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Behind the Scenes: House Hunters International in Cuenca Ecuador

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!


Saturday 28th of December 2013

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

Bryan Haines

Friday 3rd of January 2014

Very true - but we haven't lived in those other cities. We have covered these regions through expat profiles. We've found the best way to present information on these areas is by interviewing expats actually living there.


Tuesday 9th of July 2013

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.


Thursday 4th of April 2013

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.

Bryan Haines

Tuesday 23rd of April 2013

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!

Donna McNicol

Sunday 20th of January 2013

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

Bryan Haines

Monday 21st of January 2013

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!

Michael Waggoner

Sunday 1st of July 2012

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