our house was on house hunters - behind the scenes of how the show really works
Oh, friends. We kept a big secret for 6 months! The home that we sold last year was featured on a recent episode of House Hunters. The episode is called Millennials in Dallas and features an adorable couple who are looking to put down roots in the Dallas area. They’re newlyweds looking to purchase their first home together.
The whole experience was really exciting, and also answered so many questions that I think we’ve all had when watching house hunters, including:
Are the home buyers really considering all 3 of the houses?
Why are so many of the houses empty?
Do couples REALLY disagree on literally every feature in a house?
And, the biggest question, is it for real or is it staged?
After Instagramming the entire experience when the show aired - which I saw for the first time along with the home buyers - I polled our friends on Instagram, and literally every single one wanted me to spill the beans on the behind-the-scenes. So I’m going to lay it all out for you!
Disclaimer – HGTV has no idea who I am (still patiently waiting on my show) and they never asked the sellers to sign any sort of NDA about the process. What I’m sharing below is my experience and not that of the homebuyers or the other two sellers. I’m sure there are many differences with the buyers’ experience so take that with a grain of salt! But here’s how things worked from the seller’s perspective.
And if you don’t like spoilers, this is FOR SURE not the post for you, so feel free to click away. Go read about how to make French Onion Soup or something. For the rest of us, here we go!
Let’s start with…
HOW DOES THE PROCESS START?
The couple/person who wants to be on the show typically applies before they’ve started the home buying process in earnest. It involves an online form and then interviews. If you seem like you’d be a good fit for TV and you have a bit of drama then the process may move forward.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THAT DRAMA?
My husband and I have bought 3 homes together now, and of course, when you have two people making a huge investment there are bound to be differences. BUT, probably not quite as much as what you see on TV. There is definitely a tried-and-true formula on the show that couples who want to be on the show (and succeed in doing so) have figured out. For example, I think it’s a rule that every wife has to say to her husband “this closet is great, but where is all of your stuff going to go?!? Come on HGTV. Not every woman has 500 pairs of pants.
A good story needs conflict. If you both want the exact same things, it’s not a remotely interesting storyline. In our episode, the husband has dug his heels in that he MUST have a pool, and the wife dug hers in that she would NEVER want a pool. In real life, this is a major conflict that would be very difficult to resolve (unless maybe you settled on a hot tub?!). During all three of the home tours on our episode the pool is talked about incessantly, but ultimately someone has to win. The viewer with the trained eye will realize that maybe both people aren’t as passionate about the pool as they might be letting on.
WHEN DOES FILMING HAPPEN? HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR THE EPISODE TO AIR?
SPOILER ALERT – they chose our house! We are house #2 in the episode. Here’s how the timing looked for us:
We listed our home in mid-August 2020, the couple made an offer about a week and a half later, and we closed 30 days after that, at the end of September. Filming occurred in late October 2020. The episode aired in early April 2021. The process was just over 6 months from start to finish.
Filming is about a 5-day process, with roughly 8 hours spent at each house plus their rental home and some B-reel skyline shots. Our house was tricky to film because it was raining the day that they filmed. But you don’t see it raining when you’re watching the show. Hmm.
WAIT, FILMING HAPPENED AFTER YOU SOLD?
YUP. That’s right. We moved out over the weekend, and the following week the new owners reached out to me over email to tell me they were going to be on House Hunters. We had no idea during the selling process that this was happening in the background. For us, it was just a completely typical home sale with negotiating and inspections and appraisals and all the regular stuff. We were none the wiser until after we’d moved out.
The filming schedule meant that the buyers had a full month of owning the house before they could move in because it would completely spoil the illusion if you saw the house with all of their furniture. That month could have been used to let the house sit, or to make some changes…
The house that you see on the show is not exactly the house we left behind. Several changes were made by the new owners between our moving out and filming of the episode. Let’s spot them!
Texture – the wife points out at one point that she doesn’t love the ceiling textures in the house. It’s never mentioned again, but the new owners had all the texture on the ceilings scraped down and smoothed. Kudos to them because we always wanted to do that too! And it's so much easier to scrape popcorn in an empty house than to do it furnished (which is why we never tackled it beyond exactly one room).
Paint – so many of our IG friends noticed this one! When we sold the house, most of our walls were painted white. The new owners painted a couple of accent walls navy! This is neat because we DID have 3 rooms with navy walls (the master bedroom which you do see, and the powder and boys’ bath that you don’t see in the episode).
Image 1 courtesy of HGTV
Backyard – when we sold there was a row of 80s hedges that we always wanted to remove and re-landscape, but after pulling three of those bad-boys out of our front flower beds during COVID, I vowed I would never do that on our own. The new owners had them removed and created a patio with a firepit, which is totally awesome! It’s going to make that space more fun to use in the summer.
Also I need to make myself feel better and tell you that when we listed the house we scooped all of the leaves out of the pool and off the deck, but like I mentioned, it was raining the day they filmed and it knocked 10,000 leaves down. I promise we were not that lazy when we were showing the house!
Image 1 courtesy of HGTV
There are also tiny little changes that only I would notice, like swapping out the entry light fixture and kitchen cabinet hardware.
You can see the full video of what our house looked like the day we hit the market on IG TV.
If you pay really close attention, you’ll see that there are only a couple of pieces of furniture in the house when they tour. There’s a blue sofa in the den and a leather sofa in the sunroom. At the end of the episode when the couple is filmed in their new home, those pieces of furniture are still there, but in different places. That one even threw off our kids. They said, “wait, how did they get our blue couch?!” Ha!
The new owners have a similar design aesthetic to ours, which I bet played a part in them falling in love with our house when they had their first showing. We both have blue velvet sofas (FUN) and lots of mid-century pieces. They also replicated our front porch setup with a pair of Adirondack chairs, which is neat!
SO WAIT, IS ANY OF THIS FOR REAL?
Yes and no. It is an actual real couple looking for a house in our area, and that was their actual Realtor (who was super great to work with, by the way). It seems like the opinions they expressed about our house were accurate. And that’s about where reality stops and TV magic begins.
They were never really considering the other two houses that appeared on the show. They loved our neighborhood and location and had looked at other homes in our ‘hood. We are in Richardson, which is the northern suburb of Dallas, which they definitely skip over on the show. The other two houses were in South Dallas. House #1 is in the Bishop Arts District, which is a super cute area (we did this project and this project in that neighborhood!) but that particular street was a little rough. House #3 is in south Dallas and in a really rough neighborhood – which you get a hint of if you pay close attention to the fact that it has a front yard fence, and that it’s a huge house on an acre of land minutes from downtown. If it was in a good location that close to downtown, the house would have been FAR more expensive than ours.
Anyone who has house shopped before knows that location is a huge driving factor in the home you choose. They never mention the neighborhood for any of the houses, because “Neighborhood Hunters” would be far less interesting to the public than “House Hunters.” Our neighborhood is in an awesome location, near two major highways, with neighborhood restaurants, a golf club, and three incredible elementary schools. None of that is super exciting for TV but is enticing for home buyers.
When you aren't aware of any of that (true of me watching ANY of the other thousands of House Hunters episodes), you tend to yell at the TV screen and say WHY DID YOU PICK THAT HOUSE?!? The other two houses on our episode were really cute inside and out, and in some ways had our house beat, especially without any furniture or staging (I mean, that freestanding tub you guys). However, the way our house was staged when the buyers saw it along with the neighborhood pulled things way into our favor.
Also considering that they already owned House #2, the other houses didn’t need to actually be in the running. They were there for filler and entertainment. I’ve read that sometimes the other 2 houses on the show aren’t even on the market, or are Airbnb's that are rented for the day just for filming.
I suppose if we had a long lease-back we could have still filmed the show with our stuff in it while we lived there. I bet that happens sometimes! But considering that we only had 30 days from the time we accepted their offer until we closed and moved, there just wasn't time for the production team to move that swiftly. When you think about ALL the episodes of House Hunters there are (we are in season 199!) this makes some sense. It would be tricky to have a production crew ready to fly all over the country at the drop of a hat and have to work around the seller’s packing schedules.
DID WE GET TO SEE THE SHOW BEFORE IT AIRED?
Nope! We saw it for the first time the day it debuted to the world and the same for the new owners. We are currently renting in the same neighborhood as the house we sold, so our kids could finish out the school year, and the neighborhood hosted a watch party at the local wine shop. I was a bit too nervous to attend. I knew obviously that they were going to choose our house, but I didn’t know exactly what they were going to say. I knew there would have to be some negative things thrown out about our house for it to be interesting for TV, but I’m a fairly thin-skinned person (what a great quality for a blogger. Ha!) and the thought of a room full of people watching my reaction made me cringe!
But the new owners and I texted after the show for a full debriefs. They were more nervous than I was – clearly, they were the ones on TV!
We showed it to our boys after we’d watched it once. One of them said “I can feel some memories coming back” and the other said, “I used to poop in that toilet.”
So, you know, a mix of feelings.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER?
I’m sure this is different for everyone, but we’ve become pals with the new owners through this shared experience. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them and they are as delightful in real life as they are on TV. They are super adorable and kind and they love their new home (and have not to date knocked down the “jail” separating the master bath and master bedroom. It grows on you). They are also incredibly tolerant of the endless tile samples that get dropped off on their porch and the mountains of design catalogs they still receive on the regular.
Overall the experience was wonderful. Hopefully, it’s just the first of many HGTV appearances our projects will make. HINT HINT HGTV, Call me! We have so many show ideas. Design-Build Dallas, Designing Women Dallas….but until then, thanks for reading along!