The untold truth of Property Virgins

When you're a first-time homebuyer, what should be an exciting process can easily turn overwhelming. Enter, Property Virgins. This HGTV series captures the roller coaster of emotions that comes with that first foray into home ownership. With help from a real estate expert, hopeful homebuyers successfully (most of the time) strike a balance between their budget and their often comically large wish list.

But this is reality TV, and there's always more to the story than what makes the final cut. And with a little digging behind the scenes of this HGTV favorite, it wasn't hard to find some surprising intel about everything from the show hosts' side hustles to the one thing almost all contestants are apparently guilty of doing. As for whether the show is entirely unscripted, well, there's a story there too.

Keep reading to find out these facts and more about Property Virgins, including why original host Sandra Rinomato ultimately decided to pass the torch to Egypt Sherrod.  

The show was almost very different

If you've been a fan of Property Virgins since the beginning, it's impossible to imagine the show without its original HGTV host, Sandra Rinomato. The Canadian real estate expert put the show on the map with her no-nonsense approach and willingness to go the extra mile for first-time homebuyers.

However, the show very nearly took a much different turn. In an interview with REMonline in 2009, Rinomato revealed that only a few years prior, she had to undergo open heart surgery due to a heart defect. "It was pretty touch and go," she explained of the 2004 operation, revealing she suffered life-threatening complications.

Happily, Rinomato made a full recovery — but she still almost missed the Property Virgins opportunity. After initially getting the call from producers, she didn't get the job when she interviewed. HGTV hired Montreal-based Tatiana London but, when that didn't pan out, asked Rinomato to come back. Her response? No. In fact, she told REMonline she "said no a million times but it happened anyway." Fortunately for fans, producers eventually wore her down. 

This host thought the show would be a flop

While most people would consider an offer from HGTV to host their own show a dream job, Rinomato simply didn't see things the same way — at first. "I said 'no' many times to the producer of Property Virgins," she recalled to Toronto Storeys in July 2018. Of her ultimate decision to accept, she added, "And then I thought, 'Ah, what the hell? This will be fun. We'll do two or three episodes and I'll have a disc to show my grandchildren. Look what Nana did!'"

If you'd asked her back then, Rinomato wouldn't have given the fledgling show a vote of confidence. "I never ever thought it would be a number one show," she said, "And never thought it would run worldwide. No one was more surprised than I was at its success." But it was successful. In Rinomato's early years as host, the show routinely pulled in an impressive 11 million viewers per episode.  

Sandra Rinomato left in the name of girl power

Fans were shocked when Sandra Rinomato decided to leave the show in 2012, so she took to social media to share her reasoning with fans. "After 130 episodes and 10 seasons, I have chosen to give up Property Virgins in [favor] of my new show called Buy Herself," Rinomato wrote on Facebook

At the time, Rinomato gushed that the female-empowering premise of the show really resonated with her. "For the first time in history, a significant number of women are buying real estate on their own, taking charge of their financial situations. … Women buying real estate is not a fad, it's history in the making and I am very proud to be a part of it on TV," said Rinomato.

She elaborated in an interview with HuffPost TV Canada, saying of female-centric homebuying anxiety, "There are a lot of things women are afraid of, and a lot of this is self-imposed." But hey, that's where Rinomato comes in! 

Egypt Sherrod had a serious side hustle (or two)

When Egypt Sherrod became the host of Property Virgins in 2012, she wasn't ready to leave the safety net of her day job just yet. For two years, she worked as a radio host of Atlanta's V-103 station before that deal ended and she could exclusively focus on her TV gig and her real estate career. Well, sort of.

As if juggling those two endeavors wasn't already a monumental undertaking, Sherrod decided she would write a book, too. In 2015, Keep Calm… It's Just Real Estate was released, and it was dubbed a "'No Stress' guide to buying a home," per the book's website.

According to Sherrod, her personality between the book and onscreen is consistent. "I give tough love, because I care. I'm not afraid to tell the truth," she told AJC, noting that fans could expect at least a few surprises. "I told stories and anecdotes that involved my personal journey. You can't Google that."

The Property Virgins set supported women

In 2010, Egypt Sherrod realized she was ready to take her real estate career to the next level. Exhibiting her trademark go-getter attitude, the Atlanta resident chose to seize the day — she auditioned for the role as host of HGTV's Property Virgins. To her surprise, she landed the job.

Fast forward to only four episodes into Sherrod's pilot season, when she got another life-changing surprise: she was pregnant! Terrified that HGTV would terminate her contract if they found out, she hid her burgeoning bump. "I wasn't trying to be dishonest, I was just trying to make it like everybody else," she told XO Necole in 2017. "You want to fulfill your dreams, but you want it all. And I wanted my baby, and I wanted my happiness, but I wanted my dream too."

To Sherrod's great relief, HGTV didn't fire her. "I laughed and I cried because they were like, 'We don't care, we were waiting on you to tell us,'" she revealed. To the network's credit, the show certainly seems to do its part to encourage and empower women. After all, both of the hosts — Sandra Rinomato and Sherrod — have been strong, smart, outspoken females. 

One fan wound up becoming a Property Virgins protégé

It's the kind of thing that only seems to happen in the movies — a grad student scrolling Craigslist ads for work comes across a job listing that seems too good to be true. Her idol is hiring, and she applies. Before she knows it, she's the protégé of her celebrity role model. Sounds like something straight out of Hollywood, right? Only, in this case, it's Alexandra Cote's life.

When she came across Sandra Rinomato's listing for a part-time administrator at Rinomato's Toronto brokerage, Cote was a huge fan of Property Virgins. So, understandably, she couldn't help but pinch herself over her good fortune. "It was crazy," Cote told Toronto Storeys. "The ad was only up for one hour because they got so many responses. It kind of felt like destiny."

Destiny, indeed. Cote would go on to be mentored by Rinomato, coin the term "Property Coach," and earn the honor of being voted the Toronto area's best real estate agent (she still works at Sandra Rinomato Realty). Plus, judging by her Instagram, her relationship with her mentor has evolved from all business into a bona fide friendship. 

The hosts reportedly make bank

The running joke when it comes to Property Virgins is that every potential homebuyer or homebuying couple on the show seems to have a disproportionately massive budget in comparison to their vocation. Like, really, Dan the goldfish farmer, how can you afford a half-a-million-dollar home? C'mon, Susan, you're telling us you lick stamps for a living but you're paying cash for that McMansion?

All joking aside, when you consider how much money host Egypt Sherrod reportedly makes, it doesn't seem too illogical that her clientele would be wealthy. Although it's unclear how much money the real estate pro brings home per episode, Celebrity Net Worth estimates Sherrod has a net value of a cool $6 million.

While some of that worth undoubtedly comes from Sherrod's other business enterprises — radio spots, guest speaking gigs, her book — it doesn't negate the fact that she likely takes home a pretty decent paycheck for her work as Property Virgins' resident guru. Cha-ching! 

The show is at the mercy of the local home market

Despite other HGTV shows drawing fire in recent years for being "staged," Property Virgins has managed to stay above the fray. Well, actually, according to Rinomato, there's at least one aspect of the show that isn't always 100 percent authentic.

Speaking to Crasstalk in 2011, Rinomato revealed that the houses the show's property virgins tour onscreen aren't exactly their top picks. Sometimes, they aren't the potential homeowners' picks at all. "We go out and preview homes based on the client's wish list and try to find homes that represent 'as good as it gets' for them," Rinomato said. "It can be very difficult because we have to deal with what is on the market at that time, and we need to get permission to shoot in peoples' homes."

When they can't get permission, says Rinomato, they still have to film. "Sometimes we shoot in homes that are not our first choice, but that too is an important part of the process. You have to see what you don't like before you realize what you really love." 

All property virgins make this mistake

Does it have stainless steel? Are the countertops granite? I hate this paint color! If you've heard these classic property virgin complaints once, you've heard 'em a hundred times. And as it turns out, that's where these first-time homebuyers go wrong. "Usually, property virgins get stuck on the aesthetics of a house," revealed to Fox News Magazine in 2016. "They'll walk in and say, 'The walls are purple; this house will never work.'" 

Here's the thing, though — none of those should be deal-breakers, says Sherrod, or even major considerations that keep homebuyers from considering an otherwise ideal house. Sure, some of those aesthetics will be more costly than others to rectify, but you can always take your time and spread them out. 

"Paint can change; flooring can be changed. Everything outside of location and structure of the house can essentially be changed," she said. "And a lot of times when you're getting into your first property, just get in! Get in and, you know, then change things."