BEHIND THE SCENES TOUR OF 2023 HGTV’S ROCK THE BLOCK (AND THE PEOPLE WHO MADE IT HAPPEN)
Q & A w/ Laura Ownbey of LandMark Homes
Lights, camera (countless hours of hard work), and ACTION! This month at Builder Town Hall, we were joined by the fabulous Landmark Homes, Director of Sales & Marketing, Laura Ownbey, to give you a behind-the-scenes look into building homes for HGTV’s #1 show, Rock the Block!
From insight into the builder selection process to the inside scoop on what happens when the cameras stop rolling, Laura dove headfirst into rocking this interview and our world with her key takeaways.
Q: How did this go from an idea to being the builder for Rock the Block Season 4?
A: All in a dream. It was crazy. So the builder for Season 3 was Hunter Quinn Homes, and we were friends and partners of ours and part of our Builder 20 Group. They became excellent friends with the production team and the company that shoots for HGTV, Big Table Media. So when they said, “Hey, for Season 4, we’re looking at these regions. Do you know any builders there?” Hunter Quinn threw our name in because we’re friends with them. And since they knew who we were and our management, they could speak on our behalf.
From there, we got lined up with this call between a producer from Big Table Media, myself, and our CEO, Jason Cheryl. And we got our minds blown for about an hour and a half on a phone call…And then they came and met us, walked through our office, and got to see our team. They were looking for a partner they felt they could communicate with, which was on the same page of positivity as a mindset.
Q: Regarding the initial building, what construction phase did you realize you were done building?
A: They call it a vanilla shell. We took everything to drywall. The floor plan was explicitly picked because they could turn this room into a second kitchen, OR they could turn it into an office. So it was very convertible, which made the show fun.
Q: How did you keep from feeling completely overwhelmed throughout the process?
A: We managed it because Landmark and Big Table Media believe in optimism. We got it. We’re going to do it. We’ll figure it out. We’ve got the right trades around us to get things done. We knew we could have faith in that even when it gets wild and crazy.
We also leaned on Blake from Big Table Media, the producer of all four seasons. He’s the man that knows inside and out about the show so that he could hold our hands. We asked him so many questions constantly. I also contacted the previous builders and asked them to tell me what they learned and what they would have done differently.
Q: How much of the work did the celebrity design teams do?
A: They do a lot. They will jump in just because they’re handy…They have so many responsibilities throughout the day, so they’re often out there from before the sun rises and after the sun sets. They’re jumping in and out and working on stuff, but many people are finishing things for them.
Q: Was that your team, or were those people HGTV brings in?
A: It was our trades and our team. And that’s the part I can’t wait to share. We needed to be more prepared as a team, but we figured it out quickly. No one thinks about who’s putting the toilet paper holder on, who’s hanging the artwork, or who’s the trade that focuses on fine detail at the 11th hour. So, several people on our design team, including my husband, put in a lot of work.
There were days we worked 18-hour days before judging, but those cameras—because they’re union—turn off and go away at a particular time. And then everybody takes their shoes off and gets comfortable. Then the music comes out in the middle of the street. All the cameras are gone. We were just there with the celebrity talent. And those are special moments.
Q: Are any of the homes are sold yet?
A: Not yet! We would like to list them as soon as possible. HGTV’s biggest secret is who wins each week and who wins the finale. We cannot show the homes’ appearance until the episodes are done. It’s such a hush-hush secret, but now that the ending has aired, we hope to list all four homes this week. Believe it or not, we are still finishing up the three bedrooms and bathrooms you didn’t see…We’re hoping to list them by the middle of next month.
Q: Do you furnish those additional rooms as well?
A: We don’t plan to style and furnish much more. Ultimately we are selling the homes equipped. This is the first season of Rock The Block, where the furniture stays. Previously, they used a lot of staging furniture, but they partnered this season with Wayfair.
Q: How long did you have to keep this secret?
A: From November until this week. We had to keep the secret of every episode. Hundreds of people went through those homes. All of the trades, our partners, and even our preferred partners like O’Neill that we had to sign NDAs. Because if that secret gets out, it ruins the entire show.
Q: Do you have any tips or hints you learned from the show that could apply to hosting an event?
A: One of my biggest takeaways—and we hear it all the time, but it’s hard to make that investment—is to document everything. We always say we’ll send a marketing coordinator around to snap some pictures, and we’ll be fine. But for the show, we were so wrapped up in what was going on. And I feel like when you do a Parade of Homes and do other events in your model homes, you’re running around so much sometimes that you’re not capturing those moments that you should capture. So for the show, we had someone filming, taking drone shots, and photographing the entire time for Landmark and our trades. That way, we could be in the moment and run around doing things we’re supposed to do because it was someone else’s job to capture everything.
Q: What did this experience do for your team and your culture?
A: I’ll be honest; it added stress. There is a harmful piece of it. Shocking, right? We all have our other homes to build, and we’re pulling people into the community, BUT it also shows how we can pick up the slack for each other…This unification in battle is the way I looked at it.
Q: Is there anything we haven’t asked you about that you want to share about your experience?
A: There are so many stories behind the scenes, but we could be here all day. I’m going to add to that, though, that the production team and Big Table Media would pay for an ice cream truck to show up in the afternoon on a hot day. So all those workers will come out and see that this is how we function all the time. So we have that mindset that we’re in this together, we’re going to get it done, and we’re going to stay optimistic about it.
We looked at that and decided we wanted to do more of these things for our company and our trades. That’s a significant takeaway. There were all these little nuggets that we took away. We saw that people are willing to go that extra mile and stay those extra hours when we can see the common good together.
Thank you, Laura, for this incredible inside look into the world of Rock the Block. For more insightful deep dives into the world of home building sales & marketing, be sure to join us for our next Builder Town Hall on May 5. So please register today, join our Builder Town Hall Facebook Group, and keep the conversation going!Tags: Builder Town Hall, HGTV, Homebuilders, Homebuilding, LandMark Homes, New Home Marketing, New Home Sales, Rock the Block