Behind the Scenes: House Hunters International in Cuenca Ecuador shares the best travel insights, facts, and photos. When you use our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

This week we finished filming a House Hunters International episode in Cuenca. (Our episode aired February 15th, 2012.)

This part was our house-hunting component which was shot Sunday through Tuesday. Our back-story (the why of our move) was shot while we were in Miami last month.

The shoot is a reenactment of our actual move and we hope will give viewers an idea both of the type of real estate available in Cuenca and what Cuenca is really like.

Here is our little casting video that we produced for our casting producer. We were contacted three times by two different casting producers – the first two times it didn’t work out for a couple of different reasons – but this time it did.

Our episode is part of a new angle for the show. They are expanding to cover home/apartment rentals – not just home purchases. It’s really going to broaden the audience for the show.

It was a great experience – albeit a bit weird to be mic’d up and visiting our favorite places in the city. Now after 4 days of filming, I’m curious how they will cut it down to just 24 minutes. Can’t wait…

It will be a couple of months before it airs and when we know the dates, we’ll share it here.

Haines Family Casting Video for House Hunters International


What do you think of the show? Do you even watch it? If you have been a contributor on the show, would love to hear from you!

If you have seen the episode we did with House Hunters International (HHI) you may be a little confused. If you are, we can understand why.

House Hunters International: Behind the Scenes

HHI contacted us after reading Gringos Abroad because they wanted us to reenact our initial move to Cuenca Ecuador. So that is what we did, we reenacted or “pretended” to be hunting for apartments in Cuenca.

As everyone knows, much of what is filmed for TV is pretend. The nice thing about HHI is that much of it is also real. The filming we did in Cuenca was very much like when we moved here two years ago.

The biggest difference was that we had a friend help us find an apartment, and we didn’t have to repeat our lines over and over again with bright lights shining on us. 🙂

Episode HHINT-3213H Read our House Hunters profile page. (a few details are a little confused: we are from Nova Scotia, not Toronto and Cuenca is in the province of Azuay, not Anzuay).

Bryan being filmed near Miami, Florida
My turn being interviewed for House Hunters International

Why Did We Do House Hunters International?

Why did we do the show? We thought it would give people a good idea of what Cuenca is really like. We hope that people will see the show and realize that they can do what we have done.

The apartments we looked at during the filming were a little pricey. You may find more reasonably priced apartments in Cuenca, it just takes a little more hunting around.

But for someone just arriving that does not know any Spanish, the episode really caught what it would be like. If you don’t know Spanish and need to use a real estate agent, the apartments in the show were very similar to what you would be shown.

There is a growing feeling in Cuenca that because gringos are willing to pay high prices, Cuencanos are finding it hard to find apartments at “real” price points.

The landlords may not rent to them at a more normal price because they know they could get more money from a gringo. It would be good to know about fair pricing before settling on an apartment.

For example, our apartment is a brand new three bedroom / two full bathroom apartment for $250 (no condo fees).

To keep things simple for the episode, we “pretended” to choose from the three options presented to us. In real life we would have (and did) shop around a bit more.

It was fun to do the filming. The crew was wonderful and they treated Drew like gold – even letting her help with some of the equipment. This made the experience that much more special for us.

Ever wonder how they get those great driving shots? Being filmed while driving through Miami
Cameraman, director and Drew (working the boom mike) during filming in Cuenca

Is Our House Hunters International Episode Going to Ruin Cuenca?

Some people have expressed concerns that the show will in some way ruin Cuenca, like it will contribute to raising prices. Or it will draw more people to a spot that some feel should be kept quiet so that others can’t have the opportunity to enjoy the lifestyle that they have.

But most people understand that people do not plan their future solely based on one TV reality show. People do research and make informed decisions. They educate themselves on community issues by reading this blog, and doing a lot of other research.

And after doing their research, if they do find Cuenca to be right for them, let’s be happy that they are happy – because they deserve it as much as we do. Let’s not be selfish or greedy.

It did feel a little funny shopping for an apartment when we already had one, but we were asked to act. And that’s what we did; we acted like the Haines family acted when they first moved to Cuenca two years ago. That’s TV for ya!

And after all, the show wasn’t really about us, was it? It was about Cuenca!

The final day – the final scene shot at Hosteria Duran just outside of Cuenca

house hunters ecuadorIt’s been a number of years since our House Hunters Ecuador episode originally aired.

Our episode is just 1 of 14 filmed here in Ecuador. See all 14 HHI Ecuador episodes. Many of our readers have cited House Hunters International as having helped/influenced them in determining the country (and area) that they eventually move to.

Although it’s a little embarrassing, we wanted to share this video with you. It’s part of our story of life here – so here it is:

Our House Hunters Ecuador Full Episode

This episode features many aspects of our life in Ecuador when we first moved.

Update (November 15, 2015): The publisher decided to remove the video from our channel. While it isn’t available on our channel anymore, you can see it on Amazon Prime. Sorry about that.

More reading: Check out this set of the best Ecuador living and travel books.

House Hunters International isn’t without controversy. Some viewers are offended that the shows are actually reenactments. Others view HHI as the reason for inflation in their target/new country.

Something to remember is that HHI covers countries around the world. It would be hard to blame a television show on affecting inflation in all these area around the world.

A quick tally of their 77 seasons, shows a current total of 800 episodes since 2006. Have the 14 Ecuador episodes really damaged the country that much?

What Do You Think?

Does HHI do more damage than good? Or do you see it as a light-hearted travel show? Please share your comments below!

Similar Posts


  1. I see a lot stuff about Cuenca…… HOW ABOUT OTHER CITIES, LIKE QUITO, GUAYAQUIL, SALINAS, ETC….Ecuador is not only Cuenca…..

  2. I am a bit disappointed just to find out the people on House Hunters and International are acting. I can see why they have to do it that way but it takes a little bit of the fun and suspense out of it now knowing they are just acting and aren’t real. I mean they are real but are acting. I’m just disappointed that’s all.

  3. Hola,
    I’m a little late in responding to this post, but I just found it. HHI contacted me through my blog, too. They will be on our little island, Ometepe Island in Nicaragua to film in May. I’m excited, yet a little apprehensive about the whole experience. Like you, we have lived here permanently for about 2 1/2 years. We bought a little beach shack, completely remodeled it, and added a small guest house for our son and his fiance. I’m wondering if I should give a heads-up on my blog because I certainly don’t want to be called a pimp, dishonest, or a liar. (I can’t believe some people’s responses, but you handled all of them with professionalism and honesty..good for you) Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experience. We chose to do an episode because I’m hoping that I can spread the word about compassionate cultural immersion and the rewards of living a simple, immersed life abroad. Life is good, retirement is better, living abroad is priceless. If you have any helpful advise, we would love to hear from you. Thanks again for this post.

    1. Hi Debbie, it is a fun experience – we don’t regret it. I think it is a good idea to write about it, your readers will enjoy hearing about what is coming. You should check the documents you signed with HHI to make sure you are allowed to.
      I asked specifically (in writing) if we could blog about it. They said yes, but that it should be positive.
      Once you publish about it, please share it here!

  4. What a coincidence…we watched that show today! We sporadically watch HHI just to see other countries. About 9 months ago we watched one set in Ecuador and were impressed with the country and have often talked about it. When we saw your spot today, we started talking a little more seriously.
    So I started Googling and your site was the first to come up. Between your posts and those on International Living we are getting more serious about it.
    Funny thing, I wrote for when it first started and was The Mining Company, left eventually and then went back for another year after it became What a small world!
    Donna B. McNicol, Author

    1. So glad you’re enjoying the site (and the episode). It was lots of fun to make. has been great to work for – I’ve been with them almost 3 years now.
      All the best on your plans!

  5. July 1st, 2012
    Can anyone please provide me with a link (or other ways to see it) to see the HGTV Cuenca apt hunting episode of February 2012 described above?? .
    Michael Waggoner
    North Carolina, USA

  6. Brian/Dena,
    While in Ecuador in January, we were told that the Ecuadorian govt. was increasing the taxation of American funds leaving the country…seems it had been 5% and was going up to that true.??? I suppose it is an effort to keep the money there, however if someone brought in 40,000 US for an apt., and later sold it, they would lose 20% right off the bat. Do you know anything about this?
    Fran Yates

    1. Hi Fran, sorry I haven’t heard anything about that change. I sent some funds out of the country last year, and there was a 3% fee by the federal government.

  7. What a Joke..HH admitted this week that the show is fabricated
    and that people had already found a place long before the show…what a disappointment….they could start the show by at least letting you know
    you guys are sell outs and i cant believe anything else you post

    1. So I guess the fabricated nature of TV is news to you? I’m so sorry you feel duped.
      If you read the post, you’ll see that we highlighted that the show wasn’t filmed as we arrived. In fact they found us through our blog and contacted us three separate times. We accepted their offer the third time – after we had already been here for two years. This post tells the truth – they created a program based on our true story – but it is entertainment.
      The post says that the show was different than our reality (because of time-frame) so I don’t understand why you can’t believe what we post. What we wrote was all true.

    2. Oh poor Jason!! I suppose you are aware that Architectural Digest is completely staged as well. Back in 1979 they were in England doing a story on a famous fashion designer whose floors had gaping holes covered by furniture brought in by AD for the shoot. It’s ALL staged but stop jumping on the excellent folks who write this blog.

  8. Hi Bryan & Dena:
    Enjoyed the HHI episode as expat living is something I’m exploring. The episode on Cuenca, Ecuador was beautiful and alluring to would-be expats. However, the thing that I find a bit disconcerting is that your story as presented wasn’t exactly genuine. By your own admission, the depiction of your search for an apartment was considerably reworked by HHI producers. While it may represent what a typical Gringo apt. search may entail in Cuenca, it was not genuinely your search and therefore a bit of a misrepresentation of the your “true experience”. Of course “reality TV producers” are known to never let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?
    I only say this because I am a former TV journalist/news producer who has kept many a tv news report from airing a “re-enactment” so as to keep from clouding fact from fiction; a responsibility all producers of information whether it be TV or blogging should take to heart. I find any presentation that uses such tactics without explicit disclaimer to its audience or reader to be disingenuous at the very least. I know, HHI is not “60 Minutes”, “Dateline” or even “The Today Show”. But it does come across to many people as having a certain credibility, even though we should never believe everything we see or hear on TV.
    As folks who seem to have carved a niche’ as being credible resources of information, I’m sure you can appreciate how participating in such efforts can leave some readers / viewers with a less than favorable impression. I realize your background is in advertising so forgive me if this comes of a bit TV news-snobbish. It’s just that even info-tainment such as HHI has a responsibility to at least let viewers know that what they are about to see may or may not be entirely accurate or truthful. And as a couple of pro-bloggers, I would think you’d want to take those measures to assure your viewers/readers that what they read, see and hear is truthful and accurate. Just a thought and thanks for listening.

    1. Thanks for your comment. You offer a balanced view – understanding the need for honesty and also what is entertainment.
      What we cover on our blog is 100% genuine. It is our real experience. The angle of the show were decisions made by producers after the program was filmed. They took our real story and made a tv show out of it. To do that they made some adjustments. As it was a re-enactment everything couldn’t be just as it was – it was more than 2 years later. As I understand our story was more of an exception than the rule. Most of the stories they cover aren’t filmed so long after the fact.
      The show is entertainment, not a documentary. It is meant primarily to show real estate in other countries with the participants story being a sideline, a means to showcase the property.
      I appreciate your input, it adds a balanced view to the topic.

    2. Hi Chas,
      In your comment you said “I would think you’d want to take those measures to assure your viewers/readers that what they read, see and hear is truthful and accurate.” That is very important to us. We do not produce TV programs, we blog and the points you brought up in your comment are the very reasons that I wrote this post. To let our readers know the difference between our actual move and what the show was presenting.
      From what I understand most people watch HHI because they are interested in moving abroad, the people in the program are just the means used to showcase the area and various homes/apartments available so that the viewers can get an idea of what it might be like to live there.
      For the viewers that are actually interested in the people in this episode of HHI this post exists to address the concerns you brought up. As Bryan said the show is entertainment not a documentary, so it’s not that big of a deal to most people because they are more interested in the area than they are in us.
      Thanks for your comment.

      1. Hi Bryan & Dena:
        Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I do appreciate you doing this “Behing-the-Scenes” on HHI as it does serve as a disclaimer of sorts after-the-fact. Not to beat a dead-horse but I have to take exception to what you said that:
        ” (HHI) is entertainment not a documentary, so it’s not that big of a deal to most people because they are more interested in the area than they are in us.”
        I don’t really think that’s true as first-person experiences is why people tune in to HHI; as you represent people who are interested in living abroad and therefore you become surrogates/extensions of viewers. That’s the whole point of HHI; if it weren’t then it would be just a travelogue/video tour with unknown narrative and not of first-hand experiences of “real people”. Viewers live vicariously through your participation and as folks who have an advertising background I’m sure you can appreciate the effect real, truthful experiences have on program verisimilitude.
        Thanks for your comments and consideration.

        1. Thanks Chas. I’m sorry you are disappointed in the re-enactment. There isn’t really anything that can be done. You may need to question much of your tv viewing as all of it, including the news and real “documentaries” are also not always 100% factual. While some of the fine details were fabricated for television, the show we participated in was accurate in it’s overall story. For example:
          We are a Canadian family who worked to much and wanted to both simplify our lives and enjoy life abroad.
          We sold everything (our house, business, car and possessions) and moved to Cuenca, Ecuador.
          We went apartment hunting when we arrived.
          We rented a nice apartment in Cuenca when we arrived.
          We filled it with furniture.
          We didn’t speak Spanish when we came.
          We didn’t have work when we arrived.
          We are professional bloggers.
          I think that’s the general idea the show gave, wasn’t it?
          I understand you feel that the people are the story. And its true that the people add some interest. However, the producers and directors for House Hunters International would disagree with you. They feel (and I guess they would know) that the location and the real estate are the story – and the people are the means to showcase it.
          As we stated in the post, our story happened 2 years ago. It would have been impossible to film us arriving…
          Lets leave the dead horse and move on. 🙂

    3. Hi Chas: I understand your concern for “authenticity” and “real-time” reporting, however for me this is not an issue for a few reasons: Bryan and Dena were transparent and honest, and communicated about this in their blog and explained the rationale for why the episode was filmed after the fact. More importantly however (at least for me and likely others), I watch the show to explore what it would be like to live in other cities abroad, including the costs of renting or buying, and glimpses of the community , however limited this may be in a 30 minute episode. So I still get what I am looking for, and don’t believe the authenticity or purpose of HHI is diminished: which is to provide viewers with a few examples of housing/living options. Granted, people’s viewing experience and expectations all vary, but I recognize a 30 minute episode that peaks my interest offers only a snapshot; it may prompt me to take the next step–explore the region in person to get my own “real-time” reality (which we have actually done)! thanks Bryan and Dena for your honest and informative blogs.

  9. Your post hits home. We found out about Merida, Mexico, through House Hunters International. Although I knew no one breezes through three properties and casually chooses one, I have always suspended my disbelief. We actually flew to Merida, met the guys who were featured on the show, and they told us that not only did they already own the home they were portrayed as buying, they had built it as well. So they were admiring their own renovations on the TV show. Reality show, indeed! I had to laugh at my own gullibility.
    Then I started my own blog, Imagine Merida, and forged my own resources to find my dream property. You’re right when you say finding the bargains takes work. In the end, I’m grateful for HHI to steering me to a wonderful place.

  10. We loved this HHI! we have bought intot he edificio arcadia building and cant wait to make it down there and start our new life! your blogs are wonderful!

  11. Was able to watch the episode of HHI this week. Loved it.
    I haven’t looked at the real estate sites for this country but surprized they showed stand-alone apartment buildings and not local, possibly Colonial-style architecture. Maybe it isn’t as common in Equador.

    1. Hi Nancee – as I understand it, the show almost always features people in their real home. For us, as this was more of a reenactment of our initial arrival. The purpose of the show is to highlight the area and the properties – our story is a small sideline to say the least.
      Thanks for commenting!

  12. Hi, I can’t wait to see it because my daughter is going to be an exchange student from the US to Ecuador this coming Aug. and I found you by researching online. I want to see as much as I can on where she’ll be going. I’m sure you understand that lol.
    Thanks for sharing so much info 🙂

  13. I just wanted to tell you how much I admire your family. It takes courage and commitment to move away from family and friends to make a different life for your family. I hope that you do not take the criticism of others to heart. You need to make a living like the rest of us. Due, in part to reading your blog, we are planning a trip in the Fall to visit Ecuador and see if it is somewhere we might like to live as well. I will keep checking for the link to the HHI episode!

    1. Hi Debra,
      Thank you so much!
      We try not to let the criticism get to us, it’s usually just because people are misinformed or don’t really understand the issues behind what they are talking about. We all feel differently about things, and it’s always good to hear another point of view – as long as it’s respectful.
      I hope everything works out with your plans to visit Ecuador.

  14. I can’t wait to see your episode online! We are in Cuenca right now and am always ready to learn about more parts of the city. I am surprised at the people who think reality shows are unscripted and candid! TV is a commercial enterprise! I enjoy your blog and it has helped me in many ways here in Cuenca.

    1. Hi P&E
      We can’t wait to see it either! It’s a little strange for us to know that others have seen it, when we are still left wondering how it all came together in the end.
      I understand your comment about the perception of reality shows. That’s why I wrote this post. I hoped it would help explain what might come across as weird to people that follow our blog regularly and know our “really real” story 🙂
      Thanks for you comment.

  15. Brian and Dena,
    I was a bit confused when I saw the show last night. This is not really a reality show, it is all made up, even the final apartment you picked was not the one you live in. I follow you blog and I was hoping to see what $250 a month gets you in Ecuador. Not really sure why the TV show didn’t insist on one of the apartments being the one you actually found when you moved there. That would at least add a sense of reality…
    With that said, I like the idea that rents were portrayed as double or triple what you are currently paying. This might keep the bargain shoppers home…
    Look forward to seeing you both on the street. Will be out again this August and then our move is planned for early 2013…
    Good luck to you and yours…

    1. Hey George – understood. You make a good point. The show is a travel / real estate program. Our story was only secondary to the program. We didn’t write it, but we acted as they recreated our arrival two years ago. The agent picked the properties. So our back story is correct, and the apartments are actually what you could expect in an upscale area of Cuenca.
      As always, there are more expensive and less expensive options. The rent prices in the show weren’t inflated, but true prices.
      Thanks George – all the best on your plans.

  16. The only people who will benefit from what you are doing are realtors, not gringos who will wind up paying inflated prices for real estate and certainly not the Ecuadorians who are seeing the real estate price escalate out of their reach. PIMPS like the two you should be ashamed of yourselves.

    1. Thanks Mike – Did you really call us PIMPS!? I haven’t been called a name since grade school… I don’t really know what you mean.
      You might find it interesting to know that the apartment we “pretended” to rent is actually owned by a young Ecuadorian couple. The apartment we actually rent is $250/month. As in every large city, there are high-end places and more normally priced zones. The majority of people living in the expensive areas are Ecuadorians – not expats. The show featured some of the upscale areas. Where we actually live, we have only Ecuadorian neighbors and we don’t live in a condo tower. As Dena mentioned in the post, its up to each new expat to find a reasonably priced apartment.
      Thanks for reading!

      1. Bryan,
        I salute you for posting Mikes comment. This shows that you are being fair and balanced with your posts and to me, that adds credibility to your blog. Everyone has an opinion and thanks for showing them all…

    2. Mike, that was uncalled for. We should try to be civil here.
      Dena, I like the master bed. Is it king size and do you know how much? Although my condo’s delivery (in Salinas) is still in 2014 (the construction is already to its last floor), I’m thinking of whether we should bring furniture or just buy there. Also the dining table looks nice. I know it’s not yours but I’m hoping you know. Thanks!

      1. Hi RG,
        Yes, the master bed is king size, but we don’t know where the furniture came from. I would suggest buying once you get here, you can find really nice furniture here, there are lots of options.
        Congrats on your condo in Salinas!

  17. We just happened to turn the tv on…we usually watch house hunters int’l each night…but were surprised to see you and Brian and Drew on…we were very excited that Cuenca was being shown but wish that ya’ll had notified people. I am not on Twitter or anything else, besides Facebook. Is Twitter difficult to manuever ? Both of you looked great, a bit stiff, but hey I would be also. You both are doing a great service, even House Hunters Int’l recognized that after seeing/reading your Gringo site. We returned from Ecuador 2 weeks ago..after 3 weeks of visiting all the major cities, Cuenca, Guayaquil, Quito,Otavalo, Cotacachi, Manta, and Bahia. We were disappointed that Cotacachi was so cool but intend to return next year and investigate more South areas, like Vilacabamba where I think it will be nice and warm. We stayed where Brian recommended and they were super nice, but where we were we constantly had to climb stairs to get anywhere. I wish I had seen the area where you found all the apts. shown on the show, cause where we were was a bit older. I do remember it being warm some of the days and the people were very nice. Best wishes to you both. Fran and Jerry Yates

    1. You will find Vilcabamba a lot warmer than other places in the Ecuadorian Andes. We have owned a small organic farm there since 2004 but don’t live there full time. We have no need for heating, even at night. Occasionally in the evening during the rainy season we will use a light blanket. Average temps are upper 70s to mid 80s with almost no humidity. Our place is currently for sale so we can go and explore life on the Ecuadorian coast. I hope you find the place right for your needs because Ecuador is a wonderful and beautiful country and I think it gets more beautiful the further south you travel because the mountains have more vegetation and more beautiful valleys.

  18. Hi there, I thought we would get a heads up, I am so sorry, I missed it. I live in Canada and I have just look through the entire HGTV Canada tv schedule until february 25th and I did not see your show coming bacp up again.
    I am sure it will be back, it is just to know when!!!
    On the HGTV website, there is a link for itunes to watch episodes but the link does not work. I tried to find on itunes the show and was unable to.

    1. Hi Kim, sorry for the miscommunication. We shared the dates on Facebook and Twitter. It will air again (and again), but I don’t know when. It will also be available online, and we’ll share that link when it goes live.

  19. Hi Dena, just to let you know house hunters international is one of my favorites on HGTV,The show shows us options in our choices of where we choose to call home. I am amazed of the work put into the behind the scenes. When you say $250 do you mean a week or a month? Thanks for sharing best wishes to you and your family. Freda

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *