Is HGTV's House Hunters Staged?

"House Hunters," which first debuted on HGTV in 1999, is one of the most popular house-hunting shows on television. Each episode centers on a couple searching for their ideal home, which may include accommodations for their family and pets, if applicable. Couples featured on the program often hold nothing back as they scramble to find the perfect location, aesthetic, amenities, and price, with viewers being treated to the breathtaking architecture hidden across the country along the way. Meanwhile, international audiences are showcased on the spinoff "House Hunters International."

The show provides great satisfaction to aspiring home buyers, and casual viewers find it a source of slightly unrealistic entertainment, with the reality show often becoming a subject of memes mostly related to the homebuyer's financial situation. The hilarious jokes regarding the homebuyer's outlandish home requirements — despite paltry budgets — are so extensive that even the HGTV website has joined in the joke, featuring its very own roundup of hilarious tweets. However, the website conveniently omitted the many tweets criticizing the scripted nature of the format. Unfortunately for HGTV, there is a substantial amount of evidence floating around that suggests "House Hunters" is scripted.

'House Hunters' isn't completely authentic

The couples on "House Hunters" may be real, but the documentation of their home-buying process is definitely fictional. According to Elizabeth Newcamp, who has twice appeared on "House Hunters" and "House Hunters International," HGTV took plenty of liberties when constructing their storyline. "The first thing you need to know is that in neither episode of 'House Hunters' were Jeff and I actually ... house hunting," wrote Newcamp for Slate in 2019. "One time we'd already closed on the house we 'chose' in the episode; the other time we'd already lived in our house for a year." Newcamp recounted other staged aspects of the production, including enlisting their friend to pose as their "relocation expert." They also exaggerated their disagreements over different house styles.

Newcamp's experience is nearly identical to most other couples, including an anonymous person who spoke with House Beautiful. While the Insider's episode never completed filming due to work obligations, they made it far enough into the process to spill some super interesting tea. Although this person had already bought their home, the producers were okay with dramatizing the process by having the homeowner pretend to scout other properties. "They were like, 'Yeah, that's no problem," shared the homeowner. "We're going to find two other homes, and then just we'll record you looking at all of them as if it was your first time seeing all these places, including the home that you live in.'"

The first 'House Hunters' couple hated the experience

When "House Hunters" first launched in 1999, its producers hadn't yet decided on their ideal format, which, in hindsight, may have served the first-ever couple a little better. Mitch Englander and Jayne Englander spoke with VICE in 2019, revealing why they didn't enjoy filming their 1999 episode. "Going through it at the time was a horrific experience, as we recall. It was terrible," Mitch shared with the publication. "We were so sorry that we signed up for it, but so grateful after the fact." Mitch then expounded on his distaste for the process, claiming that the producers weren't sure how they wanted the episode to pan out. "Not only was it a pilot, but they had no concept whatsoever of how to film it or what they wanted from us in terms of dialogue," he said. 

Interestingly, the episode was mostly unscripted, but the couple wishes it had been. "Looking back, I wish it were a little scripted," said Mitch. "It was all raw and very fresh." As for the more recent episodes, which are scripted to an extent, the "House Hunter" producers have had this to say: "The people you see in the series are real people who have searched for, negotiated and paid for a home with their own money," read a 2012 statement from the HGTV publicist (via EW). "They move in and make it their own. We simply shorten a very lengthy process for television."