It’s 8am on a Friday morning and a TV crew from the US has just turned up at our rented house on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. They are here to record our every move over the next three days as we go in search for a new home in this harbour city. We have a particular budget in mind, a good sense of the ‘must haves’ and ‘do not wants’, and a decent enough understanding of the local house market. By the end of the scheduled filming, we should also have a new house, which we’ll be sharing with a possible US television audience of about 20 million people.
Our adventure in ‘TV land’ began simply enough after I received an email asking if we would consider appearing on a US reality television show known as House Hunters International, a half-hour weekly programme watched across the US, Canada and Europe.
|The TV crew in action in the kitchen.|
This hugely popular lifestyle show, a spin-off of the domestic House Hunters version, follows individuals, couples, or families searching for a new home with the assistance of a real estate agent. Each broadcast features three properties, one of which is selected by the prospective buyer, whose offer generally is accepted by the seller. In the final moments of the show, the new owner provides a tour of the house, revealing what changes and/or improvements, if any, were made after moving in. The show focuses on properties around the world, particularly in Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, Japan and South America.
I had attracted the attention of the show’s producers through this expat blog, which follows my move from the UK to Canada and on to Australia. The producers were keen to highlight the challenges in moving from one country to another, and were intrigued by our relocation from Canada to Australia, given the obvious similarities between Vancouver and Sydney, and the resultant difficult decisions we faced in opting to make such a move.
My wife’s desire to return to her Australian homeland had played a key part in that decision, as had our desire for lots of sun, sea and sand, combined with an improved economic outlook Down Under. The House Hunters team jumped on our story and, before we knew it, casting videos and lengthy questionnaires were the order of the day before we were told we would be appearing in Season 25 of the series to be shown in late June/early July 2011 on America’s HGTV channel (further details can be found at http://www.hgtv.com/house-hunters-international/settling-down-on-the-northern-beaches-of-sydney-australia/index.html).
Within a matter of weeks, we flew out to Vancouver to film the back story to our eventual move – why we wanted to leave Canada, what was driving us to become expats for the second time, and what we would be leaving behind. The Canadian film crew toured Vancouver’s downtown hub, interviewed our relatives located in the city, and recreated some of those tough decision moments that every expat will ultimately experience.
In Sydney, we filmed over a long weekend, capturing a selection of experiences that make our life on the Northern Beaches so special. We kayaked on one of the many saltwater lagoons, strolled along the ocean boardwalks, rode pillion on a Harley Davidson trike along the length of the Beaches, and enjoyed a selection of delicious seafood with friends at a favourite local restaurant of ours.
More importantly, the search for a new home was filmed for the television show. Our real estate agent showed us three comparable properties that we had indicated could each be a potential home for us. In front of the cameras, we assessed the pros and cons of each property, from the suburb to the garden size to the proximity to the beach. Faced with a tough final choice between two of the three properties, we walked the length of a local beach and agreed upon the house of our dreams. The cameras kept rolling as we directed our real estate agent over the telephone to make the purchase and finally achieved our goal of buying and owning property on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Our episode will air sometime in late June/early July 2011 and who knows how the audience will react to our desire to leave one of the most desirable cities in the world only to settle down in an equally desirable city. I can only hope that the show will prove to be interesting and insightful, revealing the reality of making an expat move to a new country and the challenges of purchasing property in a place you will come to call home.
My expat journey over the past eight years has thrown up untold opportunities and unusual experiences. Filming my search for a life less ordinary on US television will surely rank as one of the more intriguing episodes of this continually unfolding adventure.
More pictures of us filming the Sydney episode of House Hunters International can be found at this blog’s Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/insearchofalifelessordinary.
In your new expat life, have you had any unusual experiences or opportunities come your way? Would filming your journey for an American audience appeal to you or is it something you’d much rather pass up?
This appeared in The Telegraph’s Expat Property section on 24 June 2011 – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/expatproperty/8589719/Filming-our-expat-search-for-a-life-less-ordinary.html