Chandler Ellman, 25, and Kurt Bondan, 26, are looking for a single-family, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in the South Bay with hardwood floors, a garage with a work space and an open-floor plan before they get married in March. Bondan is handy around the house, so they’re open to buying a fixer-upper.
While going through the process of buying their first home the pair will star in an episode of the HGTV channel’s show “House Hunters” March 11. Between laughs and logic, they choose between three South Bay homes. Their local real estate agent, Risa Myers, from RE/MAX, leads them through houses in South Redondo, Manhattan Beach and North Redondo in the hopes of finding the perfect place.
“She applied for us to be on the show,” says Ellman. “We were really surprised by it!”
First-time home buyers like Ellman and Bondan made up 39 percent of all buyers in 2012, according to the National Association of Realtors. Survey averages over the years show that four out of ten home buyers are looking for their first home. Married couples make up 65 percent of all home buyers, with a median age of 31, according to the realtor association.
Ellman and Bondan currently live in El Segundo with a roommate, so they both want to have their own home together. Ellman is from the beach area and would like to be closer to the ocean. They already looked at houses in Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and Hawthorne with Myers, but she narrowed it down to three she thinks the pair will like.
“It really is real life,” says Ellman.
In a slice of reality TV life, the couple and crew scurried around the property throughout the third production day at the third house. Myers mostly stood in the front yard of the small one-story fixer-upper in North Redondo with a video camera pointed at herself and white reflectors bouncing light onto her face, making her look almost supernatural.
Shooting one 10-minute House Hunters segment focusing on one house takes the three-man crew an entire day to film on location. They show up at 10 a.m. and continue until they are done, usually later in the afternoon. Each episode is 22 minutes, and House Hunters, which has been on the air since 1999, has produced more than 530 shows.
“There’s no pay,” says Myers. “And you have to be flexible. But I thought it was a great opportunity.”
According to Myers, the production company wants the houses to be real listings, and they want the house hunters to really be looking for a house—being genuine is important. Myers has helped the pair look for houses in the past, so the final three they look at for the TV show are definitely in the running for their final purchase.
Myers helped them film a casting video and sent in the application because she thought they would be great on camera.
“Any realtor can apply for the show and get on,” says Myers. “I knew that they would be the perfect couple, so I applied two and a half months ago. They were still looking for houses when (House Hunters) approached us. I thought, ‘Oh yeah, how exciting—what a kick!’ It’s a great opportunity. Most clients watch HGTV, especially sellers. I hope when the show airs people recognize me.”
According to Pie Town Productions field producer Angela Mangone, the casting company goes through the application videos, and after selecting prospective buyers for a show a crew is sent on location to produce an episode.
“It’s fun getting to know people,” says Mangone. “Watching the show is just as exciting as doing it.”
Throughout the day the camera crew filmed all three of the real life stars as they walked through the house. Periodically they would stop and set up a question-and-answer scene. In the North Redondo house, the focus was on the shed in the back of the garage and how much Bondan liked it. Many of the other houses they looked at didn’t have that option.
“Do you think this is the house they’re looking for?” Mangone asked Myers during a question-and-answer session in the front yard.
“I think this isn’t exactly what they are looking for,” Myers answered while looking at the camera. “They really want that second bathroom and I understand that…”
Mangone set the camera up in various locations around the property and asked questions about the house or the experience. Often Bondan would give Ellman a look and she would burst out laughing and they would have to re-shoot the question. Myers’ big personality helped keep the day rolling, as she made jokes and kept the mood light. A barking neighborhood dog put the taping hold for several minutes while they waited for the dog to tire out.
“They are fun people to work for—the crew is great,” says Myers. “It’s nerve racking, but if I just be myself it’s fine. It’s what I do. It’s just adding in the camera.”
“Look at me,” Mangone says. “Say, what’s your name.”
“Risa,” Myers answered.
“No no no,” Mangone says while laughing. “You say, “My name is…”
The entire set had to stop laughing before Myers was ready to film again.
The filming set-up included a cameraman and an audio technician. An airplane flew overhead sporadically, ruining the audio and forcing the crew to re-shoot the questions. Once Ellman got into the swing of things, she would stop once she heard an airplane, knowing that the rest of her answer would be useless.
While her husband was interviewed in the yard, Ellman says, “It’s so funny seeing Kurt and seeing what his thoughts are… Sometimes when you’re being asked questions off the bat you spit out what’s actually in your head, so it’s been pretty funny.”
The crew had already been to two homes, so this was their third and final stop before they made their choice. Once they buy the house, the film crew comes back a couple months later to see how they have settled in.
“At the end of the first day I got home and passed out,” says Bondan. “I didn’t think it would be that hard.”
The long day filming took a lot of energy because the filming crew had to record different angles and re-shoot bungled lines. But Ellman says that she had fun watching the process unfold, especially because of Myers’ good humor.
“Who do you think this house appeals to more?” Mangone asks Myers.
“Oh, I think this house is a better fit for Kurt because of the office, and I can tell from his expressions. When I took him to the office his whole face lit up, and I knew I’d hit a homerun and this is a house he could see himself in,” answered Myers. After stumbling and giggling a bit, they re-shot the answer. “It wasn’t the perfect home. It doesn’t have everything they wanted, but it did have a lot of what they wanted. I’m happy I brought them here.”
Mangone asks Myers whether Ellman or Bondan would have the final decision on which house they end up buying.
“I think between the two that she has the upper hand. She has more of a say in the decision,” a smiling Myers says.
“Just say that I’m more picky!” Ellman yelled at her from the home’s front steps.
“Just wait until you get out here,” Myers says back, laughing.
The crew took a couple of seconds to make sure the shot was right while she cleared out her throat and shook off nerves.
“Working to find a home in the Redondo Beach area in the $550,000 range is a little challenging,” Myers says in answer to a question from Mangone. “I’m fortunate I’m getting out there, and we were able to find three really great homes for them to choose from. Each had plusses and things they were looking for.”
“That was perfect the way you did that,” Mangone says as Myers shifted the shot from the yard to the front house steps.
“You better not have a booger coming out your nose,” Bondan warned Ellman after she gave her answers to the camera.
When the episode airs on TV March 11 at 7 p.m., Ellman and Bondan are planning on having a watch party with their friends and family.
“I’m excited to see it,” says Ellman. “I am a little nervous. I hope that I wore the right thing and I don’t look too weird on camera. I just wish I could watch it first.”
They are both happy with the decision they made but had to compromise on a few things like location and the amounts of bathrooms in the home. Ellman, a longtime viewer of House Hunters, is happy they participated in the show, especially because they will have something to remember of the process of buying their first home.
“We watch the show at home and the best part is seeing who is going to be right and pick the home the people on TV pick. We even bet on it,” says Ellman. “Even after going through this process and knowing what happens, I’m always wrong.” ER