Behind The Scenes Of HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper’ That Will Change The Way You Watch The Show

Fixer Upper/Instagram

It’s time to come clean: we are addicted to watching HGTV. (Phew, feels good to say out loud.) It started out small, a House Hunter’s here, a Property Brothers there. It was all very casual.

Then came Fixer Upper, and to say we were hooked would be an understatement. For those who don’t spend the better part of their weekends binging on home design shows, the premise of is relatively simple. Husband and wife duo Chip and Joanna Gaines help couples turn dilapidated homes into awe-inspiring places to live. They also help to reinvigorate up-and-coming neighborhoods around Waco, Texas, where the show is filmed.

Together they own and operate their business Magnolia Homes, where Joanna acts as the designer and Chip works on the construction side. Over the course of the show’s five year run, they helped to remodel over 75 homes.

They also left viewers around the country wondering how they heck they did it. Is it really possible to completely remodel a home with only a minimal payment on it? Does Chip really do hands-on construction? How does Joanna come up with such beautiful designs so quickly? Is is all just TV magic? And, how can we get our homes to look that nice?

Well, lucky for us, some past contestants have opened up about what it’s really like to be on the show, and are dishing on all of the behind-the-scenes secrets we never get to see on TV.

You Only Meet Chip And Joanna Once Or Twice

Wait, what?

Safe to say this information blew our minds. (We still can’t get over it.) But, when you think about the quick turnaround of filming, it makes a lot of sense.

The only time participants meet with the couple is directly on camera. Behind-the-scenes, you spend most of your time working with the assigned designer and their team of assistants.

Apparently, the amount of time with Joanna and Chip changed as the show went on.

As popularity of the show increased, the filming schedule got more and more tight. So to make room, the couple often works on multiple projects at once. Contestants can expect to meet them on real estate day and the design meeting.

The good news? Joanna spends a lot of time communicating via text and phone calls to make sure the design process runs smoothly, and of course, make sure they love their new home.

You Have To Shell Out Some Serious Cash

Unfortunately, HGTV doesn’t pay for the renovations.

The whole concept of Fixer Upper is to save money on an expensive home by turning a cheaper one into the home of your dreams. But, there are going to be a lot of extra renovation costs.

The show also tries to find homes that need A LOT of work. Renovation costs on the show normally cost around $30,000. Yikes.

Remember that’s on top of the amount they paid for the house.

The reason behind the costs is HGTV needs to make sure there is enough to do on the house so the “before” and “after” will be a dramatic as possible. It had also be reported that families have been turned away since for “not having enough wrong.”

According to a Magnolia Market employee, you also may have to sit on your downtrodden house for quite some time. The reason? Due to filming schedules, Chip and Joanna may not be available right away.

Joanna Always Asks For A Pinterest Board

Who doesn’t love a little Pinspiration?

It can be hard to define someone’s interior design style, especially if you’re just meeting them, so Joanna asks for a little help. She also passes the board on the rest of the design team. It helps to get a sense of the style of the couple, and it’s easier than looking through dozens and dozens of magazines.

Truth be told, most of us already have a dream home Pinterest board.

She also accounts for both partners’ individual styles.

Not only can it be hard to get a sense of someones style, it can be twice the work to combine two different visions. Normally, most couples don’t agree on every aspect of their dream home. According to Realtor.com, combining the different styles is one of the hardest parts her job.

Joanna usually asks each person to describe their style in a single world and then goes from there. She even takes in what the kids like into consideration and tries to add special fixtures to their rooms.

Getting Cast Isn’t Easy

HGTV shows typically received hundreds–sometimes thousands–of applications.

Have you thought about putting your house up for an HGTV makeover? Well, it can be a longer process than you might think. The application for Fixer Upper included a 68 question-long application and goes into super specific detail about your houses size, the year it was built, and its current value.

According to Jaime Ferguson, she heard back from producers the day after applying.

Following the call producers set up a Skype interview, phone calls, and in-person meetings all before actually casting Ferguson.

Personally, we would want nothing more than to have our home renovated by the Gaines family, so we would happily jump through dozens of hoops to make it onto the coveted show.

The House Hunting Is Staged

How do they find homes so quickly?

In short, they don’t. While on the show, each episode starts with the clients looking at three potential properties for the ‘flip,’ and this portion of the show is always staged.

Now, this is fairly common for home renovation shows to do. (We’re looking at you, House Hunters.) The reality is, picking a show is a super tedious task and almost always takes more than three different houses before finding one to buy. So, we’ll let this one slide.

On Fixer Upper, the couple can’t apply without having a house already.

According to New York Magazine, “you have to be under contract to be on the show.” Not only does this process make it easier to find clients, it also makes it more practical.

HGTV centers around the renovation portion of the show and changing families lives in the process, so they don’t think they sacrifice quality by staging the house hunting portions. Honestly, makes sense to us.

The Furniture And Decorations Aren’t Yours To Keep

Well, that’s depressing.

Most of the decor and furniture used on Fixer Upper is from Joanna’s Magnolia Market boutique. A few pieces also tend to be compiled from different antique or local stores around the area.

However, the pieces used on the show are just loaned for the big reveal at the end of each episode. The only items clients get to keep are ones she incorporated that they already owned.

You have the option to buy the furniture after filming ends.

Once the episode has wrapped, participants are able to buy pieces they like that are for sale. Most couples don’t end up buying everything that was shown on TV. (We can imagine it would cost a boatload.) But most do purchase a few select items.

There’s also one other catch: some of the items are from Joanna’s house. According to Apartment Therapy, the designer always incorporates stuff that she owns, and isn’t for sale.

You do get a good deal on special pieces.

While most of the decorations used aren’t given for free, people appearing on the show can expect a rather hefty discount. The Gaines’ always offer the specialty items from Magnolia for a discounted price, and sometimes even finagle a good deal on one of a kind pieces from other designers.

OK, so it’s not exactly like we thought, but still better than nothing right?

Getting Used To Being On Camera Can Be Challenging For Participants

Imagine suddenly having an entire camera crew in your face.

Ever have to give a presentation or speak in public, when suddenly, you were overcome with stage fright? Filming a reality show can be the same way.

Even though the show is very casual and participants only appear in a limited number of scenes, it’s super common to be a bit awkward at first. According to one contestant who spoke to Country Living, “It was uncomfortable at times because we, like most people, aren’t used to to having cameras around us.”

The positive side is all of the contestants experiences we see are real.

The show isn’t scripted, so everything the audience sees on camera is what really happened. Producers might just have things repeated a few times to make sure all of the camera angles are right. But they never coach anyone on what to say, or how to react to a completed renovation.

Production Staff Doesn’t Want The Owners Around

On the show, homeowners are there for the house hunting, the budget planning, and to look over designs. But how often are they around during the rest of filming?

Not, a lot. Yes, really. According to Hooked On Houses, participants “are under strict orders to stay away from the houses while they’re being renovated so the results will be a complete surprise.”

So, does anyone ever sneak a peak?

Sometimes. While it can be super tempting to check in on how things are going, most couples adhere to the production guidelines and steer clear.

Though some couples have reportedly been found poking around or even doing a quick drive-by. This also means that the homeowners are truly trusting the process of the show and giving Chip and Joanna complete control to make their new home spectacular.

Frankly, from an audience perspective, we’ve never been disappointed with the final result!

Homeowners Might Have To Take Time Off Work During Shooting

It all depends on that week’s shooting schedule.

HGTV has a strict production schedule planned literally months and months in advance, so it’s not super surprising that the show can’t work around most 9-5 work weeks. According to Jeff Jones, who was on season 3 of the show, the crew filmed all of their shots in one day.

Other times it can be filmed on a few different shooting days.

Most participants won’t know what the filming process will be like until they are chosen and production gets under way. So essentially most people are signing up for the show without much control of when their house is chosen, or what days they have to take off.

The good news is most people only have to take a few days off for filming, and let’s be real, who doesn’t want a nice mini-vacation from work?

The Budget Is Take Really Seriously

Each participant works with Magnolia to create a realistic budget.

One of the downsides of home renovations, televised or not, is the unforeseen costs. Suddenly there’s a mold issue, or a wall you planned to tear down is integral to the structure. It’s just what happens.

The good news is HGTV doesn’t gloss over this part of the show. All of the conversations regarding budgets are real. According to Joanna, “The house price is real, the budget is real, and the clients are real.” Unlike normal contractors, once a budget is set, there’s not going over.

HGTV only pays for a talent fee.

The network is simply granting access to the Gaines’ and their design team; they aren’t funding any of the house renovations themselves. They also pay Chip and Joanna a talent fee.

The show really focuses on the participants investing in the idea and heart of the show, not just signing up for free home makeover. Though apparently, producers will sometimes throw in extra touches for free, and the network gifts each client a bonus feature during each episode.

The houses are all around the same budget.

The show is set in Waco, Texas, and the limit for houses appearing on the show is 40 miles. The show also tries to keep structure and each episode consistent, so most houses fall into the same price range.

On average the homes on the show, before renovations, are around $300,000. There is however some difference in style, and the amount of work that needs to be done to keep each renovation interesting for the Gaines’ and for us viewers.

Participants can expect a hefty jump in property tax.

According to several past participants of the show, their property tax went up after appearing on the show. Some of this is standard with any home renovation, while another factor is the fact that the house appeared in a television show and was remodeled by the best of the best.

The value of the house goes up as well.

While paying more in taxes is definitely a small downside of the whole process, the silver lining is that the home value skyrockets. On average homes on the show go up at least $30,000 in equity after getting a makeover from the Gaines’.

That’s also only the initial increase. In all likelihood the price of the home will increase over time since their renovations have been known to spur whole neighborhood overhauls.

Chip Doesn’t Do Much Heavy Lifting

He mostly works on overseeing the whole process.

While this may seem strange, since he is known for his construction prowess, it’s actually pretty standard for contractors to just manage the rest of the crew. Everything he is shown doing that involves heavy lifting is most for camera shots.

He also almost never touches the homes exterior. Although, he is apparently a huge goofball and likes to spend a lot of time joking around on set.

The Show Doesn’t Renovate Every Room In The House

Yes, really.

The turnaround time on Fixer Upper is lightening speed. The average time for a remodel in the show is about three months. According to Joanna, the show focuses on the rooms that are most important to the clients.

Some rooms also will not fit into the agreed upon budget. “Some homeowners want to finish off their other rooms on their own since it is mainly cosmetic (paint and carpet).”

Sometimes the renovations continue after filming is finished.

After the “big reveal,” the team normally has tons of last minute details to add. The Magnolia team also takes care of inspections and makes sure that everything on the house functions properly and is up to code.

Some families can’t move in for several weeks after filming. Joanna even confirmed this in her new spinoff show, Behind The Design. “It turns out the rooms you don’t see on the show are filled with plastic storage bins, trash bags, carpeting samples, plants, and more.”

We don’t know about you but that is crazy to us. Who knew the true power of TV magic?

Your New House Might Be Swarmed With Tour Groups

Lights, camera, action?

Since all of the houses that are remodeled on the show are within Waco, Texas, it wasn’t long before fans of the show started finding each house. It’s not super uncommon to see fans of the show doing occasional drive-by’s of the houses, and it’s something that participants just get used to.

Also, there is now reportedly a local tourism company that offers tours up to six times a day. One client added, “I guess that’s the price you pay to have your house on TV.”

Did any of these Fixer Upper secrets surprise you?