12.01.2017

almost famous: our experience with House Hunters



If everything had gone according to plan, I'd be standing in front of a camera crew right now, pretending to decide which house to buy.

It started back in June. I was visiting my parents, and as always my mom had dozens of House Hunters episodes waiting for me on her DVR. James had just started his new job which meant a bigger house budget for us, and we had just gotten a new realtor who seemed promising. After close to two years of miserable house hunting experiences, things were finally looking up and I was feeling positive and anxious to resume our house hunt.

Mom and I stayed up late every night binge-watching House Hunters. This is something we've been doing since as long as House Hunters has been on the air. We have the time of our lives yelling at the TV and feeling righteous anger when they don't choose the right house. We have strong, passionate feelings. IF ONE MORE PERSON COMPLAINS ABOUT THE COUNTERTOPS, I SWEAR. How do people that young have budgets that huge? Why does everyone love throwing parties and "entertaining" that much? Obviously I would be ~so much better~ if I were ever on the show.

And then it occurred to me. Why don't I apply? I'm house hunting! I'm borderline entertaining if I'm in the right frame of mind. I could totally do this! While sitting on the couch in my pajamas, I pulled up the application. It was surprisingly easy to fill out, just a few questions about what we were looking for and why. I didn't give myself the opportunity to overthink it; I tried to be as clever as I could on the spot, and I submitted it.

I thought about it obsessively for a week or two and thought up as many witty house-related one-liners as I could, and then life took over and I promptly forgot all about it. I figured there was a 0% chance anyone would even read the application, let alone pick us.

5 months later, the Friday night before Halloween, I was sitting down to watch a show with James when an email with the subject line "HGTV'S HOUSE HUNTERS" popped up. I was speechless. I jumped off the couch. I sat back down. I fumbled with my phone, trying to open the email and read but unable to process the words on the screen. A producer emailed me wanting to know where we were in the house hunt.

SPOILER ALERT: I'm about to shatter any illusions you may have of House Hunters. If you think it's completely real and want to hold on to that dream or stay in denial (I understand!!!), then read no further.

She went on to explain that House Hunters does not actually assist in the home-buying process, but merely documents it. She said they are looking for people newly in contract who close on their house in 1-2 months. This would have shocked me had I not done some light googling after sending in my application, so I already had an idea that it wasn't actually real. We had just gone into contract the week before and were closing in 5 weeks. HELLO, PERFECT TIMING.

I immediately responded, probably coming off as a lunatic because I was so excited I was literally shaking, and explained that we fit exactly what they were looking for. James was shocked. I was shocked. It was a long, agonizing weekend wondering what would happen next.

Monday afternoon, the producer emailed me back and seemed thrilled to hear we were in the perfect situation for them to film. She had us fill out some paperwork, and she came back to us the next day asking to schedule a phone interview. We had pages of questions to fill out before the interview. They wanted to know the exact architectural and interior design styles we both favored (bonus points if they're completely opposite for dramatic effect). They wanted to know what our house hunt experience had been like so far, quirks we wanted in a new home, things we loved about our current house, etc. James and I both had to write our own answers and then explain what we agree and disagree on. It was surprisingly fun.

We called the producer at the appointed time Wednesday evening. It was beyond surreal to actually be talking to a producer in Hollywood about appearing on our own episode of a tv show. Just making it this far was a dream. She asked us similar questions to the ones we answered in the paperwork as well as questions to get to know us. We were on the phone for 45 minutes, chatting back and forth. We hit it off and I could tell she loved us. By the end of the call, she said we needed to submit a 5-10 minute video audition in the next 48 hours. She gave us the instructions for it and explained that once it was submitted, she would pitch us to conference rooms of HGTV executives in NYC and LA. If they unanimously agreed, we would film for several days after closing, and then for a few more days right before Christmas. NO PRESSURE, right?! The thought of conference rooms of TV execs made me want to hurl. An introvert's worst nightmare, but a once in a lifetime opportunity at the same time.  We talked to our realtor around this time to let him know what was happening and to make sure he would be on board. He was THRILLED. He said he's had many clients apply to House Hunters, but we're the first to ever be contacted. He was so excited at the chance to be part of the show and willing to do whatever we needed. Realtors have to submit an audition video as well, but overall they jump through less hoops than the buyers do.

Around this time, James started to have second thoughts. He was worried about taking time off work to film, having enough time to film and then quickly pack and move and film again, etc. They were valid concerns, but I was ELATED to get this far in the process and dying to see what would happen next, so he pushed through for me. In hindsight, I think he had a gut feeling it wouldn't turn out well, and maybe I should've paid closer attention.

Thursday evening, we filmed our audition video. We had so much fun doing it. We were laughing hysterically trying to figure out what to do and say. We had specific instructions to banter with each other about what we do and don't want in a new house, with an emphasis on friendly conflict. We had to talk about something we hate and something we love in our current home. We were required to post our audition to youtube so it could be easily accessed by HGTV. I haven't taken the video down yet, so if you can find it you're welcome to watch it. I am absolutely manic and off the wall crazy in the video while James is chill, calm, and awkward. It's hilariously awkward and just so ridiculous. DON'T JUDGE A GIRL BY HER AUDITION VIDEO.

We submitted it Thursday night. I felt surprisingly calm. We had watched dozens of other audition videos on youtube, and we had loads more personality than most of them, so I felt confident but scared out of my mind at the thought of HGTV execs watching it. I tried to block that part out.

A week later, the producer emailed and asked me to call her immediately. It was 9:30 pm. I called her, and she said "They loved you. You were very well received. The second you threw your arms up talking about grand staircases, they all laughed and nodded and wanted you both." I was practically running through the living room I was so happy/excited/shocked/unnerved.

And then she said "I already have a camera crew ready to come to your house, but we have a problem."

"Your realtor is a man. He's great, but there was a big fuss in the meeting that we can't cast male realtors right now. They only want young female realtors on the show right now."

Um, excuse me? My stomach started churning. The comment about wanting young females made me feel gross. I don't care what you say, that's sexist and alarming. I've watched hundreds upon hundreds of House Hunters episodes, and I can confidently say there is no shortage of female realtors. I am ALLLL about women doing awesome things, but the phrase "young females" was nauseating to me.

She continued. "Your realtor has to have a nice young female working for him, right? She can do the show for him, it will be fine! But I need you to call him first thing in the morning. We want him to be involved so he doesn't feel excluded. He needs to help us find a woman to replace him. And this is extremely urgent and you need to have this female realtor ready to audition on Skype with me at noon tomorrow."

Let me break this down for you. Not only was our realtor pumped about the experience, willing to do it and jump through the casting hoops, but at the end of the line they suddenly decided he can't be on camera because he's not a young attractive female. And not only that, but they wanted him to find someone to replace him. He owns his own company and does not have much of a staff, so he would essentially have to hand over this incredible marketing experience to a competitor. Plus, James and I did not know any other female realtor and had no way to conjure one up who could drop their lives and film a TV show at a moment's notice.

I got off the phone with the producer and just felt icky after our conversation. I didn't know what to make of it, but I figured I just needed to sleep it off. I woke up and called our realtor the next morning and told him what happened. I could hear the sound of defeat in his voice. He sounded really upset, more upset than I expected. He said he could call around and find someone to do the show instead. I told him that was not necessary, that I hated this situation but had no idea what to do about it. We got off the phone at a bit of an impasse. I felt physically sick over this but I had no clue what to do. I had three hours to have some young female to pretend to help us buy a house that our actual realtor had gotten for us when a string of former realtors had failed. Not only was it not fair to him, but he had done an amazing job helping us buy a house after two prior bad realtor experiences. We couldn't do this to him! One of the reasons I was excited to do the show was to give him the much-needed exposure to help him build his business. He has gone above and beyond to help us and has become a friend. He even gave us his old washer and dryer and took care of plumbing issues for me so I could have emergency dental work done.

James was working from home that day, so we talked it out. James was disgusted and said he wanted no part of the show that would treat our realtor like that. I knew in my gut what we needed to do, but I was having a hard time admitting it. I had been skimming my Bible app on my phone, and a verse in John about loving our neighbors as ourselves came up and confirmed what I knew to be true. It would be selfish to sacrifice our realtor for the fun of doing this show. It would not be loving our neighbor as ourselves. I had a good cry about it and admitted to James that we could not do the show. We all know reality tv isn't real, but so much of this was contrived that there was almost no reality left. We already picked the house and would have to pretend to look at others for the sake of false mystery, and the realtor on the show would be a complete stranger. It wasn't worth the sacrifice of hurting someone who had been so kind and generous with us. We would lose nothing by not doing the show; we would still get our house and retain our dignity.

I called our realtor and told him our decision. He was instantly emotional and grateful, and that made the entire thing worth it. I don't say this AT ALL to toot my own horn, only to show what really goes on behind the scenes and let others know the mess they may encounter. The fact that we were chosen to be on a national tv show is more than enough for me. I am elated and honored that they would think us worthy enough to be on their network. But I do have a problem with their policies and manner of casting. That doesn't mean I hate HGTV or anyone who chooses to do the show; I'm sure the situation is different for every person, but for us it did not work out. I was sad for a few hours, but I have had abundant peace after making that decision, and I don't regret it in the slightest. People are always more important than things or experiences.

I will say, it has left a bad taste in my mouth in regards to reality tv. I feel a little jaded now, and I can't help but wonder just how staged and contrived it all is. A lot of it has lost its charm for me, but that's ok. I'm so grateful for the experience and the fact that we made it through the casting process us. It just wasn't the right fit for us.

And now I can breathe a giant sigh of relief that I won't be on a national tv. My facial expressions are a bad viral meme waiting to happen.

P.S. If you're in central Ohio and need a good realtor, Toby Boyce is your man. I can't sing his praises enough.


16 comments:

  1. I'm so proud of y'all for standing by your realtor. I hurt for him that they didn't want to show him because of his sex. It's disgusting. I am thrilled that y'all found your home and that you made a new friend in your realtor. Happiest Christmas to you!

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  2. I always knew that reality tv isn't actually reality, but it's a little crazy just how contrived it really is. Maybe HGTV didn't know that your realtor wasn't one of a pool of 50 at one real estate company or how invested he was in your home buying process, but it was still rude and kinda shady to ask you to screw him over like that. Even though it turned out for the best, it's still disappointing that that's how worried they are about bending to the whims and attitudes of feminists and hard left liberals. Being a straight, white man is nothing to be ashamed of. He was "born that way" so who are they to judge?!

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  3. WOW. First of all, good for you. That “request” seems incredibly sexist. Like, full on discriminatory toward men. Dang.
    It would have been so cool to be on national tv, but I know the dread you’re talking about. I was in the final stages to be on a reality show on a major network over the summer. It ended up not working out at the last minute and I felt like that was a sign. I totally get that. So cool, though. I’m going to search for that video now ;)

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  4. I rarely watch any HGTV because we don't have cable, but I had no idea HH was so contrived! So would you have had to pretend to discuss which house you wanted even though you were already closing on a house in a few weeks? That is crazy! I am interested to know what the producers said when you said no. Did you tell them why you didn't want to do it? That definitely does feel kind of icky that that is what they wanted specifically. I know they want rating and such, but still!

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    1. I sent a very polite and kind email explaining that we were very honored to be chosen, but the show wasn’t the right fit for us if we couldn’t use our realtor. I explained how helpful he had been and why we felt it was wrong to replace him with someone else. The producer NEVER RESPONDED. Nothing. Just radio silence.

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  5. Wow, I know you don't need anyone to tell you but bravo for doing the right thing!! You ended up with the best of both worlds, you got the satisfaction of knowing you could have been on national tv and got to prove to your realtor how much you valued him :)

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    1. Exactly! I was sad how it worked out, but I have no regrets about the whole thing.

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  6. Holy cow, I was NOT expecting that!! I had heard that the people on the show were usually already in contract for a house, but I had NO IDEA that they would request young female realtors. What a bummer. Hearing about your realtor's reaction made me want to cry. You guys did the right thing for sure!! How did the producer react?

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  7. Your story is so crazy. I'm glad it all worked out for you, and that you actually get to be in your house for Christmas without any weird tv stress. I also think it's great how you stayed loyal to your realtor. TV execs are clearly weird.

    I've always wondered, does HGTV compensate you at all for being on the show? You'd think they would.

    Karl and I watched your video. Your facial expressions combined with James' lack of enthusiasm are hilarious.

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  8. Justin's uncle was a realtor on House Hunters years ago. I remember hearing about how the house hunting wasn't real.

    What a crazy story! I can't believe that wanted you to ditch your realtor like that. I think it's awesome that you stood by him! How did they react when you told them no?

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  9. Wow. That would have made me feel icky, too. This says a lot about you guys and your integrity. I'm glad you stuck by your realtor and I'm sure he really appreciates you guys :)

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  10. I'm SO happy you shut them down. That's madness and so gross. :( And I don't know your realtor, but I love the man.

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  11. WOW. just... wow! i had no idea HH was like that, but i shouldn't be surprised when it comes to reality tv. but what a crazy story! i almost teared up when i read about your realtor. it may not have been the ending you hoped for, but what a great story to share with gracie when she's older!

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  12. Wow, that's crazy. Obviously, it would have been cool to be on TV, but now you know you can actually sleep at night. Props to you for not selling out and for supporting a genuinely good local businessman.

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  13. Oh wow, that's so gross and horrible that HH wanted to do that!!!! I applaud you guys for making the decision you did-what an awesome witness of fortitude. I too would be interested to know what kind of reaction the HH producers had. I don't watch TV anymore, but when I was little we watched Extreme Home Makeover as a family routinely, and a family in our church was actually picked to be on the show. While it was exciting and I'm sure they were grateful for the house, one of their daughters did tell me that it was SO EXHAUSTING when they were on their "vacation" during the makeover, since the film crews would wake them up at like 6 every day and make them do tons of stuff so they could film it all. Reality TV definitely is contrived! (though I never would have imagined that HH would be THAT contrived)

    On a side note, your audition video was the first to pop up in the list on Youtube when I searched for it! It's so funny and awesome! I can totally understand why HH picked you guys, because you two are hilarious in that video! It's also fun to see and hear you since, while your personality comes through your blog, it's just not the same as hearing the pitch of your voice or seeing you groove in the kitchen.

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  14. Wow this is absolutely insane! I LOVE House Hunters International, and have known it's not real, but this just brings it to a whole other level. So sad! I AM SOOOOOO proud of you friend for standing up for what's right and ethical and KIND! Being kind speaks volumes in our world today. You are my hero:) xoxo PS- I'm secretly hoping you make it on tv at some point though:) haha!

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