People often dismiss HGTV as mindless entertainment, and while it can certainly be that—who hasn’t lost hours to a Flip or Flop marathon?—there’s also something fascinating about the shows airing on its network (or streaming in its hub on Discovery+). When many Americans cannot afford to own a house, homebuying shows like those that make up a large chunk of HGTV’s programming slate allow people to live vicariously through others while dreaming about the possibility of one day overpaying for their own tiny apartment with no view in Tuscany. When they see home-flipping shows, it’s a trash-to-treasure fantasy that most will never experience because they don’t have the skills, money, or patience to deal with a full-scale renovation. And when couples who’ve only been together for six months decide to move to Croatia and fight over easy-to-fix cosmetic issues like a bathroom’s paint color, it’s world-class, premium reality TV drama.
So, in the interest of sharing this HGTV magic with you, we’ve conducted hours upon hours of research to cultivate a list of the best shows on HGTV that you can stream on Discovery+. Enjoy!
What would HGTV and the homebuying genre be without House Hunters? The series, which follows prospective homebuyers as they tour properties and choose one to suit their taste, debuted in 1999. It’s still going strong more than 20 years later. The reasons for that are simple: House Hunters is a low-risk and low-budget reality series that is equal parts comfort and escapism. It’s the TV version of perusing Zillow listings. Even though the curtain has been pulled back and the process of how the show really works has been well documented by now, the series remains as addictive as ever. With budgets that rarely seem to match clients’ salaries and savvy producers and editors playing up the conflicts between homebuyers to create drama, it’s some of the best reality TV on the planet. The only thing better is the series’ popular spinoff House Hunters International, which takes viewers around the world as clients buy homes in exotic locales and complain about the size of bathrooms outside of the United States. It’s pure comfort food, but it’s also art. It’s background noise, but it’s also a fascinating sociology experiment. And given how long both series have been running, you’ll never run out of episodes.
In recent years, HGTV has become best known for its many programs in which people buy, sell, flip, or renovate properties. Cheap Old Houses is the opposite of that. The show, hosted by married couple Ethan and Elizabeth Finkelstein, debuted in 2021 and is an extension of their popular Instagram brand and accompanying newsletters, which showcase affordable old homes for sale (often less than $150,000) and encourage people to restore them to their former glory rather than gut and renovate them beyond recognition. In each episode, the duo visits historic properties, touring them while pointing out their unique features. The entire show is a series of history lessons, as Elizabeth often explains certain styles or fixtures of a home’s era. Then, at the end of each episode, they tour a home that someone has already purchased and lovingly restored as proof that it can be done. It’s a welcome change of pace from the rest of HGTV’s lineup. So if you cannot handle any more demo and never want to see another subway tile—or if you just adore a pink bathroom—this is the show for you.
If you love Fixer Upper (which is now on Magnolia Network rather than HGTV), you’ll also appreciate the small-town aesthetics and feel-good nature of Home Town. Hosted by congenial married duo Ben and Erin Napier, the show follows them as they help homebuyers find and renovate affordable homes in Laurel, Mississippi, with Erin taking point on design and Ben working on renovations (and whose own woodworking skills often come into play). With plenty of Southern charm and the friendliness of small-town life on display, Home Town is the type of renovation show that will make you want to pack up all your belongings and relocate to the land of big front porches and sweet tea.
Chances are that if you’re perusing this list, you’re familiar with twins and real estate experts Drew and Jonathan Scott, better known as the Property Brothers. They’re a staple of HGTV, having hosted their signature show, also titled Property Brothers, since 2011. In each episode, Drew takes the lead in the purchasing of homes while Jonathan, a licensed contractor, tackles the renovation side. The franchise has grown to include countless spinoffs (Buying and Selling, Property Brothers: At Home on the Ranch, and Brother vs. Brother, just to name a few) as well as books, magazines, and home goods. It’s easy to lose yourself in the Property Brothers Extended Universe, but the original show is often still the best place to be.
Ugliest House in America is the TV version of those viral tweet threads that showcase truly bizarre and terrible homes that we collectively judge without feeling too bad about. In the show, Retta travels the country to tour those same types of cosmetic trainwrecks, all of which were nominated by their owners with the hopes of earning the title of Ugliest House in America in order to win $150,000 in renovation costs. Now, some people might think, “Hey, maybe I won’t buy this hideous house with the underwater theme even though it’s cheap.” But not these people. And to even hint at what else you’ll find behind closed doors in many of these homes would be to spoil the fun. So kick back, relax, and take comfort in knowing that these people at least know their homes are tasteless and want to do something about it. Because there are probably way more out there who don’t even have that sense of self-awareness.
Watching people try to fit their entire lives into a tiny home of approximately 300 square feet (or something like it) is pretty funny, which is why it’s impossible to look away from Tiny House, Big Living, Tiny House Hunters, and other shows like them. When traditional home ownership remains a barometer of success and the ultimate American Dream (and is also out of reach for a lot of people thanks to student loan debt, the Great Recession, the pandemic, etc.), it’s difficult to understand why anyone would willingly opt for this compact lifestyle, especially since many of those featured own actual homes. So, what’s the appeal? How do spouses not kill each other when there’s no personal space? How does one choose what to keep versus what to toss? And where do all of these people keep their worn copies of Entertainment Weekly from 1999? These shows are a window into a world many of us will never understand, and I hope one day scientists study these people and explain it all to me.
Flipping homes has become a popular genre of reality TV over the last decade, but Love It or List It—another staple of HGTV’s lineup, having debuted way back in 2008—takes that idea to another level by adding a little friendly competition into the mix. Each episode focuses on a subject who is unhappy with their current home. From there, real estate agent David attempts to find them a new dream home while designer Hilary redesigns and renovates their current home to better fit what they want. At the end of the hour, they’ll choose to either love it (stay in the newly renovated home) or list it (sell it at the new price point and use the money to move into the new house). There’s a decent amount of staged one-upmanship between Hilary and David, but not all of the onscreen drama is manufactured, and it’s exceptionally fun when the series runs into a truly disagreeable homeowner who hates everything that’s happening. That is what reality TV is all about.
Whoever decided to merge the jealousy-inducing beach home-buying genre with the popular home renovation genre to create the satisfying Beachfront Bargain Hunt: Renovation deserves a raise. It’s truly the best of both worlds. The first half of each episode follows subjects as they tour properties at or near the beach that are affordable (a relative term, to be sure) because they are in need of either a little or a lot of fixing up. The second half of the hour follows them through that renovation journey. You never really know what you’re going to get from one episode to the next, because most of the time the subjects do at least a little of the demolition or renovation work themselves, which saves money but creates environments ripe for mistakes. There are also blatantly obvious product placement tie-ins that will make you roll your eyes as couples sit outside and scroll through a tablet you know they can’t actually see because those things are awful in direct sunlight, but it won’t take away from the overall experience of watching each home come together.
Kaitlin Thomas is an entertainment journalist and TV critic. Her work has appeared in TV Guide, Salon, Gold Derby, Polygon, and TV.com, among other places. You can find her tweets about TV, sports, and Walton Goggins @thekaitling or read more of her work at kaitlinthomas.com.
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