HGTV’s House Hunters Comes to South Shore
Apollo Beach, Florida: Ok, who here watches HGTV’s House Hunters and tries to guess which house the couple is going to choose before the answer’s revealed at the end of the program? I know it’s a game my husband and I have played more than once.
Did you know HGTV has filmed a few episodes of House Hunters right here in South Shore? Yes, HGTV has discovered us, too.
I got the chance recently to catch up with Sarah Meyers, an Apollo Beach real estate agent with Century 21 Beggins Enterprises. Sarah, who specializes in working with military families (having her own military) was working with a couple she’d met through the USAA preferred agent program. The couple, unbeknownst to Sarah, had applied to be on House Hunters and was accepted.
A little note….since the episode has not yet aired, Sarah could tell me almost everything about the experience, with the exception of a few tiny details. The story is still a lot of fun…
‘The Call’, Auditions and A Few Nerves
“I got a call one day from my clients,” Sarah says, “and they explained that they had applied for and been accepted on HGTV’s House Hunters. Then they asked me if I’d be okay being on the show with them.”
Of course, Sarah was game. It sounded like fun, but she also got a bit nervous.
As it turns out in order to be part of the House Hunter’s program Sarah also had to audition. She had the option of creating a video and sending it in or participating in a live Skype interview with a producer. She went for the live Skype interview.
“I wasn’t so nervous about the interview,” Sarah explains. “I was afraid that if I messed it up my clients wouldn’t get to be on House Hunters and they were so excited about it.”
Fortunately, Sarah’s fun personality shined right through in the live interview so it was a go for Sarah and her clients.
Once It’s A Go, The Process Moves Fast
Once Sarah and her clients were accepted on House Hunters the process moved quickly. (Note: The clients cannot be named here as the episode has not yet aired). Because they’re dealing with houses actively on the market, which could be sold at anytime, there’s a tight time frame to film.
Sarah had her audition interview in September. She and her clients got news the filming was a go in late October and they filmed the first weekend of December 2016.
PieTown Productions does the actual filming (you might recognize the name from House Hunter show credits), while HGTV airs the shows.
Sarah had to be prepared for three full days of filming while her clients had to count on five full days.
A Few Hurdles to Cover
Prior to filming Sarah assisted HGTV in obtaining permission from the home sellers whose homes would be included in the episode as well as tracking down necessary HOA forms.
Home sellers have to sign off on liability forms and agree to vacate the house for one full day of filming.
“One of the home sellers was a bit hesitant,” Sarah explains. “Familiar with the show, the home-seller was concerned about possible negative comments being filmed and potentially impacting the home’s sale.”
Fortunately, it turned out to be a non-issue. Once filming is complete it takes at least 6 months before HGTV puts the episode in an internal screening process. Only then does the episode get scheduled for airing. In this case, Sarah and her clients aren’t anticipating the show will air before June or July 2017.
The Magic Behind the Curtain (Inquiring Minds Want to Know)
The HGTV crew was small: one camera man, one audio person, the producer and an assistant. The producer was the only one who came in from California, the others were local.
They filmed three houses, one per day, in Ruskin, Apollo Beach and Riverview. The couples’ budget was around $450,000.
HGTV suggests what types of clothes to wear, but want the participants to look natural so they don’t dictate anything. They suggest bright solids and discourage black and white only and busy patterns. They also ask participants to bring a few extra shirts in case one just isn’t working on camera. Sarah also had to remove a necklace that was interfering with the microphone.
Microphones were hidden under the participants’ shirts and taped down.
Sarah and her clients arrived about 10AM to begin filming, but the crew arrived earlier to take photos. Because it was winter, and it got dark earlier, they had to be cognizant of losing light at the end of the day. In fact, they nearly had to add a second day to one of the shoots because the house was large, with lots to cover, and they were losing light by the time they wrapped it up about 6:30PM.
During filming the camera man is right there (of course), but the producer and audio person are in another room watching on a iPad. After each take the producer would come in to offer suggestions for the next take, until it was the right take.
Neither home sellers, home buyers or realtors are paid to participate.
They Make It Look So Easy on TV, But Is It?
Sarah and her buyers were still in a home buying process, but Sarah was not able to carry any paper work with her on film so she had to memorize everything in advance about the home. The challenges did not stop there.
“The hardest part,” says Sarah, “is having to do the same thing over and over. For example, the producer would give us instructions, but we’d still have to walk through the front door 5 or more times to get it right. We were told in which order to walk through the door and where we should stop, but by the third or fourth take you forget something little, like where you’re supposed to stand. Or, I kept looking directly at the camera, which is a no-no.”
Also, HGTV does not give participants scripts. Sarah says they make suggestions and encourage participants to be descriptive. They even let the group know they could say ‘negative’ things, but to be low key about it. It was hard for the trio to keep finding things to say about a room or particular feature, but the producer kept saying ‘keep talking’.
“At one point,” Sarah says, “we were asked to talk about columns outside of a house. We were all at a loss after talking so much and one of us actually said ‘Those columns make the house look really tall’. We all had a good laugh about that one,” Sarah adds.
According to Sarah, the kitchen was the easiest to talk about.
Would Sarah Do It Again?
Sarah admits to watching House Hunters differently now. “I focus on the realtor and really look at them. I know what they’re going through and I can tell which ones are nervous,” she adds.
“Really, the most surprising thing about the whole experience was just how exhausting it was. I didn’t expect that,” Sarah says. “After the first day of shooting I came home and fell asleep at 7PM. Fortunately, it got easier on day 2 and 3.”
Sarah and her clients had a lot of fun, too. “The film crew was so nice and we really had fun laughing about our goof-ups. I would totally do it again.”
She’s also eager, and a little nervous, for the episode to air. “Of course, I can’t wait to see, but I keep thinking about 3 days of filming edited down into 15 minutes of programming. I wonder what they’ll include.”
UPDATE: It appears this episode, which was originally scheduled to air on June 23 and June 24, is NOW AIRING on June 8 at 8PM. It appears it will also air on the originally scheduled dates. Here’s a link to the upcoming ‘Bigger and Better in Tampa’ episode: http://www.hgtv.com/shows/house-hunters/episodes/bigger-and-better-in-tampa
Want to contact Sarah?
(You might just get on HGTV)
Sarah Meyers and Molly Rizzi (Sarah’s business partner)
Century 21 Beggins