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?

Jul 13, 2013 10:58AM
We  as adults, must know by now there is nothing easy to buying or getting anything we need, or want.  I really wonder  if any shows that people do for others are for real .,  I wanted to write in where they help people fix their homes mainly because our daughter has cancer and needs her home fixed and they can't afford it, but too many people have said forget it they wouldn't do that.  I love the HGTV show regardless if it is dramatized. They have a lot of great ideas and can help those who are really looking what to do, and if they have money, can be very creative.  
Jul 13, 2013 10:28AM
I love the show. If you don't like it don't watch.  All the trash they put on tv now I look at HGTV all day.
Jan 30, 2013 6:43AM
I'm diappointed with the Home and Gardens show. Whole house revamp most of us can't do, banter between 2 hosts is obnoxious. I rarely watch anymore. Eileen Pelletier 
Jun 15, 2012 5:16PM
I knew it had to be staged somewhat because real home-buying doesn't go that quickly or easily.  I wish, since it's "out" now that it's scripted, they'd tell some of their first-time home buyers that ceramic counter tops and hardwood floors aren't a prerequisite to being happy.  Making improvements in a home is how you build up equity...  A lot of their guests come off as spoiled asses...  That bothers me more than knowing that the show is made up.
Jun 15, 2012 3:49PM
Of course I'm not surprised that the show is partial staged. Home buying is a long process and HGTV makes it entertaining and gives you a look at houses all over the world. I like the show and wish the TODAY show would spend their time reporting things that are really important.
Jun 15, 2012 3:43PM
and most of these people buy a house that needs no work - big kitchens and lot of stainless steel for appliances.  Please, of course this is not real.  But do I still watch?  Of course, these are fantasy shows.  Love them
Jun 15, 2012 2:33PM
You have to know that this show is more or less a synopsis of the home buying process.  You cannot possibly go through it all in a half-hour show.   Many, many things are not shown.  After all, it is not an instructional on house buying, just an entertaining half hour that gives you some idea of what people go through.    Very nice show!
I don't care I love that show. Keep it coming I'll take it all in
I don't care I love that show. Keep it coming I'll take it all in
Jun 15, 2012 12:51PM
Then why do it?  Its why humanity can't figure out what truth and reality is anymore, just adds to the confusions of life for everyone watching such trash, don't waste your time, study nature. 
Jun 15, 2012 12:50PM
not at all.  its all a lie like the property brothers showing millon dollars home to buyer and saying they can redo a home they pick out to look the same.  meanwhile they only do downstairs and its a fake
Jun 15, 2012 12:41PM

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!

Jun 15, 2012 12:40PM

It's still entertaining and, I agree that you can pick up some very good decorating ideas!


Jun 15, 2012 12:00PM
I have been watching this  House Hunters show ever since it  first premiered. I think thie show is very educational, as far as decorating ideas and learning about other parts of the world. Lets just say, it is better than watching WWF which some folks still seem to think they are fighting for real. Honestly, I did not know house hunters was fake. Had I knowned that I would have been on their to collect  those 500 big ones myself.  Actually , I  bought the first house I toured in 2010 and my realtor had to make me go to see the others on his 3 house list before writting up the paperwork. Bottom line HGTV needs to call me and film my house hunt.   They won't because they would have to bleep my language about some of the dumpy  homes I see.
Jun 15, 2012 11:57AM

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.

Jun 15, 2012 11:52AM

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 !!!!

Jun 15, 2012 11:48AM

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!"

Jun 15, 2012 11:47AM

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. 

Jun 15, 2012 11:45AM
Not surprised.  Most people look at more than three houses, and the house they ultimately pick they don't usually complain about it more than the other houses they look at.  That's how my mother predicts which house will be chosen: the one the that's complained about the most.
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