Rules You Have To Follow If You Are On House Hunters

There's a reason why "House Hunters" is one of HGTV's longest-running shows on the network. The comfort and excitement of watching a couple choose a new home are adjacent to watching a sport on TV. Will the couple choose a Midwestern ranch or go with the modern farmhouse down the street? Seeing the possibilities the couple has and their differences in opinion (and snickering about their budgets) never gets old, which is why it's still running after over 200 seasons!

However, with so many episodes and seasons, more and more tidbits are coming out about former house hunters on the show and what the process is actually like. What actually happens when it comes to buying a dream home after a couple applies to be on the show? Considering "House Hunters" is a reality TV show, there's an element of drama, suspense, and excitement that — at times — has to be added in order to make the show interesting.

Without nondisclosure agreements, those on the show are welcome to share their experiences on "House Hunters," but beware, some revelations may surprise longtime viewers.

You may have to redo scenes a few times

As realistic as reality TV can be, producers also need the show to be entertaining for audiences. Viewing three different houses can be exciting, and choosing the perfect one makes for a happy ending, but the network does need to spice things up here and there to make "House Hunters" intriguing from the next episode.

One way to do this is to redo scenes that fall flat or have mistakes. Whether there's not enough conflict or the couple's expressions aren't juicy enough or background noise disrupted a take, producers have made couples redo scenes to fit the narrative they're selling. According to Hooked on Houses, a former contestant of the show named Bobi noted that sometimes she and her husband had to redo the scenes that producers didn't like.

She said, "My hubby hates 'being fake,' so the fact that they had us do five or six takes on each scene drove him nuts." Knowing that some scenes aren't always authentic could irk some longtime viewers, but it's all in the name of the game for quality television.

Your clothes must fit the production

One of the last things viewers watching "House Hunters" notice is what the main couple is wearing while searching for a new home. With the priority of the episode being a new house, viewers are more interested in comparing homes, diving into budgets, and enjoying the lighthearted conflict between couples, rather than what shirt they decided to wear.

However, as it turns out, what a couple wears on screen matters to HGTV. A former homebuyer on "House Hunters" named Leslie Remy explained to The Dallas Morning News that they were encouraged to wear simple clothes in front of the camera because too many patterns were distracting. Remy went on to say, "They told us to wear some solids — not prints — and to bring an extra outfit."

Funny enough, the crew didn't like the extra outfits Remy brought, so she stuck to a more basic black and blue combination. While the basis of the show is finding a house in a short amount of time, how a couple is perceived and looks on camera matters too. Wearing patterns is just one thing HGTV contestants can't do!

You have to close on a house before being considered

The main point of "House Hunters" is watching a family choose a home they could see themselves living in. The show watches the agent tour them around three different kinds of houses that are within their price range and style and hopes they can envision themselves in one of the three homes shown. But as it turns out, one of the biggest rules when applying to be on "House Hunters" is that the couple must already own the home they're about to move into on the show.

After it came out that HGTV only accepted applicants who closed on a home, Entertainment Weekly spoke to HGTV to get the facts. And as it turns out, the claims were truthful.

"To maximize production time, we seek out families who are pretty far along in the process," a spokesperson for HGTV said. "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." While this does make sense in the long run of filming an episode, it does take a lot of the fun out of the show for viewers.

But you still need keys to your old house

Although HGTV needs applicants to be near the finish line when buying their dream home, they still need to have access to their old home so that the camera crew can compare what they're leaving for what they're looking for. Production also needs the family in their own old home at some point during the filming process since the viewers believe the family still lives there.

Closing on a new home and still having access to the old home can be challenging for some, since most families have sold the home already and passed off the keys. What's more, the former home needs to look lived-in. This can be hard to accomplish if the family already sold the house and started the process of moving out, but it's not impossible.

Time and time again, applicants have proven that they have the ability to do both, and it makes for great television to see a family who has outgrown their smaller home in hopes of a larger one.

Conflict is a bonus

As much as a couple is on the same page with moving to another home, sometimes the drama of house hunting can cause conflict within the family. While there are bound to be differences in opinions, the producers of "House Hunters" will play into those conflicts for the sake of entertainment. Former house hunter Elizabeth Newcamp wrote a story for Slate about her time on the popular HGTV show and its spin-off "House Hunters: International."

Many aspects of creating the show were eye-opening, but one of the funnier parts of the production was the producers' need for conflict. Elizabeth said, "We learned immediately that these shows are looking for conflict ... The entire point of the show is to make it seem impossible that you will ever find a house. The show is intended to resemble a real-life house hunt, but exaggerated for TV."

Elizabeth went on to say that her biggest desire in a new home is a bathtub. But with bathtubs being a hard addition to find in the area, producers used this as a point of contention for the couple. In reality, Elizabeth knew they had already found a home with a bathtub, but laughed at the way she was edited for the show.

Couples need to be available for a few days

Considering how quickly couples view different homes and buy their dream home, fans of the series often wonder how long filming takes from start to finish. Tara Lenney shared a blog post about her experience on "House Hunters." While she wasn't on the series, her house was. She stated that her house was the one the couple wound up buying on TV, and she shared what she knows with fans.

Since she sold her house to the couple, she had an idea of the show's filming schedule. Tara shared that the entire process took about five days to film, with a total of eight hours spent at each house. Furthermore, filming took place in October, and the episode aired in April of the next year. In all, hours of filming are done, all to be edited down to a 30-minute episode and aired six months later. Because of the extra footage of the surroundings and additional filming at each house, couples need to be available for a few days.

You have to be okay visiting homes that aren't for sale

Since potential homebuyers already own the home they end up choosing on "House Hunters," they still have to go through the motions of looking at different houses that reflect their style for the entertainment aspect of the show. But where do the potential houses come from? A former participant of the show, Elizabeth Newcamp, explained to Slate that in her experience, the small town they were looking at buying a home in had few homes for sale. It did, however, have homes for rent.

With the audience being none the wiser, Elizabeth said she and her husband toured rental homes on Airbnb as potential winners. She did explain that the rental homes had a similar style to what they were looking for, but in reality, they had already bought their house.

Even funnier, their friend and neighbor acted as the couple's "relocation expert" instead of hiring a local real estate agent. While these tidbits may upset longtime fans, production needs to have every aspect secure, or it's a waste of resources. 

Create a budget (and producers will add to it)

One of the biggest "House Hunters" memes on the Internet is how much the couple's budget is when they have unique jobs that don't always pay as much as their budgets allow. In reality, it's said that the series plays around with budgets. A former "House Hunters" participant, Kirstin Stone, shared with Reddit that the show made up the budget she had so they could look at various homes.

She told Reddit that her max budget was $130,000, but production had other plans. "They used my max qualification (165), and tacked on 15K I had in savings as 'renovation budget.'" While she wound up staying within her actual budget and paying what she was comfortable with, production made her budget higher for the sake of the show.

Kristen later said in the comments section that some towns the show films in don't need high budgets, but it makes for a more interesting episode. She explained, "I'm in the Memphis area, and they just shot one here with an 800K budget. No one needs 800K to buy here. Not even for obscenely nice houses."

Production doesn't always come back for home updates

At the end of every episode of "House Hunters," production goes back to the couple's new house to catch up on how they're liking the place they chose and the changes they made while the crew has been gone. Some of these changes are cosmetic — like paint or landscaping — but they're blatant enough for viewers to see the difference between the former buyer and the new. However, what some viewers don't realize is that the film crew doesn't always return a couple of weeks later.

According to a story by Tina Paul, who was on "House Hunters: International," she needed to show her new home both empty and decorated for the finished program. This way, the film crew got the shots they needed during the week they filmed, and they didn't have to come back.

"Our apartment needed to be empty or close to empty so that we could re-create how it looked before we moved in," she said. "At 7 a.m., movers arrived and started packing and moving anything that was not in a cupboard or closet. [...] Stressful does not begin to describe this day." By filming the ending at the beginning, "House Hunters" can get their shots of the happy family in their decorated home without coming back. And while this doesn't appear to be the case in every scenario, it is common.

A new narrative

Whether it's a difference of opinion, a rush move-in, or not finding the right fit, each episode has a storyline that the families loosely follow. Former house hunter Bobi shared on Hooked on Houses that the network finds storylines naturally based on the couple, but sometimes the storylines are falsified.

"The producers said they found our (true) story — that we were getting a bigger house and turning our other one into a rental — boring and overdone," Bobi wrote. Since their actual reason for moving out of their home for a bigger space and renting out their old home was too common for HGTV, the new storyline was that their current home was far too small, requiring a hasty move.

While that wasn't necessarily true, Bobi rolled with the punches for the sake of TV. As many subtle rules as there are for "House Hunters" applicants, there's a fairytale-esque whimsy to the series that can't be replicated, which is why it's so successful after over 230 seasons.