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'House Hunters' TV show is fake. Does it matter?

'House Hunters,' the popular HGTV program about the search for a new home, is mostly staged, featuring buyers who have already decided on houses. Is 'House Hunters' giving aspiring homeowners unrealistic expectations by overly simplifying what is usually long, messy buying process?

By Schuyler VelascoCorrespondent / June 15, 2012

This June 13, 2012 photo, shows a house for sale in San Diego. The popular, long-running reality show 'House Hunters' on HGTV was revealed to be not quite what seems this week, as a former participant revealed that the show had her pretend to be interested in houses that weren't even on the market.

Gregory Bull/AP

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Earlier this week, the shocking news broke that “House Hunters,” the popular real estate reality program and flagship show of the HGTV network, is staged.

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Okay, maybe it's not all that shocking. “House Hunters,” for the uninitiated, is a documentary-style show that features one couple or family per episode that has recently relocated and is looking to buy a home in their new city. Guided by a local realtor, the buyers look at three potential homes, taking factors like budget, location, and amenities (girls need their closet space!) into consideration. At the end, they decide on one. A month or so later, “House Hunters” checks back in with the buyers, by then happily settled into their dream home.

Participants run the gamut of age and income, from college students renting their first apartments to Danish multimillionaires looking for beach homes in Turks and Caicos. Since its 1999 debut, “House Hunters” has been HGTV’s tent-pole franchise, spawning 13 seasons, 332 episodes, and three spinoffs.

But now the program has come under fire for revelations that the “house-hunting” part doesn’t actually involve much real hunting. As first reported by the A.V. Club on Monday, the blog Hooked on Houses recently ran a firsthand account from former “House Hunters" participant Bobi Jensen. Jensen, who was featured on the show’s “Texas Week,” claimed that HGTV wouldn’t even consider having her and her family on the show until they had actually closed on their new home. “So then when they decided to film our episode we had to scramble to find houses to tour and pretend we were considering,” Jensen writes.

What’s more, Jensen says, the two other houses she looked at during the episode weren’t even for sale, but were “two friends’ houses who were nice enough to madly clean for days in preparation for the cameras!”

But the fact that “House Hunters” shoots its episodes backwards, picking participants well into the closing process and working from there, has been an open secret for years. HGTV even owned up to it, issuing the following statement to Entertainment Weekly on Tuesday:

“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.”

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