Suzanne Whang: Home Shopping

As host of HGTV’s “House Hunters,” actor and comedian Whang sees inside the hearts and minds of home buyers.

April 1, 2006

What’s behind the popularity of real estate TV?

WHANG: With “House Hunters,” it’s that we show people pursuing the American dream—owning your own home and fixing it up the way you want to. It’s important for people to be able to create a safe, beautiful place—a sanctuary—to use as a launching pad to start each day and as a retreat at the end of the day.

How has “House Hunters” impacted the real estate buying process?

WHANG: Viewers are educated on the ins and outs of buying a home and on features—architectural styles, designs, layouts. Buying a home is a very emotional process. It involves people’s dreams and memories of childhood. Watching others involved in the process can put a viewer in the right frame of mind to buy.

What have you found to be most important to the buyers who participate in your show?

WHANG: Price. Location is important, too. In terms of what matters in the home, that varies. Most of the buyers on our show are experiencing some sort of life change—they’re getting married, having a baby, changing careers, or downsizing because their kids are grown. So what they want in a house depends on what life stage they’re in.

Do you hear common complaints about the home-buying process?

WHANG: Most buyers think everything is too expensive. Another complaint I hear a lot is that they can’t find everything they want in a house, and they’re unwilling to compromise. They also don’t know when to make an offer. They’re afraid a better deal will come along. These are all things a good real estate practitioner can help buyers with.

From your observation, what could real estate practitioners do to ease the process?

WHANG: Be straightforward, especially when it comes to negatives about a house. Give realistic estimates of time frames and costs for changes, and don’t just refer to them as “easy fixes.” If the buyers can’t afford the house they want in the neighborhood they want, suggest a less-expensive neighborhood that they might not be aware of.

On the show, buyers always work with a real estate pro. Who’s the ideal practitioner for “House Hunters”?

WHANG: The producers look for outgoing salespeople—salespeople who have a good sense of humor and are well-spoken, TV-savvy, upbeat, and relaxed.

You taped in some foreign markets last year. What are some differences for buyers in those countries?

WHANG: Every place does things a little differently. In Paris, buyers must submit to a physical exam before they get a loan—to make sure they’re healthy enough to pay it off. In Buenos Aires, buyers deal heavily in cash. In England and Scotland, they have estate agents that represent the seller only. Those shows were so popular that we’ve launched a spin-off, “House Hunters International,” which airs on Monday nights.

What have you learned from hosting the show?

WHANG: How emotional the process can be. I’ve also learned about architectural and design details that I never paid attention to as a renter. I love Spanish-style homes. I’ve learned not to pay attention to decor, because that’s easily changed. I’ve learned that something on my wish list can go out the window if I fall in love with a house that doesn’t have it. And, I’ve learned how important it is to have a real estate professional who really knows what he or she is doing.

Suzanne Whang’s Guide to Happy Home Buying (Meredith Publishing) is due out in September. For more on Whang, visit

Chuck Paustian is a former REALTOR® Magazine senior editor.