‘House Hunters’ makes a stop in Collinsville

Jordan and Dawn Kettler got most of their must-haves in the home they chose to buy. They will appear on “House Hunters” at 9 tonight on HGTV.
Jordan and Dawn Kettler got most of their must-haves in the home they chose to buy. They will appear on “House Hunters” at 9 tonight on HGTV.

Dawn Kettler applied on a whim last summer to be on HGTV’s “House Hunters” reality show.

Each episode follows a prospective buyer and an agent on their house-hunting adventure.

She and husband Jordan’s search airs at 9 p.m. Thursday.

“We had a blast,” said Dawn, 26, who lives in Collinsville. “The camera crew was so much fun. It was a neat experience to see what happens in reality TV. We filmed eight hours a day five days in August and September for a 30-minute show. We would go through a scene three times, but our reactions, those are all ours, totally free-flowing.”

Dawn grew up in Mount Olive; her husband Jordan, 24, in Dixon. She is a life science instructor at the Science Center in St. Louis and does the bird shows at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis County. Jordan is an engineer with General Electric.

“I have a pet collecton,” said Dawn, “two large birds, an African gray named Elliot, a severe macaw named Oshi, and three cats. I used to work at Busch Gardens in Tampa. I am on some of the flyers down there.”

The process to be on reality TV was simple. Dawn applied online, answering basic questions about where she and Jordan lived and what they were looking for.

“They called two weeks later, and asked me to submit a three-minute video about us,” said Dawn. “A friend filmed us talking on camera. We had a set of questions to answer. What kind of house? What are on your musts list?

“Jordan wanted it not to be cookie cutter. He wanted a yard. He wanted a basement. My must haves: I wanted a kind of open feel, but I was willing to negotiate on that. I wanted a sunroom for the birds and an en suite for my bedroom.”

House-style options she had to choose from were limited.

“One was Cape Cod,” said Dawn. “ We don’t have those kinds of homes happening here. I said a colonial. I like a pillar kind of look.”

ReMax Alliance real estate agent Tara Winfield was on board from the start.

“We had been working together for a while,” said Tara. “They asked, ‘Would you want to do that with us?’ I said, ‘Put my name down.’”

Tara also was required to send a video audition.

“I had my sister hold my little video camera,” said Tara. “We did it 15 times to get it in one take.”

So how much is reality?

“When I first applied, we had not found a house,” said Dawn, who was looking in the $150,000 to $190,000 range. “They want you to have a house under contract.”

By filming time, the Kettlers had purchased a home.

“We had to hold off moving stuff in,” she said. “All our stuff was in the garage.”

The way the show is set up, the prospective buyers look at three homes, then decide.

“By the time they filmed, all in our top listings were under contract with somebody else,” said Dawn.

So real estate agent Tara found other homes for sale.

“They called them the decoy houses,” said Tara, “the ones they didn’t buy. I just picked two active listings.”

The film crew — a director, sound man and camera guy — kept them busy.

“They would have you walk in a room five times,” said Tara, “and say each line five times. They also kind of give a little direction. I am supposed to narrate where we are in the house. ‘Remind us we are in basement.’ I’d say, ‘How do you like this basement?’”

Most surprising thing?

“The amount of footage they record — it comes to about 40 hours of footage, and how it gets whittled down.”

The house the Kettlers chose met most of their must-haves, including sunny space for Dawn’s birds.

The couple received $500 for being on “House Hunters.”

“We are going to redo our bedroom and bathroom,” said Dawn. “We put it toward our savings.”

Dawn plans to watch the show with friends. Tara’s office is hosting a party.

“After we filmed, I liked just to watch the agents (on the show) to see if I did better or worse than them,” she said.

But Tara, a real estate agent for eight years, doesn’t make the show a must-see.

“It feels like work.”