understand how the people around us live. It provides a template for how we can understand the relationship between our own lives and places of residence. And most of all, it's just plain fun. Playing along with the homebuyers, picking out positives and negatives in each property, is damn enjoyable. And there's almost no experience more entertaining than watching people search through homes in your area of residence, with b-roll footage highlighting the town centers you've passed through many times before. Of all of the house hunting programs, it is House Hunters that most successfully captures the vicarious thrill of the hunt. And for that, it will always be a perfect series.

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