Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Home buying and home repair TV shows

One way Yulia and I relax when we're not working is by watching TV. We watch a wide variety of TV shows, but one of our favorite kinds of shows is about home buying and home repair. Since we are in the process of fixing our own house, we are making many design decisions, and we find it enjoyable--even helpful--to see what other people are doing.

We rarely find anybody just like us on TV. But that is a good thing! It makes us think of things that we would not have thought of on our own. On the other hand, we have a hard time watching people who are completely different from us. We find the tastes of home buyers searching for mansions in, say, Beverly Hills to be just too different from our own.

One show that fits right into our "Goldilocks zone" is Buying Alaska. The show is about people searching for houses in the state of Alaska. Admittedly, the show can come off as gimmicky with almost every episode having some rendition of house hunters being startled by outhouses and excited by moose antlers. But we actually like many of the houses featured in the show. Buying Alaska tends to focus on cozy cabins in the woods. Since Yulia and I added a wood burning stove to our living room in November, it just feels right to get warm during the long, cold nights of winter and watch how other people deal with living in even more remote and colder places than we do.

In the above clip, for example, we think the home itself is beautiful. The show's host spends a minute talking about snow stops and catalytic stoves, two things we would have otherwise not known of if we had not watched the show.

In general, the house hunters are interested in living in the great outdoors and, due to the high cost of fresh food in the state, keeping their own gardens. We can relate to that, but we also know we are watching people from a different world when they start to talk about moose hunting and snow mobiles. But this is probably what makes the show interesting to us. It reflects our lives just enough without being an exact mirror of how we live.

Yulia and I are also fans of the British TV show Location location location. The show is filmed in urban and rural places all over Britain, and it documents what it is like to be a buyer and realtor in the country's real estate market. Location location location focuses more on buyer-seller negotiations and is a little less kitschy than Buying Alaska.

The show's hosts, Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer, are playfully competitive with one another. They are each assigned separate home buyers and work hard to find the best house for their respective clients. Their on screen chemistry and pseudo rivalry is charming, and we watch the show as much for them as much as anything else!

Another British show we like is called Restoration Home. Unlike Location location location, Restoration Home is about people who buy and fix up old, historic houses. The show focuses on the trials people have while renovating their houses and follows historians as they research the stories of these forgotten buildings. There are many do-it-yourselfers that Yulia and I can relate to. It's amazing what people can do to a near ruined building when they put their minds to it.

The people on this show face unexpected obstacles, and it's good for Yulia and me to see what it is like to take on such a project in another country. We sometimes feel like we have more problems here in Ukraine than we would have had if we lived in another country. But Restoration Home shows us that this is not always the case. For example, we watched one episode in which building materials and part of a roof was stolen at night during a renovation! They lost hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds from the burglary. Thankfully, Yulia and I have never had anything stolen while living at our new house. It shows us that people have problems everywhere, even in the so called "developed" countries.

On a brighter note, fixing just one house in an otherwise dilapidated neighborhood can bring out the best in the community. Since fixing his home in an impoverished neighborhood in the city of Hull, the owner of the building featured in the episode below says that he feels more respect from his neighbors and a sense of community pride after restoring his house. We can see why. The finished result is beautiful!

Buying and fixing an old house has not only made Yulia and me more interested in watching people do similar things, but more forgiving as well. We've become less nit-picky when we encounter someone building or renovating a home and more interested in learning from their experiences. A house is obviously the most personal architectural space people inhabit, so it makes sense that the people living there decide how it should be. Yulia and I have experienced harsh criticism turned harassment with respect to our own home, and we never want anyone else to have to go through that themselves.

When we see other people's design decisions, from door color to building materials, we usually think about whether or not that would work for us. We often say to each other, "Those kinds of shutters would look good on our windows." Or, "We wouldn't insulate our house that way." But sometimes we don't judge at all. Home buying and repair shows are interesting and entertaining in and of themselves. What do you think? Do you watch this kind of TV? Are there any shows that you would recommend?


  1. I enjoy House Hunters International. Only seen a few episodes of the show but like how they simplify / make black and white all the choices as well as film in cool locations (Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, etc). Of course, that show never gets into remodeling and fixing things. I'd think that with Ukraine's obsession with ремонт there would be some TV shows about that on air in the country. Have you heard of any such thing?

    Hope that you guys are doing okay with the power shortages. С наступающим!

    1. We've actually seen the House Hunters episode from Kyrgystan. We liked it! Haven't seen the episode from Ukraine. Which city did it take place in?

      We don't know of any similar Ukrainian shows, but it's a good idea considering the strong diy house building culture here!

    2. It's Season 60, Episode 10: A History Teacher Encounters the Unknown in Ukraine (filmed in, of course, Kyiv). I haven't gotten to see it yet but maybe you can find a link somewhere?

      You and Yulia could probably get your own episode- would you be interested in sharing your life there on TV?

    3. Interesting idea. We would probably shy away from any actual TV shows, but we've been talking about putting up some videos on our blog for a long time now. I guess it'll happen when the time is right.

  2. If you are interested in more than simply entertainment reality shows, then one source (despite changing a lot over the years from Bob Vila's day) for showing renovating and remodeling of a house is still This Old House, or Ask This Old House.



    or hundreds of short "how to" videos:


    1. We gave This Old House a try, and we're hooked, by the way! Good recommendation!

  3. I (Michael) remember "This Old House" from a while back. Wasn't renovating a house then, unfortunately. But I will check out their videos now for a new perspective!

    I have been watching short "how to" videos lately, and they're really helpful. Just today I watched one on how to cut tiles. My problem was that our tiles are uneven. They are ceramic, but have the look and texture of rock, so it was difficult to score them with the hand cutter I just got.