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Home in exotic locale could be yours

New TV series looks at wide range of properties, prices in 19 countries

Anyone who's ever dreamt of pulling up stakes and moving halfway across the globe should be able to relate to the wannabe expats in the new HGTV series Live Here, Buy This.

These travel-hungry Canucks have grand ideas of making their favourite vacation getaway their family's permanent home-sweethome and why wouldn't they? Most of the fantasy digs just happen to be in sunny, tropical paradises or culture-rich, centuries-old hamlets.

Of course, actually pursuing such a dream is another matter entirely.

This show takes a closer look at what a Canadian homeowner could get if they sold their home and bought a comparably priced abode elsewhere.

"The show is really about presenting options to the homeowners," says Dave Lapsley, one of three Canadian-based hosts who crisscross the globe to profile far-flung properties.

"Some [foreign] homes, simple homes, were similar to what the homeowners have here - and then there were other ones [that] were like small castles in Italy or huts right on the beach.

There was a treehouse home in Costa Rica. The array of homes was vast."

Each episode of Live Here, Buy This profiles a Canadian family musing on what life could be like elsewhere. They pick three dream locations and are presented with two homes in each locale considered equal in value to their current place.

Needless to say, where you could end up and the features you get vary widely depending on where you start and where you want to be.

There seemed to be a lot of bang for your buck in rural Italy. Trading a modest $140,000 cottage in Barrie, Ont., can apparently get one family a slightly larger stone country home surrounded by olive groves.

But searching for a pad in Croatia proves surprisingly difficult for a Toronto family of four with a $575,000 budget. Their wish list gets them an 84 square metre (900 sq. ft.), two-bedroom apartment in the heart of the charming coastal town of Rovinj.

No one actually moves at the end of each episode - this is merely a glimpse at the possibilities for adventurous globe-trotters, says series producer Danielle Kiraly.

"When you go on vacation and you have the greatest time of your life, you go, 'Oh my God, wouldn't it be great if we could live here?' " says Kiraly.

"This is just taking that fantasy one step further."

Fantasy is key to this burgeoning sub-genre that melds real estate porn with travelogue.

It's what seems to have buoyed HGTV's House Hunters spinoff House Hunters International to surprisingly solid ratings and fuelled a slew of escapist realty series like Selling New York, Selling L.A. and Selling London.

Canadians are at the forefront of this niche, says Kiraly, noting that Live Here, Buy This and the Selling franchise all come from the same Toronto-based company, JV Productions.

"There are no shows anymore just about making over your home," she says.

"We combine genres so it's home makeover-slash-travel or it's travel and fantasy or it's lifestyle and fantasy."

The lure of a fresh start, or a second home, is big for a lot of people who find themselves increasingly able to take their careers on the road, adds Kiraly.

"We've had, like, three couples that wanted to open a little business somewhere on a beach, in the Bahamas or Granada, and this is a vehicle for them to see what they can get and how they can live," she says.

Live Here, Buy This visits about 19 countries, including Austria, Spain, France, Thailand and the United States. Kiraly says the most popular dream location was Italy.

An attempted shoot in Switzerland was scrapped when producers learned homebuyers must be citizens, she adds, but otherwise the show doesn't delve into the legal, financial and political red tape that can accompany some overseas purchases.

Still, Canadians would be surprised to see the range of properties that fall in their price range, even in world-class cities with a reputation for exorbitant rates, says Lapsley.

He notes that one Toronto-area family learns that London flats in the city's centre can differ in price by hundreds of thousands of dollars, even when separated by mere blocks.

"The differences can be staggering," he says.

Live Here, Buy This debuts Aug. 27 on HGTV.