The Truth About “Designed to Sell” on HGTV

by hookedonhouses on April 5, 2011

I got an interesting e-mail from a reader whose house was featured on one of the final episodes of HGTV’s once-popular show “Designed to Sell.” She asked to remain anonymous but thought we’d like to hear how things went behind the scenes. Would we ever! Here’s the scoop:

Hi, Julia! I saw your post called The Truth About “House Hunters.” My husband and I were recently on an episode of HGTV’s “Designed to Sell” and I thought you’d be interested to know that much of that show is just for the cameras.

At the time of filming two years ago, we did not have our house on the market but knew that we would want to in the next year or so.  They agreed to do the makeovers to our house anyway.

Ours was actually the second-to-last show ever filmed for the franchise. With the real estate market being what it is, HGTV had decided to cancel any new episodes of the show. Most of the ones you see now are reruns with a few new episodes thrown in (for example, our show filmed 2 years ago but just premiered a couple of weeks ago.)

A Few Things We Learned About the Show:

Most of the work is done by people off camera. We had moments where we filmed scenes with the show designer and carpenters, but once our little bit of filming was done, the rest of the work was done by production crew.

Only things that will be seen on camera are taken into consideration. Example: our “custom” pillowcases in our bedroom were actually duct taped fabric around our pillows. Ceilings and areas of paint that wouldn’t show on camera were not finished.

The open house at the end of the show is fake. Everyone at ours was family or friends. The production crew asked us at the beginning of the taping to give them a list of people to invite to be on camera. Considering they all had to sign waivers to be on camera and such, it’s not really such a surprise. (And this wasn’t just because our house wasn’t on the market yet – they do it for all houses.) It’s funny to see my mom talking about how she loves the makeover and wants to buy our house.

We taped two endings to the show–one where we say that our house has sold and thank the show for the makeovers, and one where we say that we’ve seen a lot of interest in our house and hope it sells soon. It’s up to the network which ending they want to show (and which is actually true at the time of editing.)

The budget for the makeover is $2,000 in materials (labor is free). Homeowners have to pay taxes on the improvements, which the show usually tries to cap at an estimated value of $5,000, but sometimes it’s much more. The total amount of taxes we paid that year for the improvements was $400.

In all, it was a great experience and we were able to make some improvements to rooms in our house that have helped now that we finally have our house on the market.  – Anon

Thanks so much to my reader for taking the time to answer some questions I’ve always had about the show!

Not only was “Designed to Sell” canceled, but so was the contract of long-time host Clive Pearse. He had kind of become the face of HGTV as the host of shows like “Design Star” and the “HGTV Dream Home Giveaways.” Pearse recently confirmed the rumors about his exit on his Facebook page.

I know Clive could be kind of goofy and “Designed to Sell” wasn’t always realistic, but I still stop to watch it when I come across an episode of it on HGTV. Anyone else sad to see it–and Clive–go?

*6/11 UPDATE: A reader named Karen sent me an e-mail saying the show redid her house, too. This was her experience (thanks, Karen!):

“The experience was fantastic and a bit different from your other reader.  The carpenters that were on camera also worked off camera along with several others.  They do the demo and then leave for a few weeks til they come back and shoot again.  They did my kitchen, thus I was left without one for a few weeks but they set up something temporary.  Everything was finished in my house – no unfinished painting or duct-taped pillows.

“The night before the Open House – the crew was there til 1:00am finishing up (we brought beers and tacos to keep em going).  They provide a fabulous catered lunch every day they are shooting.  The crew is awesome.  Everyone is great fun and Clive is hilarious and even more so off camera with his R-rated sense of humor which unfortunately, cannot be aired. Lisa is just as great, tons of creative ideas for other areas of the house, incredibly helpful and fabulous sense of humor.

“Our Open House was real–with some friends and many strangers (they do try to limit the number of people due to sound issues, etc). They do say the cap is $2000 but we got so much more than that with their deals, labor and ideas.  The labor alone was priceless. We didn’t put our house on the market right away.  DTS did such a nice job that we wanted to enjoy it for awhile.

“They definitely made a huge difference in the sale of the house.  Lovely experience – we miss them all! It was a really fun – one of the carpenters even adopted a stray dog that wandered into our yard.  I would do another show in a heartbeat but sadly I no longer live in Los Angeles….”

You can read more about how the show worked in this interview with designer Lisa LaPorta and see photos from one of their shoots by Lapid Photography here, which includes the one at the top of this post. If you have any “insider info” yourself, let me know!

Want More HGTV Scoop?

What It Was Like to be on House Hunters

Is Love It or List It Fake?

Ahmed Hassan Replaced by New Host on Yard Crashers

What Happened to Suzanne Whang on House Hunters?

Sandra Rinomato Quits Property Virgins


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Handy Man, Crafty Woman April 5, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Oh man, I used to love this show!! I wish it were still on. I just ranted on my blog about how I hate Property Virgins (ICK), but I did love this show. Esp. Clive and Lisa! I know that a lot of these shows are “staged”, but I found this one to be entertaining.

Lisa April 5, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Wow this is fascinating. I love to hear behind-the-scenes stuff. I have watched this show for a long time. I figured some of it was staged but not that much. I’m glad she had a good experience despite some of the short cuts they took.

I like Clive but meh… they could probably get some fresh blood in there. I’ve noticed they trot out Sabrina Soto a lot. She’s ok too, but a little cutesy for my taste. I really liked the designers Lisa and Monica. They were my favorites. The chick in the DC area was waaay too much. Ha ha.

Angela (Cottage Magpie) April 6, 2011 at 12:04 am

Oh, I’m so sad to see Clive go, he was my favorite! I also love Lisa and Monica. And the show, for that matter! And I’ll still watch (the reruns), even though some of it is staged. I’m not super surprised to hear that it’s not all “real” — I think most TV is much more staged than we’re all lead to believe! Although I have to say I am surprised to hear that so much of it is REALLY unfinished (like duct taped fabric and unfinished paint jobs). That’s a bummer. Thanks for the insider info! Fascinating!
~Angela~

KRG April 6, 2011 at 12:13 am

I am not surprised because it is TV but duct taping pillows is pathetic!

I miss some of the older (but maybe less exciting shows) like “Designing for the Sexes’, “Decorators Challenge”, “Landscaper’s Challenge”, “Mission Organization” and the Debbie Travis show. Also, there was a show where a designer replicated a high end room using more afforable selections; I can’t remember the name.

I am sad to hear about Clive. Maybe they will give Lisa her own show. She is pleasant to watch and has a great, yet practical, sense of design.

Lesley @ TheDesignFile April 6, 2011 at 11:47 am

I really liked the show too that had the high-end rooms made over with lower cost. I’d like to see that one come back.

Jenny April 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I also liked those shows. Heck, I like just about everything on HGTV.

Brenda Bays September 5, 2011 at 9:29 am

I am extremely disappointed to hear that Designed to Sell has been cancelled. Also to hear “Clivey” was let go. This was one of the more entertaining shows and informative even if it was staged. Now all you can see is House Hunters!! Who cares!! I don’t enjoy watching someone else buy a house and not only that but it plays for hours on end EVERY DAY! Im sick of it. The older shows were better and much more interesting. Bring them back, please!!

Neelie Noir March 6, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I agree! Enough with the House Hunters. Seems like they cancelled all the really good shows. And Clive Pearse was one of the most intelligent and witty hosts on that network. Another example of “not so bright” people acquiring power and misusing it. Maybe some of HGTV’s admistrators need to be cancelled.

Sandra March 10, 2012 at 11:55 am

Agreed, I would like to see shows on HGTV again that actually teach you something that you can use in your own homes. It seems that everyone on House Hunters is looking for champagne on a beer pocket book and expect to get it. The one thing I did like about Sandra Rinomato, having been a real estate broker myself, was that she tried to teach her “virgins” that they expect too much and what they can actually live with in their first home.

Deborah Hagen April 13, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Please bring back Designed to sell, and Curb appeal the block!!

Kim April 6, 2011 at 1:38 am

I’m not surprised or sad that most of “Designed to Sell” is staged. I always thought alot of the show seemed too good to be true. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the other shows are staged as well.

I don’t watch HGTV anymore because the shows have gotten really boring. Even “House Hunters” got boring. It got to the point where HGTV was so boring to watch, I found myself almost falling asleep. Occasionally I will check to see if there’s anything good on, but most of the time there’s not.

I wish they would bring some shows back. Like one of my favorites was “Designer’s Challenge.” I loved seeing the three different design ideas each interior designers came up with. Unfortunately they don’t air the show anymore.

belledame April 9, 2011 at 1:55 am

i agree. who watches two hours of “house hunters?” they used to be a must-watch network with solid nightly lineups and interesting shows. now it’s reruns and goofballs (genevieve, candice). “color splash” was great but i’m not loving the miami edition, and “secrets of a stylist…” meh. i loved style network’s “dress my nest” far better. it’s the same concept.

i suppose “design on a dime” has run it’s course, but it used to be a lot of fun. and there was the invaluable “find your style” with karen mcaloon. “rooms to go” with peter filiccio. and some of those more daring ones like “freestyle,” “get color!,” “double take,” “desperate spaces,” the original “my first place.” it just feels so over, especially since they refuse to post images from the makeovers on their site. there are a few for secrets “from a stylist” but there have never been any still shots for “color splash.” ridiculous! bromstad’s the best designer they have and yet all they offer is videos. i don’t need to make screencaps. i need a good of his work to add to my own files, study, admire and emulate.

Honey B. April 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I’m with you, I don’t watch HGTV all that much anymore. Nothing new! Which is really sad, because my husband and I bought a house last year and are up to our eyeballs in projects…I would love to be getting more inspiration!

Jane April 6, 2011 at 1:57 am

Thanks to Anon for providing the dish, and thanks to Julia for posting it for us. I love this kind of stuff! Even though I always figured that show was fairly scripted and set up, having duct-taping pillows and using friends and family as pretend “potential buyers’ is pretty pathetic. I usually disliked the things they did to the houses on DTS, especially their obsessive need to paint over any and all brick surfaces, but now I feel kind of bad for poor Clive. I always enjoyed him…not quite as much as I enjoyed watching the so-called hunky carpenters, such as Lynn-the-ginger-kid-Kegan or Greg-be still-my-heart-Plitt, but Clive was generally amusing.

Maaike Quinn @ Life with FlyLady April 6, 2011 at 2:29 am

I don’t know this TV show but we have a Dutch version that’s sort of the same I guess. But they don’t finish the ceilings and areas that wouldn’t show on camera!? Boy, that’s just stupid.

Teacup Lane April 6, 2011 at 4:00 am

I still watch the show and didn’t even realize that they were reruns and the show had been cancelled two years ago. That’s sad about the duct tape…really they couldn’t sew the pillowcases…come one! Even my Hubby knows Lisa. I will miss Clive, Lisa and Monica. They were the BEST! Now I like to watch John Gidding (Curb Appeal: The Block) and Scott (Income Property).

Luciane at Homebunch.com April 6, 2011 at 6:20 am

Hello Julia.

I’m LOVING this post. I’m a huge fan of HGTV and love many of their OLDER shows. I find the new ones a bit too “pushy”. They’re trying to be edgier, the shows feel more like a “reality Drama TV show” than actually a show about houses and design.

I used to love this show. Great insides!

Have a wonderful day!

xo

Luciane at HomeBunch.com

Jess @ Frugal with a Flourish April 6, 2011 at 6:29 am

I always wondered that about the people who came to the open house…. some of them always seemed to “resemble” the people on the show! Great recap and I am sad to see Clive go.

karen April 20, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I had always found it odd that the people who attend the open house when the project is complete never have any negative comments, even when the rooms are painted in garish colors. Now I know why.

Carrie April 6, 2011 at 6:32 am

I am not surprised that much of the show was staged especially after reading your post on House Hunters. I figure most shows are!! Having said that I still love Designed to Sell. My daughter does also. She cracks me up – She often makes comments about what Designed to Sell would say about certain things in our house!!!

Wanda Richey April 6, 2011 at 7:14 am

Loved Lisa and Clive… and the show was good… loved all the good ideals…thanks for posting this…

Vivian April 6, 2011 at 7:15 am

Funny, I was on Trading Spaces in it’s last year, and we really did everything – all the work, everything was completed, fully painted,fully sewn, etc. The production crew helped, but Edward (our designer) and Faber (our carpenter) worked their tails off. So did we.

Monica April 6, 2011 at 12:11 pm

That is so cool to hear…I used to watch Trading Spaces sometimes just to drool over Faber!!!

KonaKathie December 31, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Trading Spaces is a more “hands-on” experience for the homeowners, I don’t think you can compare it to the other makeover shows, where the people only do a little to help. Must’ve been fun, Vivian, but what did you think of the result? :)

Gina April 6, 2011 at 7:49 am

The thing that drives me crazy about these shows is that they do all of this for $2000??? That is correct for the supplies and materials but we all know labor is more than the cost of the materials so it’s all basically unrealistic unless you are totally qualified to do all of it yourself.

MissCaron April 6, 2011 at 7:49 am

Thanks so much for posting this. My sister worked for NBC and I can verify that almost EVERYTHING you watch that is “reality” television is not reality. That includes American Idol, folks. So, enjoy it for the entertainment but do not think for a second that anything you’re watching is real. :-)

Claire April 6, 2011 at 8:09 am

Ever since your “House Hunters” post I’ve been very suspicious of HGTV!!! I won’t really miss the show – I couldn’t stand the mother/daughter combo that did the initial walk-thru and bashed everything they could. They were definitely in it just to be on tv, they were awful.

I still like to watch certain shows (whether truthful or not) because I love to see inside the homes and get some ideas! Candice Olson will always be my favorite, though!

Gabbie April 6, 2011 at 8:38 am

Geez….I know that there’s a lot that goes on off camera but this sort of thing is really starting to tick me off. My opinion of HGTV continues to decline. I wonder how many other shows are faked…..

Jacqueline April 6, 2011 at 9:11 am

Womp, womp, wompppp! Duct taped pillows and unfinished painted rooms? FAIL for HGTV, which my fiance & I find ourselves watching quite often. I am 110% turned off by their lack of authenticity in shows like Property Virgins. (The host of Property Virgins comes off as condescending in all of those episodes. Anyone agree?) I liked Designed to Sell but after reading this article? Like I wrote earlier, “FAIL.” That network REALLY needs its own makeover and less cheesyness to it. I miss the old shows too, but I do like that young guy that looks half Asian and half Caucasian (that sometimes paints things for the homeowners). No, not for his looks – but because he seems to be genuine and I appreciate his creativity. Great post, Julie!

Gabbie April 6, 2011 at 9:32 am

Ooo…that woman who hosts Property Virgins is VERY irritating! AGREE!

Melissa April 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Hmmm…to each his/her own. I like her alot.

Carl September 2, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I love Sandra. I think a lot of these ‘property virgins’ need a wake up call. they don’t think owning a house will involve work or money. “oh, we’d have to do upkeep? that’s going to be an added expense”. No duh!! Some of them irritate the crap out of me which is why I love me some Sandra!!

Sandra March 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I agree Carl!!! She’s the only one that tries to bring these “virgins” down to earth.

Jacqueline April 6, 2011 at 9:11 am

Womp, womp, wompppp! Duct taped pillows and unfinished painted rooms? FAIL for HGTV, which my fiance & I find ourselves watching quite often. I am 110% turned off by their lack of authenticity in shows like Property Virgins. (The host of Property Virgins comes off as condescending in all of those episodes. Anyone agree?) I liked Designed to Sell but after reading this article? Like I wrote earlier, “FAIL.” That network REALLY needs its own makeover and less cheesyness to it. I miss the old shows too, but I do like that young guy that looks half Asian and half Caucasian (that sometimes paints things for the homeowners). No, not for his looks – but because he seems to be genuine and I appreciate his creativity. Great post, Julie!

Kerry April 6, 2011 at 9:14 am

I love to watch this show – expecially since my house is currently on the market. I can imagine that most of it was staged but it is still a great way to get inexpensive design ideas for all of us DIYers out there!

Jenny@Evolution of Style April 6, 2011 at 9:34 am

Thanks for this post Julia. I always liked watching Designed to Sell, and will be sad to see it (and Clive) go. I also liked Michael (can’t remember his last name) who hosted the Chicago area DTS with Monica Pedersen (love her too). I figured there was a certain amount of “staging” in these shows, but didn’t expect it to be to the degree you described! Although now I’m wondering how “real” some of the carpenters are, since carpenter Greg Plitt was on that “Work Out” show with Jackie Warner before I ever saw him on DTS…

Gabbie April 6, 2011 at 9:35 am

More and more I find myself watching shows like the Victory Garden and other “home and garden” shows on PBS. They may not be as slick and fast paced as HGTV shows but I find that they have more real information (like plant species names) for homeowners who actually just want to improve their homes.

Arlene April 6, 2011 at 9:50 am

I’ve stopped, for the most part, watching HGTV at all anymore. It’s only about buying and selling homes anymore, and even those shows are so old, you can tell by the prices. In this market, those homes would never get those prices anymore. Whats worse, its even gone international now. Really? You are looking for a home with a price tag of 2 million? This is not real, not in todays market, anyway. I miss the old shows, the ones that taught you to decorate, to build, to landscape your yard. That is gone, sadly. HGTV should just rename themselves to the Real Estate Channel.

Heather April 6, 2011 at 9:56 am

We don’t have cable, so I’ve only caught a few episodes when I’ve been on vacation or traveling for business (read: hotel rooms with cable). I’ve ALWAYS thought Designed to Sell and House Hunters seemed incredibly fake. I’m really not surprised to hear any of this.

hip hip gin gin April 6, 2011 at 9:57 am

Hmm. I love to find out behind the scenes info like this, but I have to say every time I find out that something isn’t as shown it ruins the show for me a bit. Which is weird because movies don’t get ruined for me just because I know that they did most of it with green screen and cgi (which they do for my mom, she will literally plug her ears if you start talking about movie special effects, if she knows how they did it she can’t enjoy the movie). I think the difference is movies aren’t pretending that it is real, and shows like this are. I mean unfinished paint and duct taped pillows? And fake open house people? That is the worst actually, how am I supposed to believe that buyers really liked or cared about the “improvements” they made when they are not real buyers. Oy.

Pat April 6, 2011 at 10:01 am

While watching these shows, I expect that they are staged, that’s how TV works. The degree to which they are staged is the issue, and I guess that doesn’t even bother me too much. I’m just entertained while getting some decorating tips. Over all, I think HGTV could use a total make-over, it’s gotten stale and boring.
There are some programs which I believe are on DIY that I enjoy. Renovations Realities, Rehab Addict, and a few others.
I do enjoy Selling NY on HGTV, very interesitng in a “fairy tale” kind of way!
Thanks Anon for a very interesting contribution…loved reading it!

Nicole Mulvany April 6, 2011 at 10:42 am

As much as I watch these shows I don’t think I would ever be on one. The only person I’d let in my door is Nate or Oprah. They seem like they get things done!
The rest of these shows seem so incomplete sometimes. I know the work has to be shoddy if you see in person.
If I was ever on Trading Spaces back in the day I would have refused the minute I saw Hildy coming up the driveway. :)

Amanda @ House Revivals April 6, 2011 at 11:15 am

I loved the show — especially Monica and Lisa, but expected much of it was staged, and that they had a crew to help with projects.

As a designer, the thing that frustrated me was when potential clients would have this unrealistic expectation of the cost of improvements, based on television shows. So many times, we would have to explain that the people we hired to provide labor were real people, with real families and real mortgages, and that their time and energy had real value.

Lesley @ TheDesignFile April 6, 2011 at 11:51 am

I’ve always assumed parts of the show were fake, but I’m a little surprised to learn the extent to which things weren’t done – especially not finishing the painting because the area wouldn’t be shown on TV. That’s just a bummer.

Great post!

Lisa April 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

I totally believe that a lot of what is seen on tv is staged. You really cant get reality unless its a home movie. What really annoys me though is to do a subpar makeover (ie: duct tape and less paint paint)and leaving it for the home owner. It takes no more time to finish painting around a ceiling fixture or to use a sewing machine to finish a pillow. If you are going to do the job do it right the first time. This leaves them looking bad and will have me watching less. I miss the old shows too! Matt and Sheri and Joan Steffand to name a few.

Peggy April 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm

KRG – I loved those shows. There were two of replica of a high end designer shows. One (the first) was Sensible Chic. I adored that show, and then they canceled it and did another spin off of it called Double Take. SC was much better than DT but I loved those ideas of how to replicate a room that I see in a magazine. I also loved Get Color, Designing for the Sexes, and other canceled shows. They actually showed you how to do something from how to choose colors or compromise on designs with your spouse, or realistically recreate a room that would have cost the price of your whole house.

Monica April 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I have to agree with all the comments about how HGTV needs to redesign itself! I used to LOVE this channel…now, I only watch Sat and Sun mornings to catch the “Crashers” shows (House Crashers, Yard Crashers) and DIY Disaster. Then, when possible, Sat afternoon or evenings for Curb Appeal: The Block, Candice Tells All and Color Splash. ALL of the real estate shows bore me to bits so I never tune in at all during the week.

At one time, the only reason I wanted cable was for HGTV. So not worth it now…and even less so without Designed to Sell and Clive!!!

Handy Man, Crafty Woman April 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I agree with the commenters above that said that HGTV needs a makeover!!! All the real estate shows HAVE to go!! a few of them can stay, but PLEASE bring back more design/makeover shows!

I never do this, but I think I’m going to shoot them an email, actually…I used to love HGTV. It was always my “default” channel, when there was nothing on other channels. Now? there’s really NOTHING I love to watch on it any more. sad!

marta April 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm

How fun! It really is like having a back stage pass!

Is it me or should HGTV have a hookedonhouses show? :)

Thanks so much Julia!

msmellie April 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Yes, HGTV needs a makeover! It used to be my default channel, too. I agree with whoever above said they’ve started turning to PBS home/garden shows because they have more actual information.

That said, I do love “Selling New York” for the eye candy,”Cash and Cari” for the antiques, and I look forward to Emily Henderson’s (the most recent Design Star winner) new show, “Secrets from a Stylist.” She doesn’t look like she came off the female show host assembly line, and she has a fun personality. (Her show is sort of like the quirky offspring of “Designing for the Sexes.”)

david April 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm

They did a house in my subdivision. I never saw the show but went to an open house-it was on the market for ages. When it did finally sell it went back on the market in short order. Everything looked hastily done and rather simple makeover style-no substance. The design ideas had a California feel also which were not appropriate for Atlanta.

sarah April 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm

I always wondered about that show. Thanks for spilling! I love your website.

Barbara April 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I much prefer the “staged” aspects of the early HGTV shows to today’s “reality” programs. There’s nothing about a couple of amateur home DIY-ers that inspires me, particularly with all the Capital D r a m a. Give me the pros and their ability to make it look do-able!!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy... April 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Oh my! Not duct tape? Thanks for the dish and details.

ljb April 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Goes to prove that there is no reality.

The English Organizer April 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Hmmm, not totally surprised to hear that everything in TV land is not quite as it seems… to leave the owners with unfinished paint jobs seems pretty lame to me ;(

Debbi from @ the beach April 6, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Very interesting! I’ve watched many episodes! I get sucked right in to see the reveal. Nice to know the inside scoop. Thanks for sharing.
Debbi from @ the beach

Tanja @ Postmodern Hostess April 6, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Thank you for this post! I have to say, none of this is surprising, as it always seemed as though things on the show were done in a pretty rushed fashion. But I did always enjoy it, especially the Lisa and Clive crew in LA, and I’m sad to see Clive exit. He was the only funny person on HGTV!

ShabbyChick April 6, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I never have liked shows like this. Probably my biggest pet peeve show was ‘Trading Spaces’ with a bunch of rookies pretending to be designers. Some of the garbage they passed off as “design” was ridiculous and insulting to actual designers. Lisa LaPorta is a great designer, though. It’s not her fault HGTV is such a low budget poser.

Michelle Minch, Moving Mountains Design April 6, 2011 at 10:38 pm

As a professional home stager, I grateful for shows like “Designed To Sell” because it gave home staging recognition and respectability. I’m not sad to see it go, however, because of the unrealistic expectations it created about how much home staging costs. The budget was publicized as $2,000 and they did say that labor was not included, but for some reason people remember the $2,000 but not the free labor. I’m glad to see your “expose'” of what went on behind the scenes. It lends even more credence to the belief that you get what you pay for.

jennie w. April 6, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Every time I’ve sold a house I just wished like crazy that Lisa and Clive could have helped me out. Getting a house ready to sell is torture!

Wayward April 7, 2011 at 2:04 am

Thanks for the dish. I never really believed Clive or Lisa put a lot of elbow grease int to the Designed to Sell projects themselves. But duct tape? wow.

I’m with Arlene—I hardly watch HGTV; all of my favorite shows are gone and I quickly tired of all the “house hunter” spin offs.

Alisha April 7, 2011 at 9:26 am

I always had a hunch other people were doing the work…the host is shown painting and moving furniture, but she’s wearing really nice clothes and never gets sweaty…

How disappointing about the duct taped pillows and unfinished paint though!. That’s one thing that always drives me crazy about these types of shows, you can tell a lot of the work is “surface work” and if you really came into the house and looked up close, the quality is probably pretty poor.

Decor Girl April 7, 2011 at 9:34 am

Thanks for printing this! This is the reality people need to hear. While the stuff they do on these shows looks good… the items aren’t always made to withstand daily living. I don’t know anyone who would go for duct taped pillows. While they often have fantastic ideas the real costs of producing a lasting end result is much higher than doing it for the camera.

The thing to remember is these are often just paid actors not real design people. Remember Paige from Trading Spaces? Well she was just as believable when I saw her in a play on Broadway.

Tina August 24, 2011 at 5:02 pm

That is true about the actors….but Paige wasn’t a designer but the host of the show so her as an example does not count.

Susan April 7, 2011 at 9:45 am

While I always knew that much of the show was staged, I still enjoyed it and have enjoyed watching the reruns. Clive was great and I always enjoyed his banter with little kids. Great post!

Love,
Susan and Bentley
xxoo

Kristin@Kristin Drohan Interior Design April 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

HGTV does need a refresh. They have created such a false illusion of the interior design business on almost all of their shows. I wonder how they stage Bang for Your Buck? I want to host a show that takes a photo from a shelter magazines and tells the truth about the cost and execution. You think that concept will get picked up? Not!

Kelly, Arte Styling April 7, 2011 at 10:32 am

I think it’s so interesting that the person who wrote in wanted to be anonymous. What’s going to happen? Are the HGTV police going to come after them?

Regardless, this is another great post on what *really* happens behind the scenes on these makeover shows. I know about this part far too well:

“Most of the work is done by people off camera. We had moments where we filmed scenes with the show designer and carpenters, but once our little bit of filming was done, the rest of the work was done by production crew.”

And the bit about the duct tape made me laugh. I mentioned this before, but one HGTV show I worked on awhile back had a $1000 budget per home. (There were 3 homes re-designed.) Well, $1000 doesn’t go very far. Not surprisingly, we went over budget styling the space. At the end of filming us behind-the-scenes designers had to sit down with the homeowners and tell them they had to pick their favorite items because the rest of the stuff needed to be returned. I’ll never forget how shocked and sad they were as we disassembled their living room piece by piece.

Anon April 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

No, I don’t think the “HGTV police” are coming after us, but despite the eye-opening behind-the-scenes details we learned, we are still appreciative of the whole experience and even became friends with some of the crew. I didn’t want to completely bash the show, but I thought people might find it interesting to see what really goes on. :)

Dale Bryant April 7, 2011 at 11:19 am

I was in the furniture buiness for nearly 30 years in Cal., the “cost” of the remake never fooled me and of course the work they did HAD to take longer – paint does not even dry that fast, let alone plaster! As for the duct tape, it is the sort of thing we used to use for window display and model and showcase homes. But, the ideas were often good, which is why I watched.

cbean April 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Thanks, Julia. You always have something interesting for us to chat about.

IMO: HGTV is totally out of touch. Is it because the folks who produce the programs are like 20-somethings with no understanding of real life and what people are actually dealing with these days? Or do they think that by showing fantasy it makes us feel better in some way?

I’d love to see programs by/about folks who do backyard gardens, who can, who conserve (without being over the top ‘green’ about it). I’d like to see programs about people who re-hab or rescue affordable houses and make them homes.

For those, and other, reasons, HGTV is very low on my ‘to watch’ list these days. It’s a shame, because they were enjoyable in the beginning.

Susan April 7, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Julia, this is wild! I had no idea they faked the “interested” buyers at the end. I don’t think I’d be too happy about only the areas on camera being painted. Crazy!

Jodi from New Jersey April 8, 2011 at 5:49 am

Wow. Great post. I love that show,they always make everything look so simple. You proved my point , though. I say any house can be staged, primped, set up to look good at any time, especially with pros at your fingertips. Most houses are lived in and regular, & that’s what home means to me! Thanks Julia…

Marie from Wisconsin April 9, 2011 at 11:51 am

What about Tanya? I love her and Lisa and Clive was a doll!!! I will miss these showes. Candace is awesome and the House, Yard and Bath Crashers are awesome!! Sabrina Desoto is also great and the show about improving the Block is great and Antonio Treatment is just plain fun.
Please keep these shows on.
I dislike House Hunters International and Selling New York. Who cares about these rich people–no one. It is the middle class who watch, enjoy, and get ideas from your shows. We can’t afford to go there, or buy that so we really don’t care to watch how the rich live.
And house hunters: Husband, wife, two kids and a dog and we need 4-5 bedrooms,
3-4 bathrooms, a play room, a family room etc etc etc. Just plain ridiculous.
Please keep HGTV real and down to earth for the average, middle class TV watchers: your main viewing audience.
I LOVE HGTV

Farmeress August 2, 2011 at 11:53 am

sampling a variety of lifestyles tickles the imagination and spawns creative “nesting” ideas for many folk whether from the more modest income person seeing just the right wall color paint in a NYC apartment, or a well to do eye finding warmth needed in a modest bungalow arrangement. To suppose the only others watching are those exactly sharing our particular economics or tastes alone, is a huge supposition. Also HGTV House Hunters is a composite of people movng up, downsizing, mobile (transfers) families & the international show a great way for people to become familiar with trends in other countries. Keeping an open mind and eye, expands anyone willing to sample new ideas. Less open, boxes us into corners. Many good choices on HGTV and just ignore your least favorite…..maybe someone else’s cup-a-tea!

BungalowBILL April 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm

One of those type of shows on another network contacted me. They wanted about $7000 in antique tiles plus shipping donated to the show/family. I would receive no on air mention or product airtime ( That’s saved for the BIG sponsors). I would get my business on their list of product sources on their website but no clickable link, since that too is saved for the big sponsors. I had to say thank you for thinking of me but I can’t afford it.

hookedonhouses April 10, 2011 at 9:09 am

That’s crazy! I can’t believe they get anyone to donate materials under those circumstances. I don’t understand why they couldn’t add all donors to the credits and give them links.

Pink Overalls April 10, 2011 at 10:37 am

HGTV execs, hello, are ya listening?

They give real estate, interior design, staging, and television a bad name.

I can’t help but think they have no budget to do good tv. Why else would they choose to produce such trashy shows? HGTV used to be good. Now there are just a few shows worth watching, and the rest are so annoying I can’t work those remote buttons fast enough.

Clive was too good for Designed to Sell. Lisa is talented and deserves better, too. My theory is they weren’t considered sexy enough. You know, like barefoot Genevie, gorgeous Candice (whom I love), perky Sabrina, muscular Colorsplash David, and the hunky John curb appeal the block (who I hear used to model for romance novel covers).

My daughter was on Trading Spaces. The screening process is very thorough. They look for people with telegenic personalities. Alot of the work was done by behind-the-scenes professionals, but she had to do the painting. Everything was shoddy and looked terrible up close. The good part was when it was time to sell the house, she advertised that the bedroom was designed by Trading Spaces, and that impressed people.

I had to laugh when Nicole said she would run if she saw Hildy coming up the driveway because Hildy was my daughter’s designated designer. Actually she was a champ, and fortunately did not give my daughter straw walls the way she did someone else. She actually works, and wears high heels the whole time.

Isn’t it peculiar that no one ever gets paint or dirt on their pretty clothes even though they are doing messy work? Hmmm.

Thank you for the chance to let us all vent, Julia.

Nathan April 10, 2011 at 10:33 pm

While I’m not sure I completely believe all of this article, I wouldn’t be surprised. I do wonder though, why HGTV or the shows producers would specifically tell this couple that their show was the second last show that would ever be filmed?

Anon April 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Because we became close with the production crew while they were in our house for a week, and some of our discussions revolved around how they were looking for new jobs since they only had one more makeover to do for the show after ours. And yes, the entire article is true.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy... April 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Now every time I watch HGTV, I think of this article :)

CruiseQueen April 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm

A friend’s house was featured on “Sell This House” a similar show with Tanya and Roger. And what Anon describes is true. I was invited to be part of the open house–and they told us exactly what to say so they could justify focusing on what they saw as “problem areas”. I was never so disappointed. It was like going to Oz and seeing The Wizard behind the curtain.

jen April 19, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Clive Pearse made that show horrible and the new host does as well. Being so over the top just does not make for an enjoyable show. I do love to know, however, that some of the things are a sham like the appear to be on TV.

Ted April 20, 2011 at 1:11 am

I watched Designed To Sell quite a bit despite the fact that I couldn’t stomach Clive. I even wrote HGTV after the first few episodes, telling whomever that I found “Clivey” to be insufferable.

Now, aside from House Hunters (which is a shadow of its former self) I watch nothing on HGTV. It’s godawful. I want to see remodeling and gardening techniques, but what we get now is basically the same show each half hour with different plug-in hosts.

melissa*320 sycamore April 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I actually loved Designed to Sell~both Lisa and Clive but I had no idea it was all fake! Crazy. I would love Lisa to do her own show…she had some great ideas (if they were her ideas???)

Lindsay Ross June 4, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Well, that kind of lets the air of my love for Designed to Sell : P I love Lisa LaPorta though! I like her better than Taniya Nayak.

Sam July 19, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Let me see…two full bathroom renovations and minor adjustments to a bedroom for $2000. Yep. That’s certainly realistic. How could anyone believe that was the real deal?

We watch the show, Designed to Sell, for ideas.

The best crew, was Chad and Robert in Chicago.

Sell This House (AETV) and Get It Sold are more in the real world of staging and fixing up for selling, even though Roger Hazard gets a bit weird at times.

The all time best “host” and reason to watch any of the show is the lovely and lubricious Tanya Memme. Oh my, what a babe.

Sue Olson July 29, 2011 at 12:05 am

I was without television for several months and hardly recognize HGTV as one of my favorite stations. The only show I have seen recently that I choose to watch is Homes on Homes. Theatrics aside, it is educational.

Angie August 4, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I just watched an episode of Property Virgins and caught a blunder that proved it was fake too. The couple met Sandra at a restaurant and they were sitting in a booth with a family sitting in the next booth right behind Sandra. The close up shots of Sandra talking showed the family sitting there, but when they cut to the more distant shot the booth behind her was empty and she was still having the same conversation with the couple. I was kind of disappointed when I saw that too. I always thought there was behind the scenes action that we never see, but I never thought there was so much fakeness!!!

Monterey August 10, 2011 at 3:09 am

Just discovered this show! It’s my favorite! So sad to hear it will be no more.

LA January 2, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I love this show and wish it hadn’t been cancelled. It was the most entertaining show on HGTV, I don’t watch nearly as much as I used to. Sabrina Soto’s shows ‘Get It Sold’ and ‘The High Low Project’ are good. I also miss Candice Olson. The newbies do not decorate as beautifully. I wish Designed To Sell would come back, they worked miracles, especially Lisa and John Gidding.

Jai January 3, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Does anyone remember the name of the tall slender, blonde host/designer that used to decorate the dream home and be on hgtv before monica pedersen? They resembled each other a lot! (p.s. it was not candace olsen). Please reply, this is bugging me. :)

Terri January 10, 2012 at 10:50 pm

That’s too bad! I wondered what happend to that show. It use to be my favorite. Lisa can come decorate my house anytime! Such talent. I miss the old shows like everyone else and watch the DIY network more now. What happened to property shop? I also miss Joan Steffand…she used to anchor the news here in Minneapolis. Her show was fun.

hookedonhouses January 11, 2012 at 9:00 am

Interesting that Joan Steffand used to be a news anchor. Didn’t know that! Also don’t know what happened to “Property Shop.” I saw they were airing repeats of it recently but I haven’t seen a new episode in at least a year. Must have canceled it.

Terri January 11, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Yeah, Joan left the news to do Decorating Cents. Not sure what she’s doing now though.

rocky February 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm

designed to sell was worth watching just for the possibility of seeing sometime carpenter Greg Plitt. Best body on tv!

cassaundra March 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm

This info brings a tear to my eye. I truly loved Clive and Lisa. I enjoyed the end results and the people coming through at the open house. Are all of the shows gone, the one with Taniya Nyack, Monica Pederson, etc – Hey, what happened to Robert and Michael, and the red-headed british guy with TaniYa?? These people were mainstays in my TV diet. Perhaps I’d better go out and smell the roses now that my shows are changing so much on HGTV and I didn’t win the house in Utah either. BOOOO!! Loll SMH

JackieGee March 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Has HGTV gotten too cheap to produce real design shows? I agree with the comments about how tacky and repetitive some of the programs have become. I loved Designed to Sell: The Block, Dream Drives, Kenneth ReDesign, Miles of Style and all the other real design shows. I learned something. With the exception of Candace and Genevieve, most of the designers are no better than what I could get at any Home Depot.

Nancy W. May 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm

The “new look” of hgtv is sad. Whoever decided these changes is totally out of touch with your loyal viewers! I rarely watch now after it, hgtv, was my basically only channel. You did NOT raise the bar, you DROPPED THE BAR! Get Sandra, Clive, Lisa, etc., ALL our oldies, Back, Now, please! Meanwhile, DROP house huhunters! Is anyone at HGTV even listening??

Claudia Weisz June 4, 2012 at 10:35 am

It is nice to read the above opinions, many of which gel with mine about HGTV:
RE: House Hunters: I have always been incredulous that anyone could enjoy watching someone else buy a house. Ho-Hum. And the buyers seem so spoiled…to good to start out with a modest home, they all want granite. Not just boring, but irritating as well.
I’m sad to see Ahmed has left Yard Crashers. His energy, personality (and ego) really made the show entertaining. Candice? A real classy act, and I learned good design techniques. Designed to Sell taught us all that some very basic improvements could raise the value of our homes, not to mention our enjoyment. Plus, Lisa and Clive were always delightful to watch. Of course it was staged, and of course we lamented that few of us have such great free labor. But I think it was a valuable educational show, nonetheless.
I, too enjoy shows that educate us and wish there could be more depth to the information given on the shows. It is always fun to see a garden or house go from dump to delightful. It would be nice if they could dump House Hunters for something more information and idea-rich.
I like Sabrina’s new show that is similar to that great classic show where the expensive designer room was re-done in a middle-class-friendly design. (Something Chic?_ It would be interesting to see a garden program with a similar theme.

Angela June 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm

My husband and I were on “Designed to Sell” – Chicago about 5-6 years ago. It was a good experience; I wouldn’t necessarily do it again, as there were some down sides: As others have mentioned, the designers and carpenters do what looks good on TV, not necessarily in person; no duct tape in my house, but they did paint some furniture and um.. it wasn’t pretty. They had great design ideas, but everything is about budget, interest to the viewer, and time frame – not necessarily what really makes ‘sense’ to do. I was sad to find out the show was cancelled (I too, no longer make HGTV a must see in my house), but picked up some good pointers from the show.

Benjamin June 14, 2012 at 7:24 pm

As an Interior Designer, I’ve alway thought this show did a disservice to the design community. A 2,000 budget is minimal, and I’ve had to explain to people that the amount didn’t include labor, and more importantly the work is for the camera. In person it most likely looked bad, and after the cameras were packed up the client would have to complete the job, or even have it ripped out and redone. While some of the design ideals were clever, it was obvious that they were not executed well. Duct tape! Production of true design shows has become a rarity on HGTV which is quite unfortunate because a well designed room is much more interesting that staged portions of a room.

Bravo on your blog, its a great read! If it weren’t for the national news coverage that your blog has gotten over the revelation that “House Hunters” was faked, I would have never found you!

Vicky June 15, 2012 at 1:43 am

I love HGTV, but I hate House Hunters. I get to watch those sometimes because my husband loves it. It doesn’t bother me anything staged on those shows as I’m in more for the information and ideas, and sometimes it can be nice to see different houses in different places. What really irritates me are the dialogues in those shows, the majority of buyers talk like a bunch of mentally retards, now they might have an excuse for that.

In any case, I prefer to watch HGTV early mornings and afternoons. DIY Network is being a lot better than HGTV nowadays.

Brandi June 15, 2012 at 10:40 am

How funny that I was reading this now, I decided to check to see what was on HGTV and it was Karen’s episode of DTS!!!

Lisette June 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Everyone must know that these shows are scripted, there are no real reality shows, with that said, I love HGTV its on at my house all the time, I love looking a the houses and getting decorating ideas. I’m sorry Designed to Sell was canceled, I loved watching Clive and Lisa, I like Sabrina Soto also. Oh well all good things come to an end

Jan Oswalt August 7, 2012 at 11:05 am

I, too, am disappointed in the programing of HGTV. It seems to be flooded with real estate programs. Please bring back some learning and entertaining programs such as Kitty Bartholemew, Joan Steffond, Mark & Sheri, Lisa LaPorta, and the list goes on and on. I rarely watch HGTV now and it used to be my favorite. Please listen to your viewers and revamp. Also, the Garden Guy and very entertaining and informative.

Vickie September 19, 2012 at 10:54 am

I sooooo wish that HGTV would really listen to their veiwers!! I think they should rename HGTV to HHTV! House hunters needs to go!!! I was glad to hear that there are ALOT of viewers out there that feel the same way i do. I to have stopped watching HGTV because they no longer have actual design and makeover shows anymore. I love Candice and David and their shows, but we need more. I loved all the design ideas that I use to get from watching the old shows. I truely dont care if they are staged because If they give me an idea, i can take it and tweek it a little and make it work for me in my home.

Annie September 26, 2012 at 11:33 am

I loved Clive Pearse and Lisa La Porta on Designed to sell. I hate when they cancel popular shows. I also love Income Property, Property Brothers and High-Low projects among others. HCTV is my favorite channel on TV!

Dana November 12, 2012 at 11:22 am

Speaking of staged shows… has anyone seen Love It or List It? Worst one I have seen. I change channels when it comes on. There is always the “choosing sides” and the other person hating the host they are not supporting. Then there is always disagreement and drama, and one person never likes the properties shown and the other is unhappy with the changes made to the house. Also, there is ALWAYS something wrong with the house that will cost money to fix. Do they just choose houses like that? And then the dreaded camera peering out the window while the houseowners argue. Okay enough ranting.

On a more pleasant note, I am in love with DesignStars.

roberta July 23, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I totally agree with Dana. The format is always the same and it’s boring!

Skye January 17, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I was on a segment of a reunion show last year (military hubby surprises his wife) and it too was totally staged. They went through quite a few takes before they were satisfied with the amount of enthusiasm shown for the camera. Yep, “reality” tv is malarkey. Don’t believe a bit of it! I like watching the designing shows for ideas, but I don’t see why they can’t just be straight up and allow truth to be entertaining as well as giving us some tips.

dermatend® the original reviews April 25, 2013 at 9:14 am

Thanks for this; I’m officially a huge fan of your blog.

Magnolia Girl April 27, 2013 at 12:48 am

What is going on at HGTV? I used to watch it all the time but now it’s all House Hunters or old shows. It is disappointing-I miss all the great ideas.

Michele April 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm

THe Love Or List It stuff was appalling, but this wasn’t bad at all. I’m an actress. This is how tv has to work because of the budget, time restraints & extras that aren’t comfortable in front of a camera. They only have small amount of time to get your house completed & they don’t know what order the episodes are going to be in. It would be boring to have the same styles & rooms over & over in a season so they vary it, meaning sometimes they don’t air for a while. They have to set up those camera points in order for the audience to learn from the show. Of course they use more crew. The head designer is just that, the designer. The others help implement. That’s how the design world works in real life. You really think 1 designer & 1 carpenter can get your house done in the average 4 days to 3 weeks time & budget limits? The only reason they don’t show them is cuz they’d have to pay them more & they’d have to sign a release. Not everyone wants to be on camera. The fact that this lady got on the show before it was on the market means 1 thing: She lied in her application &/or they didn’t mind because they knew she was planning on selling it & they knew they might not air her show for a while. They filmed 2 endings for accuracy so they can call closer to the air date to get an update to know which ending to air. They don’t have the time or budget to come back & reshoot. Also the stuff they don’t finish, they send a crew back to ur house later to finish it. She got a free home makeover that helped her sell her house. She sounds ungrateful. Honestly, I’d check your contract. Giving away that info might be violating it.

roberta July 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Love the shows on HGTV. I am curious: why does every buyer want the same things: “open concept, granite counter tops, chrome appliances, and wooden floors? Isn’t there a soul out there that likes carpet?

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