I wouldn’t have done this if it weren’t for my sister Ann Cantwell who let me know that the show was seeking more applicants. Following through on this, Maggie and I applied with very little assurance we would actually see this journey come to fruition. We’re glad it did even though the application process was labour-intensive (thanks Mag!). Various Skype interviews, multiple applications and arduous paperwork almost caused us to give up.
Though incredibly gruelling, the show highlighted the once in a lifetime experience of buying our first home together. I’ve always felt that home ownership lies at the heart of my American dream and is something I’ve always been keen on conquering during this life. While its reverence is based in America, we filmed five twelve hour days documenting the process of purchasing our first home in Sheffield, England.
I’ve always kind of assumed that reality television was a bit of a joke. How hard can it be? Just act normal and let the cameras capture as we go through the process. Wrong—totally wrong. Speaking with the director, he readily admitted that the House Hunters franchise is actually one of the most reality-based reality television shows on the market today. Given how much acting it felt like we did, I can’t imagine how much acting is required for other reality TV shows like Jersey Shore and Keeping up with the Kardashians.
We’ve already bought the house!
I moved to Sheffield on November 11, 2014. After renting for around a year, we decided to house hunt and ended up buying our home in January of 2016. The decision to purchase was multifaceted—the freedom to make a space our own, to allow our dog Wilson to have his own yard (Landlords aren’t fond of furry) and to allow ourselves more expendable income to take advantage of travelling around Europe. So yes, we were re-enacting the experience and no we did not buy another home!
The other houses aren’t necessarily for sale!
In our case, the two other homes we viewed were actually AirBnB’s. If you’re a true House Hunters aficionado, you might be able to notice that some homes are filmed with more details like books on the shelves, pieces of artwork, etc. If you see this in an episode, it’s a really good indicator that the home isn’t the one they choose. In our case, the crew hired a professional moving team to remove everything from our house that would give the audience any indication that our house was actually ours. Also, the film crew was really strict about any logos/artwork/photos that we didn’t have express written permission to film on the show. This can get annoying at times, particularly when the “reveal” scene happens and there is barely any difference since we can’t show our beautiful Ikea, mass-produced pieces of art.
“Rinse and repeat!”
I took a few acting classes in school that clearly failed me. Acting normal doesn’t give the director what the audience wants. It doesn’t follow the narrative they are working to build. The director would ask us questions like, “how do you feel about the living room in this house?” Apparently, trying to answer as honestly as possible isn’t always the best for television. We would reply with something generic like “I love how spacious the living room is. The bay windows allow plenty of natural light and I love the detailed moulding around the ceiling.” This would prompt the director to say “okay, that was great but give me a little more energy this time.” The ability to recount exactly what you’ve said while simultaneously focusing on bringing more authentic energy to an answer while avoiding the temptation to acknowledge the cameras around you is difficult if you haven’t done it! Each day this becomes more and more difficult—it doesn’t get easier.
Patience is a virtue you must exhibit.
Everyone on-set has an ego. I’ll be the first to admit when we received our initial briefing, the fact that we were listed as “The Talent” gave me a little extra pep in my step. That being said, sometimes things can get a little bit tense on set when ego’s clash or collide. Sometimes a sound-man will try to give the director advice. Sometimes “The Talent” might just need a quick cleansing breath to recuperate and refocus before reshooting the same sequences of descriptive sentences again. If you’re thinking about applying for House Hunters, know that Day 4 is the most difficult when it comes to keeping your composure.
You are required to wear the same outfit multiple days. It’s impossible to film multiple homes in the same day. Too much rinse and repeat and OTF (on the fly) interviews to do. Thus, the outfit you wore from Day 1 needs to be worn on Day 2 and Day 3 since the show needs to depict a sequence of same-day house viewings with your realtor. How good was Oz?!
One of the biggest perks of doing House Hunters is the fact that you actually get paid! Truth be told, it’s not that much but it’s certainly better than nothing. $1500 will be tucked away into our savings and what’s even nicer is that there was a dedicated person on-set who would constantly fetch coffee/tea for the cast and crew. Every day we had lunch paid for! However, if you want a beer or a glass of wine with lunch, expect to pay for this on your own tab.
Your story becomes theirs.
Maggie and I got engaged during a tandem sea kayaking trip to Mallorca—I proposed in the Blue Cave. When we initially moved to Sheffield from Boston, Maggie agreed to put her career in law on hold and seize the opportunity of living in Europe. She took a leap of faith as we weren’t engaged at the time. The show was eager to highlight this since but wanted to make the engagement a little more dramatic and tie in the reason for the move—a job in figure skating. So, while filming in the blade factory, it was decided that we get a shot of a blade being etched “Will You Marry Me”. This ended up getting tied into the engagement story told during the “reveal.” The truth was stretched, but to be honest, it didn’t bother me too much, it’s all in good fun!
You’re not acting anymore…
When you finally re-enter society after shooting for five days straight prepare yourself to give every question you’re asked a nice House Hunters-style answer.
“Tom, what do you want to do about China?”
“Well Liam, I’m glad you asked about the Chinese market. I really feel like we have some great momentum and all we have to do moving forward is tackle the market with some good old fashioned DIY.”
Don’t go on Twitter after it airs.
Plenty of ruthless House Hunters critics out there who can be pretty nasty. Avoiding Twitter is your best bet to ignore “haters” who didn’t take kindly to me dropping a “YOLO.” In their defence, many of these critics are consistent in their odium of the show and the hunters. Ironically, they continue to give the show the attention it deserves!
Don’t do it for fame/money.
I would recommend applying for House Hunters if you’re seeking a method of memorializing a major moment in your life. Although your LinkedIn profile views will likely increase by over +60,000%, this can’t be your primary motivator. Go into it knowing that you’ll be challenged and tested mentally, physically and emotionally. As long as you do it for the right reasons, it will go smoothly. There’s a strange sense of satisfaction knowing that when our time comes to an end, there will be a piece of us that’s left somewhere on the internet for loved ones to remember us by.
And that hereby concludes our 22 minutes of “fame.”