Allen Norwood

Starring, behind the camera ... TV shows rely on local real estate agents

We were halfway paying attention to “Property Virgins” on HGTV when the front door of a house on the screen caught our attention. My wife and I looked at each other. “Hey, that’s Sardis Forest, our old neighborhood!”

A few minutes later show host Egypt Sherrod confirmed that we were right.

I’m sure lots of other Charlotteans have had the same experience. The TV home shows have discovered us, y’all. I’ve recognized neighborhoods from Steele Creek to Huntersville.

I’m sure others have wondered, as we did, how a TV host from Atlanta negotiates Charlotte’s sprawling, diverse market and ends up in a familiar subdivision. And never mind the important state licensing. The answer is, she doesn’t.

Sherrod was in front of the camera when the episode was shot last year, but behind the camera was Kathy Smith.

While Sherrod was handling the star stuff, like makeup, Smith was handling the real estate stuff, like legwork.

“I knew she was doing the right things,” Smith said. “It just wasn’t me doing it. I’m doing everything behind the scenes.”

Sherrod, in addition to her role as a TV personality, is a licensed Keller Williams agent in the Atlanta area. Smith is with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty here.

The “Property Virgins” production company is out of Toronto. One quirk in the local market seemed to give the Canadian producers pause: Properly licensed agents, including Smith, operate on both sides of the state line. “They had trouble with the intricacies of the Lake Wylie market,” Smith said.

Smith checked out 15 or 20 houses for the young buyers. The camera crew and Sherrod came and went, shooting walk-throughs. The single half-hour show required three or four days of shooting, Smith said.

Online, you’ll see fans and bloggers fuss that homebuying and renovating shows are FAKE!

Smith said, and I agree, that those folks surely must know that portions of shows are scripted. It’s TV, and that’s how TV works.

She also said that one important element – the reaction of the young buyers when seeing homes for the first time – was real.

The opening scene was shot in Smith’s condo, not the couple’s apartment – because the apartment complex wouldn’t allow the show to shoot there.

When Sherrod stepped away from the camera to phone listing agents, she wasn’t actually making those calls – because Smith had made them.

Smith picked the houses to visit, based on the buyers’ budget and wish list, just as she would working with any clients. She knew they’d like the house in Sardis Forest and, indeed, they bought it. (Great neighborhood, by the way.)

But she told the buyers: “You will not see (the houses) with me. You will see them with Egypt for the first time ... Their reaction is very real.”

Special to the Observer: