HGTV’s show House Hunters has become extremely popular since its 1999 premiere. It resonates with viewers who want to believe that average people can indeed find the home of their dreams. There are over 440 episodes of the series and 13 spinoffs including Island Hunters and House Hunters International, and producers receive anywhere from 100 to 200 applications from eager viewers every week
The information is presented as fact on the show. Viewers may use the prices, locations, and other home criteria as barometers for their own house hunts, not knowing they have been poorly informed by the glitz and glam of reality television. The long and sometimes tedious process has been cut down to a half an hour. It’s simply not realistic, but it’s being portrayed this way to millions of viewers for nearly two decades.
So what is real, and what is ‘television magic’?
The homeowners chosen for House Hunters already own or are in the process of buying the house they are shown choosing before production for the episode even begins. Producers seek homeowners this far along in the process in order to speed along production. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to find their own home with their own agent before production begins. The homeowners are reportedly paid $500 for their episode for around 50 hours of filming over the course of 5 days. That’s right – 50 hours of filming for a 22 minute episode, a week off of work, and a $500 stipend for the family. Without paid time off, it can cost the homeowners to appear on television. It’s just not as glamorous in real life.
The Houses Themselves
In real life, finding a home can take 1-3 months for condo buyers and 3-6 months for house buyers. Every buyer is different, but most will often look at 8-10 properties before coming to a conclusion on one.
The other two homes featured in the episode are often homes that had been considered by the homeowners, but are sometimes the homes of willing friends that have never been on the market.
The realtors on the show are not the realtors that the clients have used in real life. The job simply is not as easy as showing a client three houses and having them buy one. Just like any professional sports or competition reality show, they make it look so easy on television – that’s the magic of it all.
Since other HGTV shows focus primarily on flipping homes, it isn’t unheard of for the homeowners of the episode to purchase a home that may be in need of some TLC. Just note that house flipping has been just as poorly portrayed in reality television. Shows such as Flip or Flop will show profits anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 for a few weeks of work. If it were so easy, everyone would be doing this. Trust us, the appraisers know the difference between a true renovation and a DIY repaint job. A true rehabilitation of the home will not be done in a half hour and contractor repairs could be costly – gutting an entire house can come in around the $125,000 range.