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?

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jun 14, 2012 2:19PM

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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© Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images

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?)

The scandal came to light after a post last week in which Sweeten told the story of a Texas couple with two children who appeared on the show in 2006.

 

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?

 
623Comments
Jun 15, 2012 10:09AM
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Not really surprised.  More often than not, all 3 houses suck - I can hardly believe when the buyers choose any of them.
Jun 15, 2012 10:09AM
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You can tell it is staged, and how the couples bicker and what some of them say if it had been real they would be getting a divorce. It is funny at times to listen to what they say to each other.
Jun 15, 2012 10:08AM
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Who cares if the show is fake... The people that went on it got $500.00 and are now complaing about it. OH please... Stop bitching about it... What show is not fake these days...
Jun 15, 2012 10:06AM
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So you mean to tell me people don't have a camera man in their home 24/7 till they get the call from their agent?  I am so disappointed.
Jun 15, 2012 10:06AM
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I love the show (both domestic and international).  I have always gathered it had to be pre-staged to a certain degree otherwise it doesn't make sense timewise.  This is one of the "reality" shows that isn't offensive to watch and hear about.
Jun 15, 2012 10:06AM
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That's why I don't watch reality shows.  I don't understand people who do unless their own lives are depressing and boring.
Jun 15, 2012 10:05AM
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I really don't care, just wasted time reading this
Jun 15, 2012 10:05AM
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I like the brothers show. They can reovate a house that takes five or six weeks and put it all in 1 hr.

no telling how many hr's are put in to achieve this.

Jun 15, 2012 10:04AM
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It's an absolute scam and they should all be shot!

 

All "reality" TV is a scam in one way or another. That's why it is so stupid and why so many people watch. We love stupid TV and, if the producers can force some drama out of a situation (you know like by stealing one of the model's food on America's Next Top Model to make it look like a hated roommate took it) then we love it even more. Why? Buster Keaton summed it up best when talking about humor, "they laugh at me because ti isn't happening to them". Same applies to almost reality TV.

 

 

Jun 15, 2012 10:03AM
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You Guys need to get a life!!!  It is television (get it), just about everything on tv has a script. Why are you singling out House Hunters anyway? The next thing you are going to tell me is America's got Talent is fake too!!!
Jun 15, 2012 10:02AM
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does it really matter every knows its staged the news is just looking for a way to make the general public mad at something so they jump on the first thing they can find every if its on tv its staged at least a lil bit shows like this are painfully obvious that there fake tv will always be tv and the news will always be the news
Jun 15, 2012 10:02AM
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Anyone who thinks "reality TV" is real is in serious need of a reality check themselves.  Shows like this can be fun to watch, but c'mon... "real" they are not.  In  the case of House Hunters, anyone who has bought or sold real estate realizes this is a Hollwood-ized Cliff Notes version of what really goes on.  No harm, no foul.  Must be a slow news day for this story to cause a furor - oh, wait.  You mean to say, internet news services over-hype and sensationalize articles in order to gain readership?  Say it ain't so!
Jun 15, 2012 10:01AM
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what idiot doesnt know shows are staged on TV? besides the ones watching I mean.
Jun 15, 2012 10:01AM
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I've gotten really excited and started looking forward to buying my first home, all after I started watching HGTV. It was a disappointment to find out its not real, because I had no idea how looking for houses works since I haven't done it yet. I figured they were probably preapproved and knew their availible budget, and had seen enough homes beforehand to know what they are looking for, almost a last resort when you get the TV show to come out and film. I know reality TV isn't often real, but I was still very disappointed to know this seemingly wholesome channel was fake as well.
Jun 15, 2012 10:00AM
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i also think that the unreality of so called reality shows is what draws people to them, knowing that it isnt necessarily real yet we want to think thats how things play out somewhat, i havent ever reallybeen a fan of the "reality" shows  for that purpose, i get enough disgusting reality from my own life from being broke and unemployed to worrying about my sons education, then to watch or see a clip from a show where you see dumb people playing along to scripts going OMG will my doggies outfit match mine, or omg did you see what that skank is wearing?! i dont understand the need to filla gap where people have enough reality!
Jun 15, 2012 9:59AM
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of course this is not a surprise. the real surprise is that people are 'shocked' by it or that it's news. i've always known the show was a 'set up' but enjoy it anyway.
Jun 15, 2012 9:58AM
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I watch the show and enjoy it, but I would be stupid to think it was 100% real.
Jun 15, 2012 9:58AM
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