Being on “House Hunters” was so nice, Elizabeth and Jeff Newcamp did it twice.
The filming process was riddled with exaggerations, posturing and phony recreations, as Elizabeth wrote in a Slate piece published Thursday with the headline, “What It’s Actually Like to Be on House Hunters.”
The Navarre, Fla.-based couple, who have three sons, first appeared on the HGTV cult-favorite show’s international edition in January 2017, when they were expatriates in the Netherlands’ canal-filled town of Delft. Meanwhile, the search for their Florida home airs on Thursday.
Elizabeth detailed how much they got paid ($1,500 for “House Hunters International,” $500 for “House Hunters”), how producers encouraged the couple to play up their arguing and how, both times, they had already bought the homes they ultimately “chose” on television. In the Netherlands episode, they’d been living in the house they picked for a year. In the Florida one, they’d already closed on the chosen house.
Even as Elizabeth lifted the curtain to take viewers behind the scenes of the popular show, she and her husband Jeff enjoyed the experience and still love the show. “I really can’t stress enough how fun ‘House Hunters’ is,” she wrote in an email to The Post. “Who doesn’t love seeing inside homes around the world!”
An HGTV rep issued the following statement on Thursday: “HGTV has brought viewers enjoyment with ‘House Hunters’ for 20 years and we hope they will continue to enjoy the series, not only for the entertainment value, but also for the practical home buying and selling knowledge that they gain from the viewing experience. ‘House Hunters’ is about the journey to find a perfect home. The people you see in the series are real people who have searched for, negotiated and paid for a home with their own money. They move in and make it their own. We simply shorten a very lengthy process for television.”
“You should absolutely enjoy House Hunters. I still do,” Elizabeth writes. “Don’t worry about how these people with these jobs afford these houses. Enjoy the real estate and enjoy the fake arguments. But like everything you see on TV, you shouldn’t take it at face value.”
Here are all of the little secrets behind production of the Newcamps’ “House Hunters” episodes revealed in Elizabeth’s article:
- The selection process for “House Hunters International” consisted of a written application, emailed iPhone footage and a Skype interview with the casting director “focusing on how we might be in conflict while looking for a house.” Even after the Newcamps had been chosen to be on air, it took months before the 5-day-long shoot was scheduled.
- The filming was arranged by location, not chronology, so the crew had to constantly remind them what verb tense to use as if the house-hunting process were unfolding in real time. Elizabeth writes: “One day we would film seeing the town of Delft ‘for the first time,’ and the next day we were all moved into our house as though we had lived there for a few months.” (They had, in fact, lived there for a year already.)
- Producers really played up the couple’s preferences, especially when they conflicted. “In ‘House Hunters International’ I mentioned that I wanted a bathtub, something that is nearly impossible to find in the Netherlands. At the producers’ urging, I soon became all about the bathtub,” Elizabeth writes. “I hopped into available tubs to try them out and lamented through entire house tours about how I would live, with three kids no less, without a bathtub. I was pregnant, after all, and that tub was a necessity.” Jeff, for his part, enjoyed Delft’s quaint canals, and the show ended up emphasizing his preference to live near or on one. The edited version of the episode that ran, in fact, so focused on these wish-list items that Elizabeth was endearingly identified as “Crazy Bathtub Lady” by a viewer she met in an airport and Jeff was vilified on Twitter for not being more accommodating to his pregnant wife.
- Jeff and Elizabeth were allowed to listen to each others’ interviews, but only in spots where the person being filmed couldn’t see. “This helped us recognize how the other was going to be portrayed, and to lean in to it all,” she writes. “At each house you film the ‘throw your partner under the bus’ interview. This is where you act like your partner is crazypants. Again, a good sense of humor is key here. Everything I said in my interviews was based on a grain of truth, but in a real house hunting situation I would never phrase it that way.”
- Hilariously, the Delft real estate agent in their episode was a fake. “I was surprised how even the littlest details could be fictionalized,” Elizabeth writes. “When they couldn’t find a local real estate agent, the ‘House Hunters International’ producers needed a Dutch person who was willing to be on camera for $500 as our ‘relocation expert.’ Our neighbor and friend Michael, who actually works in IT, was happy to oblige. In the episode, I hinted at the absurdity of the whole situation when Michael mentioned that he lived near a house we were looking at. ‘Oh, so we could be neighbors,’ I exclaimed, while biking to tour our actual house, down the street from his … where my children were playing with his daughter, under the supervision of his wife.”
- The other two houses the Newcamps toured with their fake “relocation agent” were not even on the market, just listed for rent on Airbnb. The third house is the one they already owned and had been living in for months.
- To shoot the house they “chose,” a company had to temporarily move out their possessions. “We woke up early one morning and watched all our belongings from any room that would be filmed for the show get loaded into a moving truck,” she writes. “The truck was then driven around for a few hours while we shot the segments in which we toured the house.” Elizabeth also borrowed bedding to differentiate the bedrooms.
- Sometimes, producers had to deal with an item that couldn’t be relocated. “The play set in the backyard was too big to move, so the cameraperson stood in front of it and shot us, in a different part of the yard, speculating about how much our kids would love playing on the lawn,” Elizabeth writes. “That afternoon … we changed clothes, moved over to the play set, and played with our children while the cameraperson filmed the ‘after’ shots.”
- Even non-house-hunting scenes were staged. “In one of my favorite shots, we pretended to purchase a heavy bakfiets cargo bicycle for the first time, and I rode off, over a bridge, pregnant, with the children nicely tucked in,” Elizabeth writes. “In reality, my first terrifying ride had been a year before, crisscrossing the road to stay up and stalling halfway up the bridge. My ‘first ride’ on TV, though, was effortless.”
- The former attorney kept a blog about her family’s relocation to Delft, and wrote a post with more behind-the-scenes insights and photos after the episode — “Cuckoo for Canals in Delft,” available for $1.99 on YouTube — aired in January 2017.
- The Newcamps didn’t care about the moments that were exaggerated or posed. After all, it was a fun experience. So when they moved back to the US, the Newcamps applied to be on domestic “House Hunters” “We loved getting a little peek at the world of entertainment,” Elizabeth writes. “Plus, we walked away with a video snapshot of this one moment of our lives.”
- Off-camera, Jeff looked at 60 homes in Florida while Elizabeth camped out at her parents’ place in Atlanta with the kids.
- After they closed on a house, the crew immediately arrived to shoot. “Hurricane Michael hit during the search. We found a house after the evacuation order was lifted. We signed papers and got the keys to our new home on a Friday,” she writes. “That Monday, the film crew filmed us touring our brand-new empty house. We also shot some footage of the family at our hotel on Navarre Beach, pretending we had been living there through the extensive house search.”
- Unlike in the “International” episode, the Newcamps’ actual realtor was on air (for free), and the houses they toured for the show (after they had already closed on the one they picked) were actually on the market for sale.
- Just like in the “International” episode, the producers played up the couple’s conflicts. In Florida, it was Jeff “not being satisfied with any house and all the little home-repair problems he finds” versus Elizabeth advocating “to just find a house, any house!” She also ramped up her insistence on “indoor and outdoor play space” for the kids. “Again these reflect real discussions we had,” she writes, “but conducted in extremes for the benefit of the show.”
The Newcamps’ episode, “Nitpicking in Navarre, Florida” airs Thursday at 8:30 p.m. on HGTV.
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