Why Watching 'House Hunters' Will Never Be Quite the Same

You know, there are some events that are so momentous, so earth-shaking, that we can remember exactly where we were the moment we first heard the news. For me, last week was one of those times.

First, allow me to set the stage.

Long time readers know I love House Hunters. No; I mean I really love that show.

Maybe too much.

Over the years I’ve made more than a couple passing references on this blog to my love for House Hunters (including here and here; oh yeah, and here too).

Although I don’t have official stats, I think it’s safe to say that since House Hunters debuted in 2000, I’ve watched upwards of 96 percent of the show’s nearly 1000 episodes.

Heck, I practically consider Suzanne Whang, who was the show’s host for nearly a decade before being unceremoniously dumped for a faceless boring narrator in 2008, to be a part of the family. (Although I have to say, I do like the name of the latest faceless boring narrator: Andromeda Dunker.)

That being said, I was having a little lunch in the break room last week when I found out that House Hunters is faked.

That’s right. Faked.

I know. I couldn’t believe it either.

You know the show: A cute couple goes looking for a new home. They drag along a completely worthless real estate agent who takes them to see three (no more, no less) homes for sale — two of which are more often than not way beyond the cute couple’s incredulously ginormous budget. The cute couple then talk it over for all of two minutes before they finally select one of the three homes.

Now the word is out that those cute couples weren’t really house hunting after all. Nope.

Apparently all the cute couples featured on the show already had their new homes before they were even a twinkle in the House Hunters producer’s eye. Uh huh.

House Hunters merely recreated a very twisted version of the home buying process. You know what that means: All those scenes where the cute couples are fretting about sticking to their ridiculously high budgets — and pondering whether it was possible to host a party in a home that was missing hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops — were just a sham.

Boy, do I feel like a sucker.

Can you blame me when I say I feel slightly betrayed? Well, I do.

By the way, I’ve also watched six bazillion episodes of the House Hunters spin-off, House Hunters International.

It turns out that show is faked too.

Yeah, yeah; you can go ahead and pooh-pooh this all you want.

You can also tell me how gullible I am because “reality” television shows aren’t really real, but this was big news, folks; the Huffington Post had a story on it, and the news even made it to the Drudge Report. (I’m not sure why though, considering a lot of people have known this “unknown” fact for years.)

In the end, it doesn’t really matter. My world has been turned upside down forever more.

But I’ll never be duped again. That, I promise you.

From here on out, I’m only going to watch honest reality television shows. You know, really authentic stuff — like Jersey Shore.

Photo Credit: HGTV

57 comments to Why Watching ‘House Hunters’ Will Never Be Quite the Same

  • Special_Ed

    Sorry you feel duped. The fact is that “reality” TV is a business. Like other businesses there has to be a plan or you risk spending tons of money making a boring show that no one watches.

  • tracee

    ummm….i just found this out as well and feel betrayed. i told my co-worker about it who just gave me a look that could kill and said “you didn’t really think that was real did you?” i did len. i did think that these couples were fretting over how they could entertain and could they afford an extra 100 grand on the mortgage. i was emotionally invested in their choices and got angry with them if i felt they picked the wrong house! i feel like the show is ruined for me now. =(

    • Len Penzo

      To me, it is a given that shows like Jersey Shore, Rich Housewives, and Ghost Hunters are scripted. But House Hunters? It never crossed my mind that a show like that would be.

  • Susan

    I always loved how their real estate agent would say ‘here is a house that just came on the market’ and it would be totally empty. Most houses I know that just came on the market are full of furniture because the owners still live there and are trying to sell it.

    • Len Penzo

      That’s a good point, Susan.

      Looking back, now I can see why the real estate agents would often show these couples one or two homes that were upwards of $100,000 over their budgets.

      Why would those folks bother looking at something like that? Of course, by showing a more expensive home, the producers got to feature nicer homes that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

  • I have watched quite a few episodes myself and I found out last week. I watched a new episode this week and it just isn’t the same. I can see right through it now. At least big brother comes back soon.

  • Mindy

    I know reality tv is not real and I figured House Hunters took some liberties, but the fact that these people had bought their house before filming started is quite a stretch. I read one story where the couple used two of their friends homes as the other two candidates on the show! That’s really misleading!

  • Oh man…what a letdown. I love that show too, although honestly I always wondered how people could make such big decisions after only looking at 3 houses especially internationally. I must have looked at hundreds of homes before buying my 2 homes.

    What a buzzkill

    • Len Penzo

      Well, even though I joked about it, I always thought they had looked at more than three homes; I figured the producers narrowed it down to three. I say that because I do remember the earliest versions of the show actually would flash graphics that said, for example, “14th house”.

      Now … was that the truth, or the producers taking liberties there too?

  • I had to quit watching House Hunters because I got disgusted by the 20-somethings poo-pooing a house because it didn’t have granite, stainless, etc. Oh how unbearable it must be to go through life without granite countertops!!

    • Lola

      Agreed, Kurt! Plus it would drive me nuts how people would walk into a 300sf kitchen and complain that it was “too small”. And how about those empty-nesters who wanted to downsize? They’d go from a 3200sf house to a 3000sf house. Way to downsize! Yeesh.

    • Len Penzo

      Or how about the people that wanted to live close to the center of the city so they could be close to the nightlife and amenities, but then complained about the noise outside their windows!

      These people really do want it all.

  • Michael in SoCal

    If it’s on TV, unless you’re watching a live sporting event, then it’s fixed. And even the sporting events might be fixed on occasion. Yes, it is a bummer to find this out about HH (and HHI), but it’s not surprising. But for me (and my wife), I think the real fun of that show was seeing what was out there at different price points across the country (and across the globe). It was price comparing and entertainment at the same time.

    • Len Penzo

      Exactly, Michael. I enjoy seeing what homes are like in other parts of the country.

      I actually prefer HH International over HH now because it is so interesting to see what kind of homes people live in in places like Morocco, Uruguay, Thailand, Djibouti and other countries I can’t spell. lol

  • They’re still fun as hell to watch though! And guess on! I’m choosing to forget this post altogether and go on my tv watching merry way ;) I think I’m at like episode #500 – still got a ways to go, woo!

    • Len Penzo

      Okay … You know, maybe you’re right, J.

      I’ll probably still watch HH International — once I get over the pain of being betrayed.

  • I am pretty done watching it as well. Just feel annoyed that some of the houses weren’t even for sale! They were friend’s houses or just dummy rented places for taping.

    THAT BOTHERED ME THE MOST

  • Allyn

    I’m sorry the show is wrecked for you now, Len. But c’mon. Did you *really* think those people were picking a house to buy after looking at only three houses? I’m not going to jump on the “it’s fake” bandwagon. I prefer to call it a ‘predetermined outcome’. They are taking the viewer through a sanitized version of the house-buying process, but the producers aren’t going to spend all that money filming an episode without knowing for sure that the process will end in the actual buying of a home. After looking at gadzillions of houses for sale, I was poised to buy three of them when the deals fell through — one just a few days before settlement. The show’s producers know that happens, so they ensure a positive outcome by only dealing with couples who already purchased their house and then backtrack them through the home-buying process for the viewers. Does it suck? Yeah, but the alternative would be watching entire episodes that end with no sale. That would suck worse and really defeat the purpose of the show. :::hugs for Len::: Those couples *did* go through the home-buying process. You just didn’t get to watch it as it happened.

    • Len Penzo

      Like I said to Sandy, I was pretty certain they had looked at more than three houses.

      And I get the production reasons for doing things the way they did, Allyn. I just hate being duped! lol

      Thanks for the hug!

  • Sabz

    I didn’t know it either. I did think it was simplistic to say the least. We looked at at least 15-20 homes before settling on this one. But I loved the staged homes. It’s a letdown for sure.

  • I sadly found this out from a different blog last year, so I have had time to move on. ;-) If I am going to watch faked home shows, I will now only do so with man-candy on the screen – so I watch Property Brothers and Income Property now. :-)

    • Len Penzo

      Man-candy? lol

      So that’s the secret to getting eye balls to visit, huh?

      Now I know why my blog has so few readers.

      I’d say “time to hit the workout room” but the gym can’t fix my ugly face!

  • Most of the reality shows are obvious fakes, or at the very least, the participant’s comments are highy manipulated. I can’t hardly stand to watch them, because the drama is contrived and the plot lines are so predictable.

  • I think most if not all reality shows are scripted in some form or another. I heard about this issue with House Hunters (International)last year. My daughter knew one of the participants through a friend. I personally like the international show better than the domestic one because you get to see houses around the world. At least the locations are real!

  • CandiO

    I was disappointed too. I knew they took liberties but I never suspected they went so far as to use homes that were not even on the market and guessed their prices. I always liked it as a way to figure out home prices in other places and daydream about living there. But if the home prices are just guesstimates cause they aren’t on the market, that really spoils the fun for me.

    • Len Penzo

      It’s really a bummer because I have no idea what is real on these shows anymore, other than the fact that the house the cute couples chose is their actual home.

      Very disappointing.

      • Jeff

        Oh, what the heck, let’s take it a step further… Len, do you REALLY know that their actual new “homes” in which the cute couples are filmed are, in fact, THEIR new homes??? Just thinkin’ out loud…

  • AniVee

    Ah, to find out that a hard-nosed, flinty-eyed realist like Len Penzo didn´t suspect HH was faked and manipulated truly surprises me!

    We don´t get HH down here in Central America, but we do get HHI and love it – especially when we see the astronomical prices that people pay here and in other CA countries, because they are simply too accustomed to hearing sky-high prices in (certain areas of) the USA and then don´t even blink at the quoted prices for “American Style” (granite, stainless steel kitchen, etc) homes. My favorite was a $750,000 house (it was lovely, and it did have a nice pool, but YIKES!) in Nicaragua. Nicaragua?

    We are firm believers (of course, it´s because we did it this way) in RENTING for at least a year in the desired foreign location, and talking to ALL the people we meet about wanting to buy. Word of mouth can turn up amazing bargains.

    Tht other show we love (sigh, I supposed it´s kind of faked or “time sequence rearranged” is Property Virgins, usually about Toronto, and it is very interesting to see what´s up there and what it costs.

    • Len Penzo

      I think I would rent too for a year, AniVee. Well, before buying internationally, anyway. I’d like to know things like: how reliable is the power grid and what’s it like living there through all four seasons?

      • buk lau

        Would you do the same if you were moving, from say, the east coast to the west coast?

        • Len Penzo

          Yes, with respect to the seasons — but no with respect to the power grid because it is 99.9 percent reliable in most parts of the US.

          Of course, if I was forced to move because my job relocated, I wouldn’t have a choice. ;-)

  • Againstthegrain

    Dump your cable or satellite TV plan, man. Life is sooooo much better without it, not to mention you can save a wad o’ money. There’s still plenty (of very very low cost) stuff to watch with your TV hooked up to the internet, so it’s not really like going cold turkey.

  • Frugal pediatrician

    My brother’s company has been in real estate for a long time. They have been flipping houses recently and they said some of the hgtv flipping Connecticut guys(I am not sure who exactly) have been in san Diego now. I did not know that they had tried to bid on one of the houses we bought as an investment property. They bid like 100,000 less then what we got it for. Great investment for us. When I mentioned to my brother how much I love hgtv, he said that his life is an hgtv episode and he out flipped those out of towers when they tried to snag my house. I was so proud. so Len there is a real hgtv, but its what San Diego union calls the ‘flip flop brigade’ at the auction houses and the guys like my brother who have been doing it for decades that are the real deal. If you saw these guys you would never predict who they are. Unassuming lot and the best guys I know.

  • Lizzy

    I read about this months ago. I was surprised it took so long for the media to find out. I still watch and enjoy the show. I never told anyone after I found out(via a website) because I know how much people enjoy it. You can even tell which house they’ll pick. If it’s empty, that’s the one. The others are furnished, meaning they’re already occupied. The empty one means the house has been purchased and the new owners are waiting to move in.

    Knowing this doesn’t stop me from enjoying the program. I just hope it stays on the air.

  • karden

    No matter I still love both HH and HH International.

  • Carol C

    I know someone who’s home was for sale and shown on HH. She was so surprised when she saw the show…The actual asking price was much more than stated on the show. Needless to say, her neighbors were very upset with her. She called her Realtor and was told that certain things needed to be changed for TV that she did not have any say on how the home was presented on TV.

  • Carl-Michael Hughes

    Wow, it’s fake? we’re totally sympatico on this one. I love(d) that show. just don’t tell my mom.(who recently discovered it).

    I was just telling my wife yesterday we should have named our daughter Andromeda. cool stuff. I will be reading your blog from now on.

  • Dawn

    at least the improvement shows are real-well maybe not the amount of time it took but the end result- but not the price..oh well- at least there are ideas

  • Terri

    first time i read your blog Len ****(insert 4 letter word) I love House Hunters, & Int’l. Duped I am. I realized there were some obvious liberties taken, I like seeing homes in other parts of the country and the world. Now I wonder are those prices they quote real?

    • Len Penzo

      Welcome aboard, Terri! :-)

      From some of the other comments and emails I received on this, it sounds like the price quotes are sometimes fudged too.

  • Wally

    I loved House Hunters until I learned this lil naughty fact about them. Please tell me Property Virgin isn’t scripted as well :/

  • Barb

    I just heard about this in the past couple of weeks. I still watch but now I figure they picked the house with no furniture!! And if more than 1 doesn’t have any furniture, I can still guess which one of those they selected. It did surprise me but I can see they want a resolution to the buying process. Shows like Property Virgin sometimes ended in them not getting the house or not finding one they like which wasn’t a good conclusion.

  • Tet

    I don’t see the big deal. It’s a reality show and it’s fun to guess the real house anyway.

    Also, I’ve bought two houses and they were the first one I saw. I don’t understand how people can look at more than one house. Pick a location and get a house there. Everything else can be customized later.

  • Wow. Late to the game, and totally bummed. I knew there was something fishy… I mean, how can all those hipster “kids” afford 500-600k homes?
    Furthermore, what realtor is going to show you a home you can’t afford?

    I’m totally addicted to “the brothers” and what they do with fixer uppers. I want to know why I can’t find a contractor that can work that type of magic for 50-70k.
    I can only imagine the scripting wizardry on that show…

    Let me live in the fantasy world where I can someday find ethical and talented contractor-realtor brothers to re-do my home for less than what a neighbor paid for her full kitchen remodel…

  • MEL

    I am not shocked that it is faked. But many times I have wanted to bitch slap the irritating, overly picky people for being so demanding. Their demanding junk is especially irking since so many people lost their homes in the economic downturn and would be grateful for almost any type of house.

  • Sandra Moore

    I love house hunters, property virgins, all the wedding dress shows. I realized pretty much from the get go that they were just 30 minute commercials. They are trying to get people to buy the products to boost the economy. Before these shows, I bought a small house we could live in for the rest of our lives and it didn’t have all the new appliances, finished basement or garage. We have been happy with it for the past 27 year. I had a dress that I made that I used for my wedding dress. I love it and still have it after 37 yrs.

  • Lynn

    I’m with those who assumed there was a certain amount of “fudging” going on. After all, offering only 3 choices, often 2 of which are totally out of their budget, and always one or two that totally do not fit their wish list, was definitely not “reality.” If you give a realtor a top price, in the real world they are going to stay within or very close to your top price, and they ALWAYS have some that are significantly over the couple’s “budget.”

    I know I would never agree to look at only 3 houses and HAVE to choose one of them, especially knowing they wouldn’t all be within my budget and knowing I could expect major departures from my specifications!

    But to find out it’s TOTALLY faked is disappointing. I do enjoy seeing the “redo” plans, and I love HHI because it shows homes in other countries, the amenities (or lack of), and prices. So even though the couples are not really house-hunting, it’s interesting. But I’ll look at it differently if I do watch again.

  • Sue G

    Who cares if it’s fake! I got bored with House Hunters but still watch every episode of HH International. I love all the different locations. It gives me the opportunity to see housing choices all over the world. Who would have thought granite countertops and stainless steel appliances have made there way to Rawanda, Africa.

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