June 13, 2012 at 1:41 PM ET
Holy reality TV scandal, Batman! OK, maybe "scandal" is a bit strong, but the Internet is buzzing with reports that HGTV's popular "House Hunters" series may not exactly be 100 percent authentic.
The show, which follows homebuyers as they look for their dream houses, typically has a real estate agent showing three properties to the buyer. The cameras are, of course, present to capture any positive or negative reactions to the homes. (Common complaints: "The bathroom's pink/blue/green!" "They call THIS a master bedroom?!" "The kitchen doesn't have stainless steel appliances!" "Out of our price range!") The buyer then picks the home they wish to purchase, and the cameras return (usually about two months later) to see how the new homeowner has settled in.
Now, which part of that experience sounds totally authentic? The fact that the buyer looked at only three homes to find the perfect one? That families are settled into their new houses in two short months? (Just the negotiations, the inspection and the closing process can take that long, never mind the packing, moving and unpacking parts. And let's not even get into the timelines for short sales and foreclosures.)
Yeah, the signs that the show may be a bit fudged have always been clear. But when "House Hunters" subject Bobi Jensen shared her experience with the blog Hooked on Houses Monday, that's when things picked up steam. She revealed that producers wouldn't consider her family for the show until they had closed on a property, tweaked her story because it was "boring" and filmed them looking at friends' houses.
OK, that last part seems a bit extreme, and Jensen told EW.com that that bit was on her. "The producers were relying on us to set up the homes to tour. We called all over town to realtors that had houses listed and we couldn't get anyone to agree to it," she told the magazine.
HGTV didn't exactly deny that "House Hunters" is partially faked either. "To maximize production time, we seek out families who are pretty far along in the process," Brian Balthazar, HGTV's director of programming and development, told TODAY.com. "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."
So why show only three homes (besides the fact that this is a 30-minute program)? "Showcasing three homes makes it easier for our audience to 'play along' and guess which one the family will select," he explained. "It’s part of the joy of the 'House Hunters' viewing experience."
In the end, viewers get to see what their money can buy in different parts of the country (and sometimes the world, as is the case with "House Hunters International") and whether the subject picks the same home the viewer would have. No harm done, right?
Or does this bring in to question everything HGTV features -- from remodels to design competitions and beyond? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page!
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