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Parkston native featured on TV's 'House Hunters'

Parkston native Amber Sperlich, left, films an episode of "House Hunters" in May. Sperlich, along with her sister Holly Cousins, of Mitchell, also pictured, hunted for Sperlich's first home in Orlando, Fla. (Photo courtesy of ChesleaandCo RealEstate)

Buying a home is never easy.

Parkston native Amber Sperlich discovered that as she set out to buy her first home in Orlando, Fla.

Unlike most homebuyers, her experience was captured by video cameras and broadcast nationally on the HGTV show "House Hunters."

"It was overwhelming," Sperlich said of her search. "There were so many short sales and bank-owned homes. I'd find something that fit my price range and had the features I wanted, but wouldn't be in good condition. It'd be really dirty or all the appliances were gone. Everything they could possibly strip out they did. You don't think of adding everything back into the house, like appliances, when you find one that meets your price range."

Work, along with Florida's inviting climate, brought Sperlich to Orlando two years ago, and after spending time living in a one-bedroom apartment, she needed an upgrade.

A fan of HGTV, Sperlich wanted to document her housing search on one of the network's shows. She qualified for "House Hunters," a show that takes viewers along on the home-buying search as couples, individuals and families look for their dream home. The show focuses on the emotional experience of buying a home, as well as the process individuals go through to close on a home.

Sperlich's episode aired Monday. She had actually bought her home before she was taped for the show.

"We re-created the homebuying experience," Sperlich said. "They wanted me to be in the last stages of buying my house or have it really narrowed down when I applied. I had an offer in and when I was chosen for the show and started filming, I had already closed on my current home."

On each episode, buyers look at three homes, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each. At the end of the episode, a home is selected. Two of the three homes Sperlich was filmed at had similar features to other houses she looked at in Orlando, but are not the original homes she considered buying. The third house featured is the final home she bought.

Though only three homes were shown on TV, Sperlich visited 15 to 20 homes before deciding on her final purchase.

Sperlich was accompanied by her sister, Holly Cousins, of Mitchell, during the filming.

"I've always gone to her for advice," Sperlich said of her oldest sister. "I'd send her listings and she'd say, 'Well, did you think about this? Is it close to a school? Is there a river nearby and would you have to worry about flooding?' "

Cousins added that she's more level-headed than her younger sister, and the show's producers wanted her "to bring wisdom and keep (Sperlich) grounded."

For Cousins, it was a surprise to learn how the show was filmed.

"We had always wondered how they were able to figure things out so quickly," she said. "But even though you know they already chose one, it still makes a good story."

When searching for a home, Sperlich had two things on her wish list -- the home needed to be adjacent to a conservation nature area and have a screened-in deck and a lot of space.

With a large family that likes to visit, extra bedrooms were needed. Prior to moving into her home, Sperlich lived in a one-bedroom apartment.

"There just wasn't space for people to go in different directions," Cousins said.

Filming took about seven days. The camera crew spent four days filming at Sperlich's apartment as well as visits to the grocery store and other errands. A day was spent filming at each house.

"Many people ask me if it was scripted," Sperlich said. "But it was really natural. Every once and a while they'd ask a question to get the point out more clearly or ask me to say something shorter for phrasing. In the end, they wanted it to be from our own experiences."

Sperlich's choice was a 2,350-square-foot home next to a conservation area. The final price was $168,000, which was a "bargain" compared to many homes its size across the country, Sperlich said.

Sperlich said the home sold for $293,000 prior to the housing market crash in recent years.

Aside from the lower price, the home met all of Sperlich's wants, including an extra bedroom for family visits.

"When my family comes down, they can take the upstairs and I can have my things going on downstairs," she said.

"It's a fantastic house," Cousins added. "There's space for people to go in different directions."

For filming the show, Sperlich received a $500 honorarium, which she used to fly her sister to Florida for the filming.