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5 Financial Mistakes On House Hunters That Drive Me Insane

I think everyone with cable tv has seen House Hunters at least once in their life.

The basic premise of the show is someone is looking to buy a new to them home.

The real estate agent shows the buyer three potential homes.

The buyer puts an offer in on one of the homes and ends up buying a house.

I’ve always enjoyed watching the show to see how much real estate goes for in various areas of the country and world.

Unfortunately, there are 5 financial mistakes that I see people on House Hunters making often and it drives me crazy!

The Buyer’s Budget Is The Maximum Amount The Bank Will Lend

Classic rookie house buying mistake.

The bank doesn’t care anything about your budget or what you can truly afford.

Banks simply tell you the maximum amount you can borrow based on metrics that don’t consider your individual situation. Don’t automatically assume you can afford to borrow the most the bank is willing to lend you.

Instead of listening to the bank about what your maximum budget is, you should make your own budget independent of what they bank says. Take a look at your income and expenses and see what would be a comfortable monthly payment for your situation.

Life won’t always be as rosy as it is now and you can’t rely on future income increases to make your current payment more affordable in the future. No one knows if the next recession and the next round of layoffs are tomorrow or ten years from now. Don’t risk it.

Keep in mind, the less you spend on housing, the more you can save for retirement or another goal.

Buyers End Up Buying Homes Above Their Budget

Due to the way budgets are determined on House Hunters (according to the bank) this mistake drives me even crazier! Once you set a budget, don’t exceed it with out a ton of thought.

While there may be certain cases in which exceeding a budget may be a smart move, such as having an income property in the basement, 99% of the time exceeding the budget will sink your finances.

People get emotional about houses and think they’ll never find another one they love. Don’t be that person. Instead, keep looking for another house that meets your criteria that is in your budget.

If the magic combination of meeting your needs and your budget doesn’t exist, you should adjust your expectations or put off buying a home until you can afford what you need.

Adjusting your budget without a ton of hard thought can make you house poor.

Get A Fixer Upper? You Can Use The Rest Of Your Budget For Renovations!

This one drives me up the wall and probably the same wall the prospective homeowners plan on knocking out. People get a maximum budget they can borrow from the bank to buy a house and then they decide that if they buy a house under the budget, they miraculously can spend the rest of the money, up to the max budget, on renovations.

For example, a buyer has $40,000 cash for a down payment and the bank will lend then $160,000 for a total budget of $200,000. The buyer decides to buy a $180,000 house, so now they think that they have $20,000 to spend on renovations. Wrong! They might have saved $4,000 on a 20% down payment, but they definitely don’t have another $20,000 of cash out of a mortgage from the bank.

This would be accurate if you were buying a house for cash but I’d be willing to gamble most people on the regular House Hunters show will be taking out mortgages. In most cases, banks won’t lend you extra money above the value of the home to do renovations that won’t directly increase the value of the home.

Buyers Get Into Emotional Bidding Wars

Emotions and large purchases are two things that should never be combined. Unfortunately, many people get emotionally attached to homes they look at and end up spending much more than they should on a home.

If there are two bidders who both love a home, things can get out of control quickly. House buying shows like House Hunters often features these situations when people go above their budgets to buy a home in a bidding war. Don’t do it.

Instead, set a maximum amount you’ll pay for a house before you make your first offer. Try to negotiate and get a better deal, but never go above your maximum price you’re willing to pay for the house simply because you’ve become emotionally attached.

Not Having A Decent Sized Down Payment

Not having any down payment at all when you’re buying a house is just financially irresponsible, but I’ve seen it on these shows multiple times. The show reports the buyer has $3,000 in total savings (yes, total) and they’re ready to buy a house for the pre-approved mortgage amount of $150,000. Insane!

There are rare cases where buying a home with no down payment may work, but in a vast majority of these cases the person is setting themselves up for financial hardship.

In addition to at least a 10 to 20% down payment, home buyers should have an emergency fund to cover any unexpected expenses including potential job loss. It’d suck to buy a home and then get foreclosed on in a year or two because you lost your job right after you closed on your dream home.

To me, it is crazy that people don’t do more research about how the home buying process works before they buy a house. You need to understand the whole process, including the process of figuring out how much house you can afford. Remember, it isn’t what the bank says you can afford, your budget should be what works best for you!

What financial mistakes do you see people making on shows like House Hunters? Have you ever made any of these house buying mistakes yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


Sunday 11th of February 2018

Yep, the budget thing annoys the heck out of my wife because way too often I'm complaining about the (lack of) logic about it. But your comment about how they back into the pricing afterwards in order to create some drama makes sense now. It probably also makes sense that nothing about these shows is real except for the fact that they had already decided on and most likely already purchased the house that they "chose" at the end of the show. We all know by now that the other houses they inspected are just some other houses that happen to either be for sale and/or are vacant for one reason or another. But I enjoy seeing the real estate as well as whatever blurbs about the area they choose to show us.


Tuesday 26th of December 2017

So if they can't get mortgage $$$ for renovations, how do they do it when, for example, they say at the beginning their max budget is $400K, then they pay $380K for a fixer, and then at the end they say they spent $50K on renovations or they "went over budget by" $10K on the reno? Did they have that extra $30-$50 grand all along and just didn't include it in their budget? Are they getting gifts from their parents? Do they have to get an additional loan? Or what?!??! It seems like that happens almost every episode in the later seasons of House Hunters Renovation and it makes me nuts.

Lance Cothern

Thursday 4th of January 2018

I'm pretty sure they come up with the numbers after they film the show for added drama. Yes, renovations normally do go over budget, but my guess is the people have cash in the bank or take out a loan or borrow from friends and family.

Barbara Sciancalepore

Monday 23rd of November 2015

I bought my house 3 years ago. I was approved for 135k and waiting another year to have my car paid off would have increased the amt to 170k. I wanted something that would not be any more than what I would normally pay in rent. I found my cute little dream home for just under 100k and the owner had done a lot of upgrading so I felt I was getting a deal. My mortgage payment is just under 600 a month. I'm so happy I did not buy the amt I had been approved of. I kept my monthly payment in mind as I looked at homes.

Lance Cothern

Tuesday 24th of November 2015

Barbara, congrats on being an educated home buyer. I'm sure you'll be very happy that you stuck to your ideal budget as opposed to what the bank said you could pay!

Bette Gill

Friday 25th of September 2015

I've always had to have at least 20% down plus closing costs. How are these people getting loans with smaller down payments?

Lance Cothern

Saturday 26th of September 2015

Sometimes people decide to pay mortgage insurance to put down a smaller down payment. Other times people qualify for special loans that require little or no down payments such as veterans loans. I personally think a 20% down payment is the best idea, but clearly others don't always do that.


Thursday 2nd of July 2015

I see this is a repeat so I'm back with additional comments...this time about the real estate agents. I hate it when they take a client to see a house and it is $50,000 over their budget. The agent always says, "keep an open mind, I think you'll see it is worth it." That is very irresponsible of the agent. The house may be worth the extra money, but it is an effort to generate a higher commission for themselves. Additionally, the clients say they need a 3 car garage, or 3 bedrooms and the agent takes them to see a house with no garage and 2 bedrooms. I love seeing houses on the show but most of the time my brain wants to explode over the portrayals by the people.

Lance Cothern

Thursday 2nd of July 2015

Yup this was a repeat. Occasionally I'll repeat and article and update the picture to a better picture and add some more thoughts to the article like I did with this one. The show definitely has its quirks, but I think real estate agents do, too. If I'm ever a real estate agent and a client says their budget is X I won't show them something for X + $50,000 unless they tell me they want to expand their budget.