The Little-Known Details Behind HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”

published Mar 27, 2023
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How many times have you uttered the phrase “we should definitely move to Waco, Texas”? It’s something I know I asked myself at least a dozen times while Fixer Upper was still on the air. A $90,000 house expertly renovated and designed by dynamic duo Chip and Joanna Gaines?

If you’re thinking there had to be a catch, unfortunately, you were probably right. Though “Fixer Upper” homes are undoubtedly gorgeous, there are some things HGTV didn’t want you to know about the show.

1. You had to own a home already.

According to The Cut, a homeowner who appeared on “Fixer Upper” revealed one of the show’s biggest secrets: The initial scenes in which the episode’s prospective homeowner selected a house was bogus. “You have to be under contract to be on the show. They showed you other homes but you already have one,” “Fixer Upper” homeowner David Ridley told the outlet. According to most accounts, said home had to be within 40 miles of Waco, Texas.

2. The application process was extensive.

Rachel Whyte, a Waco-based photographer who appeared on “Fixer Upper” season three gave Country Living details about the extensive application process. The application apparently contained 68 questions asking for specifics like square footage, what year the home was built, and photos.

3. Waco might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Chip and Joanna were famously criticized by a “Fixer Upper” homeowner who claimed she was deceived about her Waco neighborhood. The homeowner told People she was drawn to Waco because of the opportunity to live in a Magnolia-designed home. Unfortunately, she said the area was nothing like the TV show portrayed—in fact, she alleged the neighborhood was downright dangerous. A representative for Magnolia declined to respond to the allegations.

4. You had to have the funds to foot the renovation bill.

A Magnolia Market employee told Hooked on Houses that “Fixer Upper” applicants needed to have at least $30,000 available to contribute to renovation costs. In fact, an analysis by suggested the average all-in homeowner investment was just under $280,000.

5. Chip and Joanna had full control.

According to Country Living, Joanna had homeowners create Pinterest boards so she could get to know their aesthetic. But beyond that, clients didn’t get much face-to-face interaction with Chip and Joanna when the cameras aren’t rolling. Lindy Ermoian told Rachel Teodoro that they had “a direct line to an assigned designer but never direct communication with Chip and Joanna.”

What’s more? Homeowner Doug McNamee told the Waco Tribune-Herald that his family was “under strict orders not to visit the work scene” during production. “They wanted it to be a complete surprise, and it took discipline not to sneak a look,” he told the publication.

6. Not all rooms got the Chip and Jo treatment.

According to the Magnolia blog, the extent a home was renovated depended largely on the client’s budget—and that meant not every room got a makeover. Joanna wrote: “At times, we only work on rooms that are of priority to our clients and that work within their budget. Some homeowners want to finish off their other rooms on their own since it is mainly cosmetic (paint and carpet). Other times, we finish the spaces for them after the reveal and this is separate from the budget shown for TV.”

7. Homeowners didn’t get to keep all of the furniture.

On the Magnolia blog, Joanna confirmed the rumor that Fixer Upper homeowners didn’t get all that gorgeous furniture and decor for free. She wrote: “Our show features real clients with real budgets. The furniture budget is not part of the renovation budget, it’s something some clients add at the end. About half of our clients already have all their own furnishings (some of which I use for the reveal), and others buy the items I decorate the home with. The main reason I decorate the rooms for the reveal is because I want the clients to get the full picture of how to maximize their newly renovated space.”

That said, some homeowners said the Gaineses generously gifted a few special pieces after filming completed.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: What HGTV Never Told You About ‘Fixer Upper’