How HGTV Picks Its Big Home Winners from Millions of Entries

Inside the Winner Selection Process for HGTV's Big House Giveaways

Photo of Ashley King, Winner of the HGTV Smart Home 2014
••• Image (c) BusinessWire / Scripps Network

Note: HGTV has announced that their 2020 Dream Home Giveaway will no longer accept mail-in entries. Details about how the winners will be drawn will be released on December 30, 2019.

Every year, the Scripps Networks' big annual home giveaways, which include the HGTV Dream Home Sweepstakes and the DIY Ultimate Retreat Giveaway, receive millions upon millions of entries from people who are yearning to win a lovingly-created designer home. 

Selecting one winner's name from among 100 million entries or more is extremely complicated. To make things even harder, entries arrive via two methods, online and through the postal service. How can Scripps Network manage all of those entries and still select a winner fairly? Do you really have the same odds of winning whether you enter online or by mail?

Plus, it's vital to the Scripps Network's reputation that they avoid any appearance of running a sweepstakes scam or a rigged game. They are under heavy scrutiny to make sure that their enormous prizes are awarded in a way that shows no favoritism, is easy to understand, and which doesn't let even one of those millions of entries slip through the cracks.

To ensure that their winner selection process is above reproach, Scripps uses a three-step method to ensure that all entries are counted and that the winner is drawn fairly and totally randomly. Here's how it works:

Step 1. All Entries are Divided into Bins and Assigned Bin Numbers

As entries come in, they are separated into batches based on the order in which they were received. The batches are then placed into bins. Typically, each bin contains between 26,000 and 50,000 entries. Each bin is assigned a number.

Mail-in entries are placed into physical bins while online entries are assigned virtual bins. Virtual bins are simply groups of online entries that are assigned a single bin number. 

Step 2: A Bin Number is Drawn from a Hopper

Next, it's time to narrow the field of entries and come closer to deciding the final winner. The first step is to select the bin that contains the winning entry in a process that is similar to the lottery drawings you see broadcast on television.

Each bin's number is written on a ping pong ball and the balls are then placed into a hopper. The hopper mixes all the balls together then randomly selects one ball. The number on that ball indicates the winning bin. 

By the end of the second step, the number of potential winners has been reduced from tens of millions to tens of thousands of entries.

Step 3: The Winning Entry is Chosen From the Lucky Bin

The next step depends on whether the bin number selected in Step 2 belongs to a physical or a virtual bin.

If the selected number belongs to a physical bin, HGTV or Ritway employees tip the bin over so that all of the envelopes end up on the floor. Then they choose one employee, blindfold them, and send that person into the mass of envelopes to reach down and pick one up. The selected envelope belongs to the potential winner.

(This means you might get a tiny edge by decorating your envelopes if you choose to enter by mail).

If the ping pong ball from the hopper contains a number that belongs to a virtual bin, a computer program begins to cycle through all of the qualifying names so quickly that it's impossible to read which name is being displayed. The person selected to do the drawing then presses the space bar, which causes the cycling to stop on one name at random. That randomly-chosen name is the potential winner.

Oversight Helps Ensure Fairness

To ensure fairness, there are auditors and inspectors at the drawing who make sure that everything is done properly. These officials check the ping pong balls before the drawing, watch the proceedings, and verify that everything is above board.

The winner selection process is not handled by the Scripps Network directly, but rather by a sweepstakes administrator. For many years, Scripps has used Ritway to administrate their drawings. Using a sweepstakes administrator ensures that there is no conflict of interest between the sponsor and the winner.

To give its entrants more insight into how their winners are selected, Scripps has also created some videos about the process. If you'd like to check out this information, watch this video of the HGTV Dream Home Winner Drawing Process.

How Scripps Network's Winners Are Notified

After the HGTV Dream Home winner's name has been selected, their information has been verified to ensure that the winner was eligible to enter and does not need to be disqualified.

The winner is then notified, usually by an ambush-style announcement where representatives of the Scripps Networks show up at the winner's home, place of business, or family gathering. However, winners can also be notified by registered mail.

The dates of the winner selection process and when the winners will be notified can be found in the rules of the HGTV Dream Home Sweepstakes or the other big giveaways from Scripps.