You might hate to admit it but it's ok, we all have an HGTV show guilty pleasure.
HGTV, whose humble roots started in 1994 as Home and Garden Television, has exploded over the last decade to become one of the most loved television networks among every age group.
One of its most successful shows (and a personal favorite of mine) is House Hunters and its sister show House Hunters International.
86 seasons later - yes, EIGHTY SIX SEASONS later - the world still can't get enough.
Where are we going to next? Fiji? Germany? <<insert doorbell ding dong here>>
But Is House Hunters Actually Real?
Some parts of it just seem off.
How is it possible that the husband always wants nice things but the wife is "on a budget?" (Again?! That btch ruins all the fun.)
How is it possible that host Suzanne Whang is so monotonous yet excited at the same time? (It's unhuman.)
How is it possible that every person featured on the show is unbelievably predictable? (And by predictable I mean really annoying.)
Turns out it's not possible
Because House Hunters (HH) is mostly scripted.
HH participants usually have to sign serious NDAs before appearing on the show.
Yet Bobi Jenson, featured on HH Season 22 Episode 17 with her family in 2012, was willing to share her story, as told to blog Hooked On Houses.
According to Bobi, HGTV was not involved in their home purchase decision whatsoever.
They didn’t even “accept” us being a subject for the show until we closed on the house we were buying. - Bobi Jenson
When the Jensons were finally invited to join the show, they had to scramble to pretend they were still looking for a home.
Bobi and her husband suddenly had to find houses to pretend to be considering.
They literally "toured" friends' houses! The friends pretended their houses were for sale, cleaning up like madmen before the episode recording. (Wow, good friends!)
But the Jenson family's story didn't provide enough drama for HGTV.
Instead, the producers emphasized that the family should reconsider their "needs."
They just wanted to emphasize how our home was too small and we needed a bigger one desperately.
This was completely contrary to what Bobi's family actually needed. "When I re-watch the episode I cringe," she says, "since we have lived in an even smaller house quite comfortably!" Bobi said:
When I watch other episodes of the show now I can usually pick out the house they were getting based on hair-dos alone.
When asked if the producers made up her storyline Bobi said:
Yes, the producers did tell us how they wanted the story line to go. When I applied for the show online the first thing they had us do was overnight them a video of us talking to the camera to see if we were "cute" enough and had fun talking to the camera.
They liked the fact that my husband was a Realtor and they could play up me being a "difficult client" as well as us desperately needing a bigger house.
More participants come forward
After the blog article was published, Bobi received an outpouring of support from other former show participants.
One woman who was also a former HH participant wrote:
"Our episode aired and like you, everything was fake. We already owned the house, they thought our apartment was boring so they changed the story to say we were living with my in-laws.
The worst part about it was that my husband and I were portrayed as spoiled rich kids who were unrealistically picky and who were rude to our Realtor.
When our episode first aired, I was amused because the way we were portrayed was so ridiculous, but then I realized that most viewers took it very seriously.
There were the comments on local message boards that we were such an "annoying couple" and that I need to take a "chill pill." We even received anonymous hate mail.
The whole fakeness has ruined the show for me, and I simply take no pleasure it watching it or any reality TV show, for that matter. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't."
The House Hunters Scandal
Bobi's feature in the blog received an unexpected backlash and caused a media frenzy. The story was picked up on Huffington Post, USA Today, the Washington Post - you name it.
So was Bobi telling the truth?
HGTV decided to respond to the "scandal."
According to Wikipedia, on June 13, 2012, representatives for HGTV admitted that scenes featured in House Hunters are mostly re-creations of prior events.
We’ve learned that the pursuit of the perfect home involves big decisions that usually take place over a prolonged period of time — more time than we can capture in 30 minutes of television.
However, with a series like 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.
In many cases, the final decision and purchase of the house were made prior to filming, similar to what Bobi claimed.
And HGTV admitted that in some episodes, homes visited were not even on the market.
So what's next?
It's been 17 years since the first HH show aired in 1999.
At the end of the day, House Hunters and House Hunters International are reality shows.
Despite the fact some of it is faked, people are still unable to resist the temptation of peeking into other people's home lives and participating in guilt-free real estate shopping.