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The Secrets Behind HGTV "Reality" Shows

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

We've seen them on HGTV: Property Brothers, Flip or Flop, Fixer Upper, Hometown, Love It or List It, House Hunters and the list goes on, but one things for sure, they make everything appear to be easy and fast. But in real life, its quite the opposite. These types of "reality" shows are scripted and lack the actual "reality". However, they make for great TV to keep us watching.

Here are some things you may not know about your favorite shows:

1. Finding a New Home

If you've searched for a new home, you know it cannot be done looking at just three houses. By the time you find that "forever home" you probably would have looked at, at least 10 homes. First, you will need to get financing and know the amount you can afford and the amount the lender have approved you for. So on House Hunters, the homeowners are usually already under contract for their chosen home before they’re cast on the show. They already know which home is theirs and view other homes for dramatic effect. Creative filming and staging the home to look empty make it seem like prospective hunters are seeing their home for the first time.

2. Buying Property

Real estate transactions take a minimum of 30 days to go from making an offer to getting the keys to the house. But it can actually take 60 days or more. Furthermore, there are several steps that need to take place before keys are turned over: inspection, title search, appraisal, acquiring HOA resale documents (if applicable), mortgage loan processing and approval, and closing document preparation. All of these are handle by a different person/organization. But on Flip or Flop, it would appear that everything is done in that episode.

3. Is it Real Staging?

Some of the staging we see on the shows are actually done virtually. They’ll utilize computerized models to make a home look more put-together than reality. And that beautiful green grass? Well, it could actually have been Photoshop to make it look lusher and greener.

4. All Rooms Are Not Shown at the Big Reveal

There's a good reason for this. Depending on the show, it may only be contracted to do a couple of rooms and not the entire house. On Property Brothers, the show actually only contracts for four rooms to be designed and renovated. Usually, homeowners pick their highest-traffic areas, like the kitchen, bathroom and living room.

5. What happens to the Furniture and Decor?

In most cases, the decor is used for staging only and doesn’t belong to the homeowners. Once the episode has wrapped up, everything goes back into HGTV storehouses. If its in the homeowners budget, they do have the option to purchase the items.

6. Are the Hosts compensated for their appearance?

Yes! And quite well. "The hosts of Flip or Flop charge as much as $40,000, reports Starcasm. In addition, Tarek and Christina receive an appearance fee for each Flip or Flop episode (their last reported fee was $10,000 per episode, according to Starcasm). Back in 2017, In Touch reported Christina and Tarek asked for $1 million each per season". (cited from Cheatsheet)

7. The Renovations

When watching the shows, it would appear the buyer have three houses to choose from, the homeowner picks one out and then the renovation commences that day. Not so fast! In real life, you need to do a lot of planning before actually starting the rehab. You create a scope of work (things that need to be done). You would get bids from a minimum of three contractors and trades. Then you would have to get a project schedule, a project manager, get inspections, permits, and so much more. This does not take place overnight. A great deal of planning must take place first and in a timely manner. Side Note: make sure you funding in place and you stay in budget to avoid delays.

Face it, HGTV is definitely a great channel to escape and dream of what type of fixtures and furnishings you want in your "forever home". I absolutely love watching the shows but I do know the reality side of things as well. Now that you know what goes on behind the scenes, what are your thoughts on your new findings? What was your Aha moment? Share and comment below.

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