Somewhere along the way, I have become enamored with home renovation shows and have been unable to really dedicate my leisure time to watching anything else. I’ve blown through every episode I can get my hands on of Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, House Hunters and all of its various iterations. I have submerged myself in the seductive and cool waters of Tiny House, Big Living, Tiny Paradise and Tiny House Hunters. There are other, lesser home impovement shows that I cannot entertain—the Flip or Flop franchise is interminably boring and any of the Fixer Upper-esque knockoffs (your Good Bones and your Home Town) aren’t irritating enough for me to hate. Once I’ve exhausted the coffers of whatever’s on demand, I turn to Netflix for the good stuff—full seasons, no commercials, and an autoplay feature that means I don’t have to fish the remote out from between my couch cushions in order to proceed.
My latest home improvement obsession was introduced to me by my sister, who quietly informed me via text one weekend that she had been unable to stop watching episodes of Buy Herself, a Canadian home improvement show from 2012 that filmed only one season, currently available on Netflix. It is, as one might assume, a television show about people looking to buy homes for the first time. The twist is that the buyers are all women who are looking to buy property on their own, on a single income, with a mortgage they carry themselves. Each woman featured on the show is buying a house because they need to move out of their parents’ home or because they’ve recently become divorced or because there is some weird manufactured outside “pressure” that urges them to stop renting and own. Each woman tours three condos in Toronto with Sandra Rinomato, a real estate agent and former host of HGTV show Property Virgins, accompanied by one of two personal sounding boards who provide their expert opinion on whether or not the condo in question is right for their financial leads or lifestyle. It sounds terrifically boring but I assure you, it is not.
Rinomato’s job is to show these women condos that make sense for their budget and their lifestyle. Most, if not all of these women express profound gratitude for her presence at the end of the show, after they’ve cried about say, starting over after a divorce or moving out of their parent’s house for the first time in their lives. She’s part therapist and part actual real estate agent, but what’s nice about her manner is that she doesn’t coddle. There’s a veneer of empowerment on top of every episode that I find easy enough to deal with; home ownership is seen as the pinnacle of American achievement and the women Rinomato helps are all trying to find their way to the top sans partner. As a single woman who has spent hours trying to figure out if I have enough money or decent enough credit to move out of my apartment and into a garden shed with WiFi, Buy Herself’s empowerment-through-real-estate narrative is really getting me good.
It’s formulaic, like all good home improvement shows, which is precisely why it’s so soothing. Every woman has unrealistic expectations about what she can actually afford and will complain heartily about not wanting to “settle” for anything less than perfect. On shows like House Hunters, half the fun is screaming at the television when yet another couple complains about wall-to-wall carpeting or beige walls. What’s amazing about Buy Herself is that Rinomato does that for you. She entertains these outbursts by firmly reminding them that wall colors can be changed and carpets can be removed. She’s less strident than I would be from the comfort of my couch, but they listen to her. Not every woman buys the condo—sometimes they think about it and decide that they’re not ready, but that makes it all the better. House hunting shows that have a modicum of reality are rare—part of the satisfaction of watching is a happy ending, of course, but it’s much, much better when no one gets what they want just yet.