HGTV ‘House Hunters’ Follow-Up

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Ever wonder what it’s like to be a reporter? Or a media relations person for a big company? Then you’ll find this post enlightening, and perhaps amusing.

Yesterday I put up a post called Why House Hunters Shouldn’t Watch HGTV’s “House Hunters.” If you read it, you saw an article I quoted suggesting the show wasn’t real – that the people supposedly looking for houses had sometimes actually already bought a house and were just pretending to consider others.

Well, my editor at MSN Smart Spending wanted to run the article, but first wanted to know if it was true these shows were sometimes staged. In other words, like the responsible journalist she is, she wanted me to contact HGTV and verify it rather than relying on some online article. So that’s what I did.

Below is the email chain between me and HGTV’s media relations department. I print it in its entirety so you can see what a reporter does, and more important, why you don’t want your babies to grow up to be media relations people.

First, I called the media relations department at HGTV and left a voicemail. Then I followed up with this email:

From: Stacy Johnson
Sent: Thursday, January 19, 2012 10:43 AM
To: HGTV Media relations person
Subject: Question re House Hunters…

Hi [Name Redacted],

I just left you a message re a question regarding House Hunters.

Here’s the issue I’d like to verify and/or get a comment on. This is a quote from a recent article I read, and one I quoted in an article I wrote:

“From an article called The Truth About House Hunters on HGTV

For quicker turn-around, producers sometimes choose buyers who are already in escrow with one of the three locations shown. The other two choices that are filmed are only shown to allow viewers the option of making the choice themselves.

Did you catch that? The house hunters aren’t actually house hunting in some of the episodes because they already bought one. The producers show them two other houses, and they pretend to consider them. Then they pretend to deliberate, and pretend to choose the house that they already chose from the beginning.”

So, is this quote accurate?

Please let me know at your earliest convenience…and if you’re not the person to talk to, please let me know who is. Yours is the only media relations name I could find.

Thanks!
Stacy

Now, here’s the response I got from HGTV:

From: Media Relations Person at HGTV
Sent: Thursday, January 19, 2012 3:07 PM
To: Stacy Johnson
Subject: RE: Question re House Hunters…

Hi Stacy,

Thank you for your interest in House Hunters.

As you know, the pursuit of the perfect home involves big decisions that usually take place over a period of time –more time than we can capture in 30 minutes of television. However, with House Hunters, HGTV viewers enjoy the vicarious and entertaining experience of choosing a home – from establishing a budget, to touring properties and weighing the pros and cons of each one. We’re making a television show, so we manage certain production and time constraints, while honoring the home buying 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. Because the stakes in real estate are so high, these homeowners always find themselves RIGHT back in the moment, experiencing the same emotions and reactions to these properties. Showcasing three homes makes it easier for our audience to “play along” and guess which one the family will select. It’s part of the joy of the House Hunters’ viewing experience. Through the magic of television, we can offer a uniquely satisfying and fun viewing experience that fulfills a universal need to occasionally step into someone else’s shoes. This is one of the reasons that HGTV will air new episodes of House Hunters and House Hunters International every night at 10 pm beginning in February.

I hope this answers your question.
Best,
[Name Redacted]

A confession of sorts, but so mealy-mouthed it’s practically unintelligible. So here’s how I responded:

Actually, [name redacted], it doesn’t.

While your explanation dances around the question, it doesn’t really answer it. Is the quote (regarding the show being faked) correct? Do these shows sometimes ask people already in escrow to pretend to look at other houses they have no intention of buying?

I’m still awaiting a response.

In the meantime, I also had a reader respond to yesterday’s story – someone who says they were actually on the show. Here it is:

I want to comment on Stacy’s article re: House Hunters. As a participant in that show, I want to confirm that he is exactly correct; our home was purchased prior to the beginning of filming. The other 2 houses shown were other listings that the agent had, including her own house that she was hoping to sell. Nothing about the sequence of events reflects that which actually occurs.

Of course, I can’t verify that the person who wrote this was actually on the show – it could be made up. But however you slice it, we now have a pretty high degree of certainty that what you see on this reality TV show may be TV, but it’s not reality. (By the way, the comment above actually named the episode they were on, which gives it more credibility. I didn’t reprint that here, however, because I didn’t have their permission.)

So, watchers of House Hunters, how does all this make you feel? Are you offended that the show might be partially staged? Did you already assume it? Does it matter? Sound off on our Facebook page.

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