Is the drama of HGTV's 'House Hunters' fake?
A participant's report that the houses they toured were neighbors' homes that weren't even for sale raises questions. Surely, you didn't think anyone could buy a house that easily, right?
We'd be remiss if we didn't bring you news on the latest scandal rocking the housing world: HGTV's show "House Hunters" reportedly is faked.
You're not surprised? Neither are we, though that's partly because we have read a number of posts by Julia Sweeten at "Hooked on Houses" about how the show is done, including this 2010 post that pointed out that the homeowners really have already chosen a home before they start filming.
In case you've never seen the show, here's a quick recap: Prospective homebuyers tour three homes they supposedly are considering. At the end of the show, they choose one. This show always has a happy ending.
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But apparently, some of the "drama" of this reality show is staged. (We are shocked, shocked, to hear that reality TV is not real. But really, how seriously can you take a would-be buyer's worry that a house priced at $176,000 is over his $175,000 budget?)
Bobi Jensen of San Antonio, who has her own Western Warmth blog, said to Sweeten:
The producers said they found our (true) story – that we were getting a bigger house and turning our other one into a rental – boring and overdone.
So instead they just wanted to emphasize how our home was too small and we needed a bigger one desperately. It wasn’t true, but it was a smaller house than the one we bought so I went with it.
Jensen told Hooked on Houses that "House Hunters" didn't accept the couple for the show until after they had closed on their new home. And the couple themselves had to find the two other houses to tour. During the hot real-estate market of 2006, they couldn't find real sellers who wanted their homes on the show, so they toured two friends' homes and pretended to consider homes they pretended were for sale.
Jensen told USA Today that HGTV makes it clear during the selection process that only couples who have already closed on a home will be considered "because they don't want to waste their time on anyone who's still in the decision-making process." But the buyers can't have moved into the home yet because they will need to tour it and pretend to be debating whether to buy it. The participants get $500 for four days of filming.
HGTV did not comment specifically on Jensen's story or on how often the homes toured by the buyers not only never were considered but also may not even have been for sale. But HGTV programming executive Brian Balthazar said in a statement to USA Today:
We're making a television show, so we manage certain production and time constraints, while honoring the homebuying process. To maximize production time, we seek out families who are pretty far along in the process. Often everything moves much more quickly than we can anticipate, so we go back and revisit some of the homes that the family has already seen and we capture their authentic reactions.
Since the show aired, Jensen and her husband have added two more children to their family. All six of them lived in a considerably smaller townhouse in Omaha, Neb., while her husband, who was the real-estate agent in the TV episode, went to law school.
She still likes HGTV and is bemused by all the furor her story has caused. She writes:
I think their practices are the only efficient way to handle a show such as this. Could they really follow a couple around who looks at a few houses every weekend and six months later decides on one? What if they changed their mind and decided to rent a few more years? … NO ONE looks at three houses and then picks one and "gets the call" that it is theirs, without at least a little more drama. I assume people know this. How could HGTV afford to keep flying the producer out, etc? I think people just haven't realized this is purely entertainment and have a lot of expectations of "reality" for reality TV that would be nearly impossible or unaffordable to pull off.
What do you think? Are you surprised? Outraged? Or did you suspect that this was how the show was organized all along?
Although I have known for over a year that House Hunters used buyers who were already in escrow or even further along, I always assumed that they only showed three homes, no matter how many others the buyers looked at. I am sure the majority of those profiled looked at many other homes.
However, to those saying that no one looks at only three homes, you are wrong. When we bought our first home, we only looked at five. We just knew that fifth home was the right one for us. When we relocated to a small town (only 500 people) we only looked at the house we bought. Due to my husband's job we have to live within city limits. We looked online at the four houses for sale in the town, ruled it down to one and knew once we toured it, it would work out for us. Also helped that this house was twice as big as the one we had just sold and cost $20,000 less!
It's still entertaining and, I agree that you can pick up some very good decorating ideas!
Home and Garden TV...more like...Hyperbole and Guile TV
Oh boy, it seems I've had the wool pulled over my eyes again. The people at HGTV HQ led me to believe that buying a house was as easy as 1-2-3...nope...turns out spending hundreds of thousands of dollars is a little harder than I thought. I was hoping to knock out my own home buying experience this Saturday, but now it looks like I am going to have to cancel my Sunday plans as well. Thanks for ruining my entire weekend HGTV.
Looks like I'll be going back to the Home Shopping Network where it's nothing but truth, transparency, and truthfulness...and trust.
So now your all gonna tell me the " Studdering Cowboy Singer" on America's Got Talent is Fake too !!!
Just because he only studders when he's on the show? And just because he really wasn't wounded in combat? And just because he "Really thought" his story was true? And just because he cried because
now he can't go to Vegas? And just because people realize he really can't sing?
What's the problem? He's just continuing the "Reality TV " tradition... FAKE IT MAN, FAKE IT !!!!
My nephew and his new bride were on the show when they bought a home in Denver. I was amused when they told us they had already bought their house before filming started. I wasn't surprised since I have friends who were on "Show Dog Moms and Dads" a few years ago. The whole thing was staged and cut to tell a story nowhere near "reality". In fact, several of the 'stars' sued the producers over how they were made to appear. You can imagine how far THAT went. Since then I've know there is no such thing as "reality" TV, it's "unscripted" TV. My wife and I still enjoy House Hunters, but at the decision point I yell at the TV, "YOU'VE ALREADY BOUGHT THE HOUSE!"
I think anyone who is surprised by this needs a reality check. My husband and I looked at over 100 houses over a 12-month period before finding the house we knew was ours when we walked in the front door. Of course most people aren't quite so picky, but I've only met one person in my life who looked at only a few houses before buying one, and it would be statistically impossible for the dozens of people who have appeared on House Hunters to all have made their decision after viewing only 3 properties.
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.