Methow Valley couple stars in upcoming episode of ‘House Hunters’ on HGTV
By Ann McCreary
When Jamie Petitto and Ryan Fortier began shopping for a house in the Methow Valley, they found that many of the houses in their price range had something in common.
“A lot of them were fixer-uppers,” Petitto said. Her sister suggested that the couple buy one of them and try to get on a show called “Fixer Upper,” produced by HGTV. “They’ll fix your home for free,” Petitto’s sister told her.
Petitto looked into the suggestion and in the process, she discovered another HGTV program, “House Hunters,” that seemed better suited to them. The program documents homebuyers-to-be as they go through the process of choosing a house. After filling out an application online, followed by questionnaires and video interviews, Petitto and Fortier eventually got the thumbs up — they were selected as the subject of a “House Hunters” episode.
The show will air Oct. 26 on HGTV, the couple recently learned. The 22-minute episode was distilled from “hours and hours of footage” gathered over six days of filming last June, Petitto said.
Petitto had never seen the show before she sent in an application to appear on it. A videographer and former actress who worked in Los Angeles, the idea of being on camera appealed to her. “I thought, ‘Oh, I can be on TV again!’”
However, she didn’t mention that she had applied to Fortier, who learned about it after an HGTV producer called back to follow up on Petitto’s initial inquiry.
“He didn’t know about it ’til then,” Petitto said, a bit sheepishly. Fortier, a fish biologist, had a slightly different take on the idea of starring in a television program. “I think being on TV is his worst nightmare,” Petitto said.
“She’s much more outgoing than me,” Fortier acknowledged. As show producers kept asking for more information and interviews before deciding whether to invite them on the show, Fortier got nervous. “I thought, ‘Oh no, maybe this is really going to happen.’”
Petitto and Fortier decided to buy a house together after Petitto moved to the Methow Valley from Los Angeles in 2015 to be with Fortier. When they told their families about being chosen for “House Hunters,” they discovered that several family members watch the popular show. “My mom lit up pretty bright when she heard we were going to be on it,” Fortier said.
“House Hunters” is in its 18th season and draws about 25 million viewers per month. Petitto and Fortier were paid $500 to appear on the show.
While “House Hunters” doesn’t necessarily try to portray its subjects having conflict, it does seek to show how their ideas of the perfect home differ. With Petitto and Fortier, that wasn’t such a challenge.
“Ryan could live in the middle of nowhere and be perfectly happy. He likes rustic,” Petitto said. “I think we are already living in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to live in the middle of nowhere in the middle of nowhere.”
Petitto, the LA transplant, has more extravagant tastes. “If you could turn a Las Vegas hotel into a house, that’s what I want — luxury, heated tiles, waterfalls.”
The “House Hunters” film crew included a director, a cameraman and a sound technician. Also working with the crew as a local production assistant was Nic Ulmer, a 2013 Liberty Bell High School graduate who is majoring in visual journalism at Western Washington University.
The crew filmed Petitto and Fortier at three houses, one in Twisp, one on the West Chewuch Road and another in the Twin Lakes area. They filmed their reactions to the houses, and their conversations as they debated the pros and cons of each. “It’s sort of like Goldilocks,” Petitto said.
The director did not try to change their conversation, but would encourage Petitto and Fortier to expand and elaborate, she said. “He’d help guide the discussion. He would say, ‘How do you feel about this room?’”
The crew filmed the couple in conversation at different locations in the valley, including the Twisp Park and walking along the boardwalk in Winthrop. “We walked through downtown Winthrop talking, and people were looking at us,” Petitto said. The crew also traveled through the valley on its own, filming the area.
“They were amazed at how beautiful this place was,” said Anne Eckmann, owner and broker of Blue Sky Real Estate and agent for Petitto and Fortier. Eckmann took part in three days of filming. “It was really fun. We laughed all day.”
The crew did multiple takes for each scene, to capture different reactions, perspectives and angles, Eckmann said. “You know the editors are going to look for the juiciest reactions,” she said.
Petitto and Fortier, of course, bought one of the three houses featured in the show. Under agreement with HGTV, Petitto said she couldn’t reveal which house they chose before the show airs. The show aims to keep the audience in suspense about what the final decision will be. The episode ends, she said, with the couple hosting a housewarming barbeque at their new home.
She said she and Fortier are a little nervous about how they’ll come across on the program. “We don’t want to look like a quibbling, indecisive couple. We never fight in real life, and Ryan’s very decisive.”
“I’m more nervous about all the ways my brothers are going to tease me” after watching the show, Fortier said. “They’re relentless.” He expects to watch the show “probably with at least one hand over an eye.”
Petitto said she’s not worried about the show setting off a stampede of future home buyers to the Methow Valley. “The people watching it are going to watch a cooking show next,” she said. “I don’t think they’re going to get off their couches and come buy a home here.”