HGTV's 'House Hunters' hits highlights of Naomi Shelton's condo search in D.C.

Naomi Shelton searched for a year and a half to find the right one-bedroom condo in the District to buy.
Naomi Shelton searched for a year and a half to find the right one-bedroom condo in the District to buy. (Hgtv)
By Elizabeth Razzi
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, September 25, 2010

What is it really like to star in an episode of house-hunting reality TV? To traipse through for-sale homes with a camera zooming in on every frown or wrinkled nose? For District resident Naomi Shelton, who is featured in an episode of HGTV's "House Hunters" program airing Thursday night, "it was a lot more work than I anticipated."

Shelton, who is chief of staff to the Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia, is shown hunting for a one-bedroom condo in the District -- preferably in the southwest quadrant where she had been renting. Her budget: $290,000.

With friend Chazeman Jackson offering moral support and real estate agent Brett West of McEnearney Associates leading the tour, Shelton looked at three condos -- priced at $279,000, $292,000 and $250,000 -- before deciding on one that was just right.

Did she find the right home after looking at only three places? Well, no. Welcome to the magic of television.

In real reality, she had been looking on-and-off for more than a year and a half, Shelton said in an interview. She had found the condo that she wanted, and was already under contract to buy it, before she was chosen for the show. "They stipulate in the agreement that you have to be under contract," she said.

West noted that in the show's early days, producers would follow people as they actually shopped for a house. "It created a lot of unusable footage, and footage of people who never went on to settle on a home," he said. But the three properties shown on the program were listings that Shelton had considered during her condo shopping.

Her lengthy, real-life home search wasn't quite as easy as it appears on TV. "The whole process of looking for the house was beyond stressful," Shelton said.

West, who works in public relations as well as real estate, is a friend and former co-worker, and he encouraged her to submit a video audition for the show. Taping was done over about six days last winter and in April, after she had moved in. Shooting lasted from about 8 a.m. until 4:30 or 5 p.m. each day. When the producers wanted to re-shoot a scene, she had to change back into that day's clothing and make sure that her makeup matched. "This is like going to work," Shelton recalled saying to Jackson.

Shelton said that she and West were both nervous at the start of shooting, but they eventually loosened up. "When cameras weren't rolling the producers would say, 'You're so funny; this is going to be great.' But on camera we were like, 'Hello. Thank you so much for showing me this property.' " she said. "After the first shoot, the producer was saying, 'Can you guys loosen up? Do we need to go and get a drink?' "

More magic of television: There is scant talk of negotiating prices and terms -- key parts of any real-life home purchase. But Shelton said that she did negotiate a better deal.

"She was looking in buildings where there was high inventory," West said. They did a "considerable amount" of negotiating, reducing the price by $15,000 and snagging a unit with an upgraded view. As part of the lower price, he accepted a more-typical 3 percent commission instead of the 4 percent that the seller was offering to buyers' agents. "I'm perfectly happy with the standard 3 percent," he said.

The episode is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. Thurs. on HGTV.

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