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Couple’s search chronicled

August 25, 2011
Jodelle Greiner - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Elishia and Justin Robson had no idea when they began looking for a home that they'd wind up on TV, but that's exactly what happened.

The couple is waiting to see their search in an upcoming episode of HGTV's "House Hunters."

Justin Robson, son of Richard and Lorie Robson, was a track star at Fairmont Area High School. He moved north after graduating 10 years ago and bought a condo in Hastings while he built his construction company, Robson Construction Services.

Article Photos

Elishia and Justin Robson have a bit of fun with the crew while filming a episode of HGTV’s “House Hunters.” They’re waiting to hear when the episode will air.

Elishia, who grew up in White Bear Lake, has a degree in interior design. She helps at her husband's company and works at Thomasville Furniture.

The couple married three years ago and have been living in Justin's condo, but wanted a house "we could really make our own," Elishia said.

The couple had simple requirements: Justin wanted a double garage.

"As long as the kitchen area was big, that's all I cared about," Elishia said. "We have a lot of family and we all hang out in the kitchen."

They enlisted the help of Sara Yocum of Edina Realty to help them find a house. When Yocum heard their story, "She said 'You'd be perfect for HGTV's 'House Hunters,'" said Elishia.

The couple said "Yeah, sure," but didn't take her seriously.

What was intriguing to Yocum was not only the fact that the couple was in the construction and design business and wanted a fixer-upper, but they had an interesting personal story as well.

Justin had crashed his motorcycle and suffered injuries. While he was laid up, he renovated his whole condo.

"It was beautiful," Elishia said.

The couple figured they could sell the condo, make some money and put it toward a new house, but they found the economy had wreaked havoc with the housing market and their investment.

"I owe a lot more than it will be worth," Justin said.

"It was best to let the condo go and get a new house," Elishia said.

But because of the financial situation with the condo, Justin's credit was shot and he couldn't buy a house. Fortunately, he bought the condo before he met Elishia, so her name was never on the papers.

"I'm able to purchase a house," she said.

Since they hadn't taken their real estate agent seriously, the couple was surprised when they got a call from a producer with "House Hunters" asking if they would consider being on the show. They agreed and soon found themselves in front of the cameras.

"Five full days of filming boils down to 21 minutes of airtime," Elishia marveled.

Those five days were in December, and included a crew of four.

"The first day was at the condo," Elishia said. "We talked about who we were and our story. We showed the condo and talked about what we wanted in a house."

The second day's shoot was at a historic house in Stillwater.

"That was the day of the blizzard," Elishia said. "It was freezing cold and snow was blowing in our faces."

"Five or six takes," Justin added.

Fortunately, they were able to shoot inside too.

"A full day of filming," Elishia said. "Eight hours in each house."

And the couple looked at three houses.

It took multiple takes to cover everything. For instance, Elishia's reaction and comments on the house would be filmed, then they would film her reaction to Justin's comments.

To get certain angles, they would have to look at rooms, such as the bathroom, with a cameraman already standing in the tub and pretend he wasn't there while commenting on the room's decor.

"It is a bit of acting," Elishia said.

To help keep them on track, "a director was there and she was able to coach us," Elishia said.

The trick to only taking five days to shoot was that the crew didn't come in until near the end of the process. Things like signing the purchase agreement were re-staged.

"They try to get it as true to the home buyers' experience as possible," Elishia said.

The house the Robsons finally chose only had one owner and "it had been taken care of," Elishia said. "I liked that these four people (the owner's children) had grown up here.

"The neighborhood I love," she added.

The Robsons house is in the Twin Cities, but you'll have to watch the episode to find out which home they chose.

Episodes of "House Hunters" include a segment where the crew comes back later to see what the home buyers have done with the new house. In the Robsons' case, the crew came back in March to give them time to make the renovations.

"The producer knew this and purposely pushed out the date," Elishia said.

Justin and Elishia lived in the basement while they did at least a little work on every room, but the biggest transformation came in the living room and kitchen, where Justin took out a load-bearing wall and had to compensate by putting a 20-foot beam in the attic.

"We had the same crew and they were blown away," Elishia said. "They could hardly believe it's the same house."

The episode was originally slated to air in August or September, but the couple is waiting to hear the exact date.

"We get a two-week notice," Elishia said.

Overall, the couple enjoyed the process and said they'd do it again.

"I thought it was fun," Elishia said, while acknowledging, "It's not everyone's cup of tea to have a camera in your face. The crew was nice and easy to warm up to. We were all laughing and having a good time.

"We're special in the sense we got to capture our first house hunt on camera. not everybody gets to do that," she added.

Buying and renovating their house was a lot of work, but it was "a work of love," Elishia said. "Without family and friends, it would not be where it is."



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