Just How Fake Is HGTV’s House Hunters?

Long-running basic cable staple House Hunters (and its various iterations) are the lifeblood of HGTV, which sometimes seems to air nothing but half-hour after half-hour of incredibly picky people looking at three possible places to purchase, one of which seems to always fit the incredibly finicky buyers’ check list. Most of us have known the show is at least partially staged, but now a woman featured on the show pulls back the curtain even more.

As most House Hunters viewers have either long figured out or learned by doing a Google search, it’s usually incredibly easy to sort out which of the houses the buyer will select in the end — it’s the empty one, because the buyers have already gone into escrow on the property and are just waiting to close.

(NOTE: This doesn’t always work, especially in areas where there are oodles of foreclosures or new construction.)

But the folks at HookedOnHouses.net recently spoke with a Texas woman whose home-buying process was featured on the show. Among the revelations from her story:

* Those other houses that don’t get sold? They may not even be for sale.
“[T]hey were just our two friends’ houses who were nice enough to madly clean for days in preparation for the cameras!” says the woman.

Given how badly people insult and nitpick the houses that go un-purchased, this has surely caused problems among friends who have volunteered their homes to be decoys.

* The buyers may have actually already closed on the property.
While previous House Hunters exposes have said the selected properties were in escrow, this homeowner says, “They didn’t even ‘accept’ us being a subject for the show until we closed on the house we were buying.”

* The ticking clock back stories may not be completely true.
For the episode featuring this family’s already-completed property search, the producers decided that the true story — moving into a bigger house and turning their current home into a rental property — was “boring and overdone.”

Thus,the family was told to say they desperately needed a bigger house because their current place was too small.

“It wasn’t true, but it was a smaller house than the one we bought so I went with it,” says the woman. “However, when I re-watch the episode I cringe, since we have lived in an even smaller house quite comfortably!”

These revelations don’t do much to change my House Hunters drinking game, which involves doing shots whenever these fakers throw out phrases like “The counters aren’t granite,” or “We were really hoping for two sinks.”

“House Hunters:” What It Was Like to Be On the Show [Hooked On Houses via AVclub.com]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    “Reality” shows staged? The hell you say.

    • eldergias says:

      Thank God we still have the documentary filmed in real-time: Fringe.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Next thing you’re gonna tell me that the Oscars are political and FIFA officials accept bribes…

      • Mambru says:

        Fi?FA? what kind of withcery is that? Here in merica the only football i get is from the NFL

        Your comment just brings to memory world cup 2002 with south korea blatantly robbing the Italians and the Spaniards

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      M-o-o-o-v-e that comment!

    • makoto says:


    • bluline says:

      My daughter and son-in-law were candidates for this show but weren’t chosen in the end. The thing that struck me is that they had already chosen the home they wanted and had submitted an offer which had been accepted. They were just waiting to close. Had they been selected for the show, they would have been shown two other homes to inspect and pretend to be interested in, even though they had no intention whatsoever of buying either one. It’s that much of a sham. And they would have had to take an entire week off of work to complete the filming, too.

  2. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    What’s this? Reality TV isn’t real!?

    Stop The Fucking Presses! D8

    • thisisit says:

      I wouldn’t call it fake. I’d call it carefully edited.

      Looking for a house can be a year long process, and there are so many things that can come up. It makes sense for the show to pick people after the fact, and kind of reenact their story.

      In the end it may not be 100% accurate, but they provide viewers with what they’re interested in watching: A bunch of homes in different parts of the country, possible prices, and some of the issues that can arise during the buying process.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Except for the part where it is roughly 1% accurate, in that yes, they did exchange money for a house.

    • JustMe2011 says:

      Hey, people believe everything they see on CNN and Fox News, too.

      AND people think reality TV is real. Even when it’s obviously staged. I can believe people would find this shocking.

  3. Senator says:

    I’m stunned. There is no point in living anymore.

  4. FatLynn says:

    My hairdresser told me this; her friend was on it, and they’d already picked the place out.

    • Geekybiker says:

      I know someone who was on the show. This is pretty accurate. They had already closed when they contacted the real estate agent and asked them if they had any recent sales they thought would be interested in being on the show.

  5. redskull says:

    Slightly different topic, but I would like to see some of the redecorated rooms on the Design on a Dime type shows a week or two after they’re done. So many of those rooms depend on things like a bowl sitting EXACTLY here, or a chair angled precisely there… the minute someone actually LIVES in one of those rooms the whole design’s going to go right to hell.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      Yep. My nearly blind black lab would have a field day with rooms like that – I have nothing breakable out anywhere, and nothing at all in the middle of any floor. Poor guy runs into everything. That priceless family heirloom bowl would be toast in less than 1 hour.

    • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

      Please, your comment has upset my feng shui!!

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Some of the makeovers use ridiculous materials or really cheap fixes that wouldn’t hold up to real use too.

      • LMA says:

        This is what drives me nuts with Restaurant Makeover. I mean, it was bad enough when Trading Spaces glued hay to the walls of a house; I was able to suspend disbelief over that (mostly because you were supposed to be in disbelief), but don’t tell me $4-5K worth of cheap plywood, paint and stick on vinyl is going to last more than a week in a high traffic place like a restaurant. Okay, if there *was* “high” traffic, they wouldn’t be on the show, but still. All it’s gonna take is one kid at a booth noticing a loose edge on the random sticks stapled to the wall as “art” and it’s over.

    • jeffbone says:

      I keep waiting for the “After” on one of the design shows to appear as the “Before” on another…

      • redskull says:

        Like the one designer on “Trading Spaces” who painted the family’s dining room walls and ceiling gloss black with yellow window frames, and sat giant jars full of hard boiled eggs on the table?

        The same designer was creating a “Moroccan Bedroom” and wanted to suspend a bed from the ceiling on chains (!). She couldn’t understand why the contractor couldn’t just screw chains anywhere into the ceiling (regardless of whether there was a stud on the other side or not).

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    There’s no reality in reality TV? Next you will tell me there’s no truth in Pravda.

  7. cowboyesfan says:

    These folks did a behind the scenes for the international version: http://www.gringosabroad.com/behind-the-scenes-house-hunters-international-in-cuenca-ecuador/

    Spoiler: They had moved to Cuenca a year before the filming.

    • OSAM says:

      Just came to say that “gringosabroad.com” is possibly the funniest URL I’ve seen in quite some time.

  8. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i do enjoy house hunters international though just to see the international houses and standards. like the guy from the US buying in poland who wanted a house in the country got a bit of a shock when it turned out that the indoor plumbing was a hose through the kitchen window and a toilet inside the barn.
    or the couple moving to turkey and viewing a thoroughly modern, updated condo with a brand new squat toilet. i like to see people trying to deal with cultures they aren’t used to.

    i think the most fun i’ve had with “reality” real estate tv lately was matching up apartments between “income property” [contractor helps homeowner fix up an apartment/suite for rent] and “for rent” where the realtor helps someone find a rental property. i spotted a couple that i am pretty sure were the same apartments

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Same here. I fell in love with the idea of a cave home after seeing them do this. The kicker: no HVAC needed, it stays cool all year long.

      The quality of homes did vary, but there was a cave home that you would not have known the difference except for the absence of a window.

    • BennieHannah says:

      Me too! I loved seeing the “wet room” bathrooms in other countries — who knew you could shower without a glass-and-marble enclosure?? And the small rooms that they consider “spacious.” I hate it when in the American shows, a buyer walks into quite a large space and says, “it’s…small.” Especially bedrooms. What are these people DOING in their bedrooms that they need more than room for a bed, bedside tables and a bureau? The only thing I get picky about is gas for cooking. I’d be very very very sad if I had to switch to electric.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Yeah, I mean, there’s *no way* they’re faking any of those homes by exaggerating the qualities viewers in the US are expecting to see in third-world accommodations.

    • shufflemoomin says:

      Here’s a mad thought: Actually GO and see countries for yourself instead of judging them based on what the media and TV tell you. America would be WAY better off if more of you people learned to examine and think for yourself rather than judging your entire view of the World based on what the magic living room box tells you.

      • icruise says:

        Right, because everyone can afford to just take off and see every one of the countries featured on the show. Sure, you can’t believe everything you see on TV, but in terms of how the countries are portrayed I think the show is relatively realistic (at least judging from the shows about places that I have first-hand knowledge of). It’s the house buying part that’s staged and fake.

      • OSAM says:

        And where did the poster say their ENTIRE VIEW of a country or region was based SOLELY AND ENTIRELY on what they saw on that show?

        Did it not occur to you that they were bemused by the apparent ineptitude of the people on the show because, say, the poster was FROM the country in question?

        Your high horse – get off it.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        i have been to other countries. not as many as i’d like. but enough to be amused by people who are shocked that not everyone has the same standards they do

  9. Costner says:

    My Realtor was featured in a few episodes of “My House Is Worth What?” and it worked in much the same way. She explained the couples who she worked with had already worked with her off camera to price their homes before the show came knocking. She was instructed to pick a few couples who were camera friendly (aka attractive) and they did the whole dog and pony show to act like they were going through the process for the first time and that they are surprised at the values they come up with.

    I don’t remember all the details but I actually looked at one of the houses after it was featured and although the homeowner agreed on the the show on the value of the home and what needed to be changed… once off camera they tossed all of that aside and just picked a number in their head. Over two years later that house is still on the market (after it was taken off for a short period of time and put back on).

    It doesn’t really shock anyone that this stuff is scripted… or at least it shouldn’t shock anyone.

    Oh yea and my Realtor just sent me an email that she will be filming a few episodes of House Hunters and she asked if I (or anyone I know) would be interested in being featured. I don’t think they care if you are really in the market or not – just that you are willing to be on TV. Maybe it will lead to a sale or maybe not… I doubt the producers honestly care.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      From someone who had their house on the market and sold it in a week in a tough market, I can tell you everyone does this. We priced our home at what it was actually worth and got multiple bids while other similar houses in the neighborhood that didn’t have as much decor work done sat on the house for 6 months to a year b/c the owners pulled a price out of their ass. I wasn’t working so I actually kept up with 10 houses on the market in my area through my real estate person’s website. A few people just ended up giving up and pulling their houses off the market. I felt very smug and delighted that I sold my house and others did not.

      • Draw2much says:

        Hehehe, it’s true! People think their house is worth WAY more than it actually is. Even when a Realtor tells them straight up that their house isn’t worth more than 120K (in a GOOD market), they’ll still try to sell it for 150K. Apparently they think buyers are stupid.

        And these are people selling their home’s AS IS. No major renovations. Not homes that have a too-high mortgage. Just foolish people who think they can overprice in a buyer’s market because Jimmy-Joe Bob said if they just did such and such, it’d DEFINITELY SELL.

        They never sell.

        (I work for a Realtor, you hear about this kind of silliness all the time.)

  10. framitz says:

    I know folks must watch this garbage, but I wonder who the heck does watch it.
    Like so much so called reality TV, this is one I’ve never seen and will avoid.

    • ReverendTed says:

      At our office, HGTV is on pretty much constantly. It’s generally innocuous, in that we don’t have to worry about what’s about to come on. Our patients seem to enjoy it.

    • cybrczch says:

      This form of reality TV, where folks are usually once and done, is a lot less brain-rotting than the competition shows, and nowhere near as bad as any of the “Real Kardashians of the Sister Wives’ Teen Mom” type shows.

  11. gman863 says:

    How about a reality show that exposes how most other reality shows are staged and bogus?

    I’d be all in.

  12. Lyn Torden says:

    I’m waiting for Mike Holmes to come fix up a house someone buys on House Hunters.

    • Costner says:

      Considering they are both prominent shows on HGTV I don’t expect to see that anytime soon. However if he ever went in to inspect any home featured on any television show it would be very interesting. How about Holmes goes in an finds all the faults in one of the Extreme Makeover houses… that would rock!

      I love how on one show (any of the Holmes shows) they pay so much attention to detail and try to do things better than minimum code, but on other shows like Income Property they show blatant code violations that go untouched. I recall even seeing an episode where they closed up an exterior wall with no vapor barrier… just raw fiberglass insulation. Classy.

      • Gizmosmonster says:

        Holmes is not made for HGTV. Much of what you see is repackaged stuff from his old shows done for the CBC. We have watched his show for years because the homeowners make real mistakes, never look perfect and, and the houses are really screwed up. They are also so Canadian.

        • Costner says:

          Yes I know the shows are originally for the CBC, but Holmes has a contract with HGTV as well, so he isn’t about to bite the hand that feeds him. He has even appeared on other HGTV shows such as the one where they picked a Handyman (Holmes was a judge).

          I do agree with you that his shows put a certain authenticity to home renovations, although I don’t like the Holmes Inspection nearly as much as the older Holmes on Homes because Mike Holmes doesn’t even really do anything anymore.

          Even on the older shows you could often see him walking around with a cup of coffee in his hand and it seemed after the first few years he had little need to carry a toolbelt anymore. I suppose that is par for the course perhaps, but when I watch This Old House, at least I know Tom Silva will be involved and doing much of the work. He isn’t just a supervisor or a host – he gets in there. Granted they have an actual host full time – but with Holmes it seems he does his little inspection, then he disappears while the crew fixes everything, then he comes back to collect the hugs, praise, and trinkets from the homeowners as if he alone was responsible for everything that happened with the repairs.

          Still a great show though.

          • VintageLydia says:

            That’s pretty much par for the course for a lot of business owners, though. If you build a good team and train them well, you shouldn’t HAVE to be on every site doing a lot of work. Let the younger people with more energy do it! It’s what you’re paying them for, after all. His value is in his knowledge and his ability to bring people under him who care as much as he does. He might not be doing a lot of the physical work, but he’s facilitating it all.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      They do have shows on HGTV do a mash-up on occasion, and I definitely have seen Mike Holmes on other HGTV shows.

      • scoosdad says:

        The kitchen cousins guys from HGTV spent a whole show rebuilding an absolutely filthy kitchen from the Restaturant Impossible show on the Food Network. They even had the episodes scheduled back to back so at the end of Kitchen Cousins you could switch over to Food Network and watch the same thing from a different perspective on Restaurant Impossible. (Both channels are owned by Scripps, so that’s the connection there.)

        I don’t know how people would ever eat in the restaurant again given such intense scrutiny after the Restaurant Impossible shows air. You just have this gut feeling that the kitchen and restaurant in general is going to go back downhill again to its original filthy state once the cameras are gone. Nothing I saw in the program during the interviews with the owner and the kitchen staff convinced me otherwise.

        As I mentioned in my other post, both of these programs have the now-standard reality show fake deadline to finish up. The only reason the restaurant renaissance must happen in just 48 hours is for the TV drama of it all. The poor kitchen guys looked like they were about to expire from having to work nonstop on the kitchen in such a short time.

    • Kestris says:

      Not enough love in the world for this comment.

    • JHDarkLeg says:

      “Oh oh, there’s a burned out light bulb and the 2 stairs into the garage need a railing, better rebuild the entire house!”

      /Mike Holmes

      • Cor Aquilonis says:

        Good one! Though I’m pretty sure Mike Holmes would require a floor to be at least 1/8th inch out of level before rebuilding a house from the weeping tile up.

      • Velvet Jones says:

        I think the people who hate Mike Holmes are really hack contractors who are guilty of the things he exposes on his show. While sometime he does over-dramatize problems, other times people really under estimate the dangers. Perfect example is the woman from St. Johns. She was almost killed when her shoddy second floor deck collapsed. I’ve seen many of the things Mike has encountered on the show, from uncapped live wires in cabinets to floor joists that have been completely cut out. Too many contractors are thieves and/or complete morons that should even be allowed near a home.

  13. James says:

    I’ve watched when on for years. The really old shows used to have them sitting around and actually “getting” the phone call: “Really? We got the house? That’s great!!” and everybody happy.

    The other eye-rolling part is when they complain about things like light fixtures, paint or wallpaper – or stuff that could be changed in one Saturday’s worth of work or a few hundred dollars to a handyman…

    • VeganPixels says:

      Speaking of handymen, one of ours played a “potential buyer” on an episode of Million Dollar Listing LA a few years back. Out-of-work male models/PT general construction laborers apparently qualify for “private showings” of +2M homes.

  14. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Here’s a consumerist tip:
    Unplug the TV and save ~$1K/year, spend more time together as a family, etc.

  15. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I care more about Income Property, so please no one ruin that show for me!

    • Tegan says:

      My favourite is when they do the handyman contest with Scott McGillivray and Mike Holmes. Yes, I have been known to watch way too much HGTV.

    • just_joe says:

      With McGillvray, I’m waiting for him to segue into his whole schpeil (sp?) about how “You too can make big money flipping houses! Just buy my package… blah blah blah” – if you don’t know, when he’s not doing his contractor-y things and shows, he’s on the sell-flipping-management systems circuit touting his versions of this oh so great scam. Kinda took the whole interest in his shows away for me.

      Additionally, his redos always look like the latest in boutique hotel chic – which I personally despise!

      Sorry to burst your bubble…

  16. longfeltwant says:

    TV shows are fiction. Duh.

    • ferozadh says:

      Yes but the illusion of reality is often comforting. Otherwise there’d be no market for porn.

  17. Froggmann says:

    Reality television is staged? OMG!!! My world is shattered!

  18. voogru says:

    Wow really? I had no idea.

  19. Bor&Mitch says:

    Take a shot whenever someone says “we like to entertain” and “open concept”. You’ll probably be dead from alcohol poisoning before the end.

    • dotkat says:

      Don’t forget to drink to the ever popular phrase, “these windows let in a lot of light” (make it a double if they say it in the master bedroom). Yep, that’s what windows are supposed to do. You’ll pickle your liver for sure if you drink to that one!

    • who? says:

      It’s a little small….

    • ellemdee says:

      Or when a “buyer” insists that all 6 of their kids absolutely must have their own bathrooms.

    • Nick says:

      Just don’t roll over on yer’ baby when you’re wasted. Nancy Grace will come to HGTV.

  20. aibrean says:

    Add to your drinking game:

    Do a shot whenever someone uses “entertaining” as a verb.

    Or when the guy makes a closets-are-too-small-for-all-her-clothes joke.

  21. SoCalGNX says:

    My favorite lines are the ones that people say when they don’t like the paint color like ‘This place needs too much work”.

  22. KFW says:

    No other television show has done more to fetishize crown moulding.

    • who? says:

      Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances…

      • selianth says:

        And hardwood floors for the trifecta.

        • just_joe says:

          The best reference to this trend was when I saw the term: pergranisteel!
          It stood for Pergo, Granite and Stainless Steel – FTW!

          I remember in the early Aughts when this was the height of style for kitchens – and now, is it just me or does it seem tired and way overdone? Additionally, I’ve never liked granite countertops – just a quirk of mine, I guess…

          • Klussterbomb says:

            I like granite countertops, but you can keep the stainless steel appliances. Cleaning the outside of my appliances every.single.day. to keep the smudges and fingerprints off of them does not sound like a good time to me.

  23. Jawaka says:

    A story like this would be much more entertaining if the show’s producers were asked to comment. Of course they wouldn’t but that just makes it even more amusing to me.

  24. Claybird says:

    I remember the days when the most “manipulation” you got from a reality show was editing or shoving people into a house, not completely scripted bullshit.

  25. u1itn0w2day says:

    I don’t who is worse the people that watch and follow these shows or the people that manufacture and/or contrive them.

  26. Derv says:

    Don’t read this if you don’t want to spoil almost every episode of “House Hunters” that you will watch.

    Still reading?

    Pay attention when you are watching. A good 99 times out of 100, they will pick the house that is unfurnished. As the article stated, they are already in closing. This doesn’t work for House Hunters international or most of the vacation home specials, as it is pretty common for the houses/condos/etc to include furniture.

  27. ellemdee says:

    My favorite line from the show, from a buyer after being told that a house had only one bathroom (gasp!), and that it was actually normal at the time the house was built (1950’s, I believe):

    “How did people LIVE like that?!?”

    You would have thought she’d just been shown an outhouse and told to squat over a hole in the ground.

    • finbar says:

      Good point. People in the 50s probably just spent less time in the bathroom.

    • LMA says:

      Ooo, ooo, ooo! I’d *totally* watch a show like that! You take a typical upper middle class family with one kid and a dog and have them live for a month in one of the tar paper sharecropper shacks still dotted across rural Carolina, no plumbing, one lightbulb, replace their Cadillac Escalade with a 1957 Ford pickup truck with a leaking oil pan, their kid’s PSP with an old ten speed bicycle with bent oval wheels, and $4.30 with which to construct a day’s meals from the gas station convenience store.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Your shacks have electricity? Calm down there, Mr. Rockefeller. You need to take a trip out to South Georgia and see how the real country folk live.

      • MrEvil says:

        Actually I think the oil leak on a ’57 F100 is a feature. Let’s you know that your engine has plenty of oil in it. You know something is wrong when it stops leaking oil.

    • Duffin (Ain't This Kitty Cute?) says:

      I know that pain. Bought my first house in December and it was built in…1929! So, yeah…it’s tiiiiny. No granite countertops for me or stainless steel appliances. It do have a f-ton of crown molding, though, so I guess that’s something! Oh, one small bathroom, too, but I still manage to live comfortably. I must be a savage.

  28. momtimestwo says:

    damn it.. I have this show and the international show set to record automatically, and this bums me out. I should have never read this:(

    • liz.lemonade says:

      House Hunters International is just as staged. Many of the people on the show have lived in their homes for months or even years. TWoP posters have tracked down some of their blogs (which is apparently one of the ways the HHI crew find the people on the show), and many say that they mainly agreed to be on the series because they got the free trip back to the U.S. for the “before” scenes.

      That said, I still adore HHI, if only for seeing what homes are like in other countries. Plus, the scenery is often fascinating.

  29. OMG_BECKY says:

    More drinking game fun:

    -Drink every time they show the buyers in their kitchen cutting fruit (every single episode, I swear)

    -Drink every time buyers use the phrase “I can see myself ____ing in this room!” (they’re obviously coached to envision shit out loud. Gets on my nerves.

  30. incident_man says:

    Personally, I’m getting sick of all the goddamned “reality” shows on television. It seriously has ruined the whole television experience for me to a point that I’d rather re-watch shows on Netflix that I watched originally 20 years ago than to have anything to do with current television offerings.

    On a related note, Is there anyone on the show “Swamp People”, which airs on what USED to be the History Channel, that still has ALL their teeth?!?

  31. dolemite says:

    Pretty much 90% of “reality TV” is staged.

  32. some.nerd says:

    A staged event with no “Mean” Gene Okerlund commentary is no staged event to me!

  33. Starfury says:

    I’ve watched these shows with my wife sometimes and you know they’re fake.

    I like Auction Hunters…I’m sure some of it is staged but it’s still fun to watch.

    • Dr. Shrinker says:

      I have it on good authority that Auction Hunters is completely fake as well; the producers buy the lot and the “auction” is entirely fake.

  34. shthar says:

    I stopped watching when what’s her name left.

  35. Golfer Bob says:

    Can I just like to watch someting on TV without being an activist about it? Really? Is that too much to ask?

  36. Holden Caufield says I'm a phonie says:

    Next thing you know, someone will say that the bad bahavior on Undercover Diners is faked.

  37. scoosdad says:

    The one thing that just about every damn reality show on HGTV has in common is the ticking clock– the fake deadline to do something or finish a project by a fake but cast in concrete drop dead time. Like Mike Holmes and his crews rushing to finish up a rebuild by nightfall on a certain day for the big ‘reveal’. Or the Property Brothers racing to finish up a renovation job on a fixer-upper by a certain time on the clock. Ditto for the guy doing those restaurant rescues.

    Why do these projects all have to be finished by a certain fixed time? Because it makes for dramatic TV, and for no other reason. Bah! Get off my lawn!