Your Favorite HGTV Shows Aren’t As Real As You Think

As almost everyone knows, reality television is a huge part of the broadcast pie. However, the newer generation might not realize that its roots run way farther back than The Real World and Big Brother. Home improvement shows have long since been displayed on TV sets all across America, and HGTV is a bastion of this subgenre.

It’s hard not to get hooked on shows like Flip or Flop and Fixer Upper, and the reality aspect definitely adds a whole other level to the shows. Who doesn’t enjoy a feel-good story of the Property Brothers helping someone discover their dream home? However, days upon weeks of footage are cut into easy-to-digest segments, so what really happens on set for all that missing time?

Reality of Reality TV

If the stories or situations sometimes seem too good to be true, well, that might just be the case. Fact is often stretched for the sake of entertainment fiction, and there are even entire shows that are just re-enactments of “actual event” that may or may not have occurred. Other times, a single shot might take a multitude of different takes and rehearsals, meaning the producers have a lot more time to set up than viewers might be privy to.

Which isn’t to say that all shows on HGTV go that far, but many people have stepped forward over the years to reveal what really happens when the cameras are off. A lot of times, it’s way more serious than embellishing a few facts to weave a better tale. The items on this list just might change the way you think about your favorite shows.

Hands On? More like Hands Off

Who doesn’t love twins? Part of the appeal of Property Brothers in many viewer’s eyes is Jonathan and Drew’s willingness to get their hands dirty on air. Although they do have a background in homes through their experience as realtors, they are often too busy producing the show to actually put in too much elbow grease.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone then that both were actors before getting licensed as real estate agents. They do put in a lot of time and work into their show, but almost all of it comes from behind the scenes.

The Price is…Predetermined?

A big part of any reality TV show is watching people’s earnest and real reactions to things that happen on the show. For Property Brothers, you sometimes see homeowners balk at the initial pricing being told to them.

This is fabricated for the sake of the viewer, however. Most people who are seen on the show already know how much renovations would cost, and the show even expects potential clients to have at least $65,000. It’s like how people on reality TV shows look “surprised” by the hosts showing up despite the cameras obviously having been set up already.

Double Trouble

Have you ever noticed that there are always two clients instead of one? While that makes sense for couples looking to find their dream home together, a deeper dive will reveal that even single people always have a friend or a relative along.

This is all by design, since the producers always want a pair of people to go along with the twin hosts. Symmetry is more pleasing to the eye more often than not, and the show banks on that mantra by having two fresh faces every week opposite Drew and Jonathan. Of course, this isn’t quite as “tricky” as some of the other things they do, but it’s still an interesting choice.

Just Outside the Frame

Once all is said and done, the viewers are always treated to several breathtaking views of the house. Keen fans will notice that not every room is shown in these segments, and that’s because not every room is renovated on the show.

Clients always have to choose what parts of the house get the big makeover. The cameramen and editors don’t let you in on that fact though, showing off the crew’s handiwork and nothing else. While the hosts never explicitly state that only a portion of the property is getting renovated, they also won’t say anything to correct fan’s assumptions.

Manufactured Mayhem?

Now that you know that not everything on the show is completely truthful, you might think the same about the large number of problems that always seem to pop up on the show. Could the writers be injecting some false issues into the script?

While the show does have a small hand in how bad things can get, it’s not because they are fabricating stressful situations for the hosts to tackle. They often select homes that have these kinds of problems to begin for a free dose of high drama. Why make it up when there are plenty of problem-filled options to choose from?

Preplanned Process

Fixer Upper took the world by storm in 2014 when Chip and Joanna Gaines started helping people purchase and remodel their homes. Or at least, that’s what the premise of the show is, since part of every episode is the client selecting one out of three homes being presented to them. Even though they go through this process on the TV screen, they frequently know which will be the one they select even before the camera starts rolling.

In an interview with a previous client and on promotional material, it’s heavily implied that you need to have bought a new home already to even qualify to be on the show. That would mean making the people choose which one they want is all for show.

From Home to Hotel

As previously shown on shows like Pimp My Ride, becoming the owner of something extravagant has some unforeseen consequences. Often times, the cost of upkeep on an expensive car and indeed, an expensive house can far exceed expectations.

Because of this, many of the people have turned to things like Airbnb or VRBO. Some homes featured on the show bring in from $250 to $350 a night, which is perfect since Fixer Upper also made Waco a popular tourist destination. One of the homes in Season 3 even sold for $1.2 million a couple of years after the episode was aired.

Just for the Shot

Some of the beautiful rooms that have resulted on the show look too good to be true. This is actually often the case, as expensive furniture is usually bought in for the shots. While viewers are likely to expect that anything they see on an episode will remain once the crew packs up and leaves, the homeowners aren’t quite so fortunate.

After the necessary film and photographs are shot, a lot of the furniture is slated to go back to where they originally came from. If the clients want to prevent that from happening, they have to pony up the cash for all of it to stay.

Unwanted Attention

It would be nice if these shows ended like the fairy tale that they always seem to be, but life has to go on. After all, it’s not like the people’s lives just end after the cameras stop rolling. It might seem simple to get back into the normal swing of things with their new home. However, financial upkeep isn’t the only problem that the show leaves behind.

Many of the featured clients started getting interrupted by fans of the show who wanted to stop by to say hello. Once every blue moon probably wouldn’t be a problem, but for David Morrow from Season 1, he dislikes the constant interruption and attention.

Not Just Personal Problems

Sometimes, the homeowners aren’t the ones who are left annoyed after the show leaves. People who live near these shiny new houses sometimes get annoyed too because of the problems that it poses to them. Remember, the program takes run down homes to renovate, so these are sometimes in neighborhoods with lower property taxes.

For the Downs family, they started to get harassed when surrounding property owners noticed their own taxes skyrocketing. It got so bad that they thought about just moving out after their Season 3 home was hit by a car instead of staying and fixing the damage.

One Ending, or Two?

Every episode of Love It or List It, a couple presents a home to presenters David Visenin and Hilary Farr. An interior designer, Farr works her magic to fix up the home while Visenin uses his real estate experience to find a suitable replacement instead. At the end of it all, clients have to choose whether to stay in the renovated home or pick one of the new houses that David found for them.

It’s an excellent format that has spawned many spinoffs in countries all over the world, but the formula isn’t 100% reality. Allegedly, the showrunners will film multiple endings for different choices, and the producers themselves decide which one will make for better TV.

Cutting Corners

The show ran into legal troubles when two people that had appeared on a Season 9 episode sued both the production company and the contractors who did the work. Deena Murphy and Tim Sullivan alleged that the $140,000 that they deposited with the show was mismanaged and not used properly.

They were not impressed with the damage that they said was caused by the contractors, such as windows that were painted shut or floorboards that were damaged. They were also not impressed with the allegedly sub-par material that was used. In response, Big Coat TV countersued for libel, but it was all settled along with confidentially agreements in 2017.

Unappealing Results

Another family that was unhappy with the home they were left with was the Pruitts. They appeared in an episode of Curb Appeal, which was a show all about beautifying the outside of the home. While their property was initially stunning from the outside, there was trouble brewing from within.

Their home started getting flooded frequently after the show had finished shooting. It turns out that a retaining wall that was built in the basement was the source of the problem, as water kept building up behind it. However, that wasn’t the only headache that the show left them with.

Impossible Maintenance

Beautiful plants can add pop to any front lawn, and the exotic plants that were bought in did just that for the Pruitts, or at least they did at first. Because they were selected for looks only, it was discovered that they couldn’t actually grow that well in the local climate.

Because of this, the family was not able to keep them alive. To add insult to injury, this meant they had to shell out even more cash to pay someone else to come in and remove them and repair the lawn. Getting a free renovation is cool, but not when it forces you to burn through more cash for meager results.

Invisible Host

As previously mentioned, Drew and Jonathan apparently don’t stick around all that much on Property Brothers when the cameras are turned off. Cenate and Wendy Pruitt had similar things to say about the host of Curb Appeal.

Apparently, he would show up for short bursts of time to do some camera work, and promptly leave when he wasn’t needed. He probably does have other work to do for the show, but the final product definitely portrays him as being on location most of the time. If we’re to believe these behind-the-scenes whispers, that would all be due to the power of the editors expertly crafting the perfect footage.

Lucky Find

Many of these shows employ people to go out and look for the perfect home to be put on the show. Producers always are looking for certain qualities that will make for good TV, but that’s not always something that these realtors can come up with.

That was what happened with a realtor that was hired by the show Beachfront Bargain Hunt. After she couldn’t find a suitable home for the show, the producers realized that she had recently bought a home along the beach herself. Instead of sending her back out to find something, they decided to just make her the client.

Real Show, Real Take(s)

If she wasn’t already aware of the TV magic that these shows used, she quickly became aware of them once they started taping her episode. The first thing that became apparent was that while most HGTV shows are always presented to be “in the moment”, Beachfront Bargain Hunt wasn’t quite like that.

She noted in a blog post that most scenes have a large number of takes, so the editors can splice together the perfect episode. That’s a given for most fictional series, but can come as a surprise to people who think reality TV is 100% real.

Not Nice Enough

One of the strangest quirks that she ran into during the episode was that the cameras would immediately turn off when someone said the word “nice.” Apparently, it’s a word that the producers aren’t particularly fond of, as it doesn’t offer the pizazz or spunk that a fancier word would provide.

Uttering of the forbidden word would almost always result in a new take. While this isn’t quite as glum or gloomy as some of the other things listed in this article, it definitely is one of the oddest. At least it seems like she had a nice time on the show.

Preselected Targets

As the title would imply, Yard Crashers is all about the host of the show “Crashing” in on someone shopping at a home improvement store. It makes sense that most people there would indeed be renovating their own homes, but the truth isn’t quite as haphazard as that.

It’s not like the producers would really just put anybody behind a camera without researching them at first. Of course, that means that these seemingly random encounters with potential clients is all for show, as it’s one of the selling points of the show. Who would want to watch a room full of writers doing research, though?

More Bad Experiences

Like some of the unhappy customers previously mentioned, Yard Crashers also has some unsuccessful stories. One of the clients was left with very shoddy work once the show wrapped up and everyone had gone. Their experience was detailed through a Reddit post.

Apparently, the concrete that was laid down ended up interfering with the preexisting water line. Given that water is an essential part to any home, it was something that they had to get fixed immediately, and it wasn’t cheap. They alleged that it cost them thousands to fix the problems that was caused by the show.

The Inevitable

Of course, it would be wrong to ignore the fact that things just happen sometimes. Many of these shows run for multiple seasons, and a few bumps along the way is expected. This is especially true of House Hunters, which makes sense given that it’s one of HGTV’s oldest programs.

Way back on Season Three, Bobi Jensen came out afterwards to talk about the bad experience she had. Just like Fixer Upper, the show made it seem like she was buying a new house, but she had already bought it before the episode started filming. That in on itself isn’t the cause of the problems, though.

Stick to the Script

In another link to Fixer Upper, Bobi wanted to renovate the property so that she could rent it out, and she was clear with the producers from the start about her intentions. However, they didn’t want that being broadcast on air, as they didn’t think it would be good TV.

As a substitute, they demanded her state that she was looking for a bigger home for her family for the episode. This made almost everything she said while on camera untrue, and it wasn’t something that sat right with her. But the lies don’t stop there.

Not Actually for Sale

A big part of the show is cruising around to look for a potential home to buy, and they had to stick with that script despite the fact that she had a house already. They had to fake a bunch of home viewings for the episode, but the truth is even stranger than fiction.

A number of the homes shown weren’t even for sale, and they belonged to her friends. They had to go in and doctor the homes a little so it looked like they were on the market, like tidying up the place a little.

More of the Same

Elizabeth Newcamp had similar things to say when she appeared on the show not once, but twice. She first appeared on House Hunters International when her family moved to the Netherlands due to her husband being in the Air Force. Like before, she already had her home purchased.

This time around, not only was the house hunting fake, but the realtor was fake as well. Instead of going out of their way to train a real estate agent how to make compelling TV, they just got an actor and trained him how to portray a real estate agent.

Even the Clients!

House Hunters International infamously got exposed when even the buyers turned out to be actors. In one of the episodes, they were looking for a home for two retirees, but the producers decided that the general public wouldn’t be interested in them.

Instead, they bought in actors to be stand-in clients for the scenes requiring, well, the clients. It makes you wonder why it was a reality show in the first place, if almost all of it is entirely fabricated. Well, at least an old couple found the home that they were looking for.

Fine Behind the Scenes

A running theme with many TV shows is actors not really getting along behind the scenes. This is the complete opposite of what Dr. Nate Lambert experienced when he was on Home Hunters International. Instead of being told to play nice when cameras were rolling, the producers often had him argue with his spouse on TV.

They wanted the happy family to appear just slightly more dysfunctional, since that’s what gets people to tune in. If at any point you cringe at a seemingly heated shouting match on an HGTV show, just keep that in mind.

Yearly Giveaway

HGTV is home to the HGTV Dream Home Sweepstakes, where a lucky family is gifted an extremely extravagant home, and it comes with other goodies as well. When Beverly Fulkerson won in 2019, she not only received a million dollar home, but also got $250,000 in cash along with a 2019 Honda Pilot Elite SUV.

While this all seems grand, here’s the truth. Only about 25% of HGTV’s Dream Home winners actually live in their new home for more than a year. They simply can’t keep up with the taxes, and Fulkerson’s estimated tax bill is close to $800,000.

Ponying Up

It’s always a nice experience to see someone get something for free on TV at least, but even that isn’t entirely truthful either. For example, one of the previous clients on Love it or List it alleged that they had to pay half of the bill, something that was left out of the episode.

Also, the episodes are sometimes shot and completed before the work is finished. This leaves some people having to live in half-finished homes, at least until the contractors can return to complete the work. Of course, the cameras be sure to leave those uncompleted portions just beyond eyeshot.

Other Camera Tricks

Sometimes expert camera angles are required not to hide unfinished work, but the host themselves. Nicole Curtis was pregnant in 2015 while shooting Rehab Addict, but she didn’t want the public to know. That’s something they would have easily figured out for themselves eventually, but the editors made that a lot more difficult.

Using camera and post production tricks, they were able to hide her baby bump until she was ready to go public with her pregnancy. At least this attempt to skirt the truth isn’t really as dodgy as some of the other allegations on this list.

Trouble Beyond the Cameras

She did find herself in hot water for some renovations she was doing on one of her own properties. One of her homes in Minneapolis was getting worked on, but it was taking a long time. As a result, construction vehicles and unfinished work was on display for quite a while.

Her neighbors were less than pleased, and even interrupted a charity that she was hosting to voice their grievances. They even wanted to inspect the property themselves to make sure work was actually being done, since it looked mostly like an abandoned project at that point.

Location, Location, Location

Location is an important factor to any home, and it turns out it’s an important part of being on HGTV as well. Many of their shows will only select clients that are within a few miles of where they operate from, such as New York City, Los Angeles, or Waco.

Not living in one of these towns will severely limit your chances of ever appearing on the channel. It definitely makes you think twice about how random some of these clients are, even when they aren’t quite as predetermined like behind on the scenes on Yard Crashers.

Worth It?

At the end of the day, is it even worth being on one of these shows? As mentioned before, some of these people run into significant problems after the fact. Some even have problems during filming because they have to make themselves available for shooting.

That’s the experience that Jamie Ferguson had, as she had to take time off of work to be on the show. Even though she spent hours in front of a camera at the request of the producers, she ended up being on the screen for mere minutes. She definitely felt like her time was wasted. So the next time you get jealous of someone who has seemingly found their dream home on HGTV, you might want to think twice about how happy they might really be.