When it comes to home renovation shows on television, few programs have reached the level of popularity that “Fixer Upper” did. Originally airing on HGTV before moving to its new home at the Magnolia Network, “Fixer Upper” features power couple Chip and Joanna Gaines, who have designed and renovated their way to mega-celebrity status.
Starting in 2013, the Gaines’ faces became ubiquitous in American households, as their now iconic demo and reno show hit the airwaves that year. Since then, the pair have built a Magnolia-branded empire, as noted by Vox, with everything from restaurants to shops to a magazine to an entire television network — yeah, we’re trying to keep up, too. Add to that the fact that Chip and Joanna have five children (via Parade), and you’ll find yourself wondering just how they do it all.
Still, for as successful as the Gaines have become and as incredible as their success story is, we couldn’t help but wonder just how authentic “Fixer Upper” — the show that started it all — really is. To that end, we did the digging and found ourselves a wee bit perplexed about what we discovered. Here are the things they didn’t show you on “Fixer Upper.”
Fixer Upper's Chip and Joanna Gaines may have renovated one home outside of Waco, Texas
You’d be hard-pressed to argue that the transformations that Chip and Joanna Gaines orchestrate on “Fixer Upper” are anything short of incredible. Take, for example, what they did with Charmaine Hooper and Chuck Codd’s dilapidated 1920s home, which was on the brink of demolition. According to code officer Robert Pirelo, the Gaines preserved history in successfully renovating the dwelling. “When we first saw that, I thought it was going to be a structure that needed to be torn down,” he told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “But it had a lot of redeeming qualities. We love to see this happen. It takes a certain personality and commitment to do this.”
Of course, that’s a stunning feat in and of itself. But, as fans of “Fixer Upper” know, if you’re not a resident of Waco, Texas, chances are that the Gaines aren’t going to have time for you. That’s because Waco is where Chip and Joanna call home, and there’s apparently enough work to be done there that they don’t need to branch out very far. “We’re passionate about making Waco a better town for all of us to live in,” Chip added.
However, the Gaines might have renovated at least one home outside of Waco that belonged to none other than Jennifer Lopez. Sources speculate that Joanna worked her magic on Lopez’s Malibu home (via People). Lucky.
Fixer Upper participants don't get a lot of time to prepare for the show
Watching a home renovation show is a lot different than actually undergoing a home renovation of your own. Depending on the severity of the demolition you need, projects can often drag on for weeks at a time, especially if you have a large home that requires many different specialists to coordinate their schedules. But, on “Fixer Upper,” everything happens within the span of the show’s duration.
Additionally, when it comes to “Fixer Upper” in particular, it turns out that the amount of time between notification and filming is pretty darn fast. “I applied to HGTV and heard from the casting agency the next day,” Season 3 “Fixer Upper” homeowner Jaime Ferguson explained to Rachel Teodoro in an interview. “After that it was a quick, big, exciting blur consisting of a Skype interview, written questionnaire and some phone calls and meetings.” Certainly, the casting process isn’t something you see on “Fixer Upper,” so there’s a good reason you might not know it feels like a whirlwind.
Participants on Fixer Upper pay for their own renovation costs
We admit it, we’ve often dreamed about having Chip and Joanna Gaines get in touch with us to do a full demo and reno on our homes. After all, the pair’s skills really are impressive, and they have turned so many lost causes into gorgeous, homey spaces with the perfect vibe for families. Heck, we’d even settle for just the kitchen and bathrooms getting a makeover!
However, the daydreaming often stops when we realize that the clients on “Fixer Upper” have to cough up their own money for the remodeling and design, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald. For as rich as Chip and Joanna may be, it’s not like they’re out here paying for everyone’s distressed wood fireplace mantle or shiplap-adorned eating alcoves. So, before you consider giving HGTV a call about your 1920s bungalow that’s in dire need of some TLC, make sure you have the fundage to afford a hardcore renovation.
There is some consolation, though, as you might snag some “extra landscaping or design flourishes.” And Yahoo! News claims HGTV will cover the cost of “one big ticket item,” such as a piece of furniture.
You have to have a lot of money to appear on Fixer Upper
Speaking of finances, we may as well get all of those details out the door sooner than later. That way you can either start saving in earnest to prepare for your shot on “Fixer Upper,” or you can consider spending your hard-earned pennies somewhere else.
So, in addition to having to pay for your own demo and reno on “Fixer Upper,” you actually have to have a lot of money set aside for the Gaines’ services. According to Hooked on Houses, “Fixer Upper” participants must have a minimum of $30,000 in the bank to fork over for their remodeling job. That’s right, you need an actual down payment just to have your current abode given the full-on restore and remodel. And, don’t forget, that doesn’t include what you might already have paid for a home you just bought to demo and reno in the first place. Phew.
Participants on Fixer Upper can be quite anxious during the renovation
Considering how much it costs to appear on “Fixer Upper” — and that you’re trusting two (basically) strangers to renovate your actual, literal home — it’s not surprising to learn that some “Fixer Upper” clients get a little antsy during the filming process. That was certainly the case for photographer and mom Rachel Whyte, a Season 3 “Fixer Upper” participant. “You’ve heard about the ideas, but [design day is] when you see a visual representation of what they have in store for your home,” she explained in an interview with Country Living. “But I snuck a peek to see if the house was white and I was able to see that it was, so I could rest easy and the rest would be smooth sailing.”
Additionally, Whyte shared that the whole experience was fairly “hands off” and that she didn’t spend a ton of time with Chip and Joanna Gaines on-site. “Our only real desires were that the exterior of the house be painted white, that the kitchen was light and airy, and that there was some element of mountain ruggedness to satisfy [my partner],” she continued. “They gave us all that and more!” Sounds like it all worked out well in the end.
Not everyone on Fixer Upper is trying to buy a home
If you’re a longtime fan of “Fixer Upper,” then you’re pretty familiar with the show’s format. Specifically, you’re probably well aware that each episode starts out with Chip and Joanna Gaines showing clients three possible homes for them to purchase and renovate. Once a decision is made, the Gaines roll up their sleeves and get to work.
However, that’s not entirely how things go down in reality, according to “Fixer Upper” Season 3 client David Ridley. As he tells it, the whole process we see on TV is somewhat misleading. “You have to be under contract to be on the show,” he shared in a chat with Fox News. “They show you other homes but you already have one. After they select you, they send your house to Chip and Joanna and their design team.”
This seems to check out according to the research Fox News conducted, namely that the “Fixer Upper” client application includes questions such as “‘Where are you in the escrow process?’ And … ‘What is the purchase price of your new home?'” No wonder they call the whole thing an “open secret.”
Tourism becomes a factor after your home appears on Fixer Upper
One thing that’s truly incredible about Fixer Upper” is the way that it — thanks to Chip and Joanna Gaines — has revitalized Waco, Texas. According to BuzzFeed News, the city is having its moment after years of bad press, thanks to the “patron saints of Waco,” Chip and Joanna. Due to their influence, Waco now draws tons of visitors every year, mainly to the Magnolia Silos — but other businesses have sprung up as well. The “Fixer Upper” effect is real.
To that end, it’s not surprising to learn that if your home is featured on an episode of “Fixer Upper,” it will become a tourist destination. That’s been the situation for Season 3 “Fixer Upper” participant Jeff Jones, who’s seen traffic increase dramatically near his home. “A local tourism company called Waco Tours drives by our house [four] to [six] times [a day] to show people,” he told Apartment Therapy. “I guess that’s the price you pay to have your house on TV.” His property taxes went up as well, which makes sense when you think about it.
Joanna Gaines plans more than you see in every Fixer Upper episode
We have to take a second to give Joanna Gaines a hat tip for her brilliant design skills. Even if the modern farmhouse aesthetic isn’t really your thing, you do have to admit that she’s had a significant impact on the design world. And, on “Fixer Upper,” she always makes it look so easy, too!
However, one thing you don’t see on “Fixer Upper” is how much stuff Joanna drags around with her to each home. “There’s a lot of planning that goes into a day like today,” she revealed in an interview with People. “But it’s inevitable. I’ll need more books, I’ll need a certain vase.” She added that she usually winds up bringing too many things just in case she might need something.
In case you were curious about the scale of stuff, People described it as “a sea of clear containers, piles of pillows and rooms full of extra decor that never sees the light of TV.” No wonder Joanna always seems to have the perfect items for each home!
Filming Fixer Upper draws tons of gawkers
Chip and Joanna Gaines have built a real Magnolia empire stemming from the success of “Fixer Upper.” According to Vox, the couple own and operate their iconic silos, a pastry shop, a coffee shop, a home decorating shop that sells Magnolia items, and a restaurant. They’ve also published books, have merchandise lines at several stores, and, of course, run their own television network that airs Magnolia-branded content. Oh, and don’t forget their literal castle! And, to think, it all started with the pair renovating homes in their native Waco, Texas.
Given how insanely popular the Gaines are, it’s not surprising that when they’re filming, they draw tons of their fans to each location. This was evident in a post Joanna shared on Instagram, which showed the giant crowd that amassed outside of a “Fixer Upper” home. “How crazy is it seeing ppl crowded on the streets watching in the background??” one user commented on Joanna’s post. “Look at all the people in the back! That’s crazy!” another added.
Fixer Upper participants don't get to keep all of the furniture
Arguably the best part of an episode of “Fixer Upper” is, of course, the big reveal. That’s when you can finally see all of the work that Chip and Joanna Gaines did to turn a rundown house into a beautiful home. That’s also when you can see Joanna’s design skills truly shine.
However, that presentation isn’t exactly how clients on “Fixer Upper” get to keep their home. The reason? All of that furniture isn’t included in the price of the reno, as noted by “Fixer Upper” participant Jaime and Kyle Ferguson. “When it came time to pack up all their beautiful staging furniture Kyle and I had to decide what we really loved because our budget at that point was pretty spent,” she explained in an interview with Rachel Teodoro. “We decided to keep the coffee table … two striped chairs … and the dining table.” She added that Joanna did, in the end, let Kyle hold onto some of the custom items for the music room, which is super thoughtful.
Some rooms don't get the royal treatment on Fixer Upper
One thing that eagle-eyed viewers of “Fixer Upper” might have noticed is that during the big reveal, you don’t always see the entire house; you might see just the kitchen, dining room, and bathrooms, for example, while bedrooms are left out. As it turns out, there’s a good reason for that: Chip and Joanna Gaines don’t renovate every single room in the house on “Fixer Upper.” “At times, we only work on rooms that are of priority to our clients and that work within their budget,” Joanna wrote on her blog (via Apartment Therapy).
That makes sense, as every room in the house does not always require super extensive work. “Some homeowners want to finish off their other rooms on their own since it is mainly cosmetic (paint and carpet),” Joanna continued. “Other times, we finish the spaces for them after the reveal and this is separate from the budget shown for TV.” Makes sense.
Plenty of Fixer Upper participants don't end up living in their renovated home
While watching “Fixer Upper,” you get the impression that the participants truly love the renovation that Chip and Joanna Gaines did for them. To that end, you’d expect that they’re super stoked to live in the homes that were custom designed with them in mind, right?
Not so fast. According to the Waco Herald-Tribune, quite a few “Fixer Upper” clients have gone on to list their homes on home rental sites. Like, a lot. So how exactly do Chip and Joanna feel about this trend? “We have no problems with our clients’ interest in using sites like VRBO and Airbnb to rent out their homes,” Magnolia spokesperson Brock Murphy explained in a statement. “In fact, we get it. But we are going to be more strict with our contracts involving ‘Fixer Upper’ clients moving forward.”
As Murphy tells it, the “Fixer Upper” team wants to make sure they’re loyal to the mission of the program — hence the change in their policy. “We want to do remodels for clients’ homes,” he continued. “That’s the true intent of our show, and we want to ensure that does not get lost in this new vacation rental trend.”
The Fixer Upper crew works around the clock
If you’ve ever lived through a home renovation, you probably know how exhausting it can be. You have to go without a kitchen or, perhaps, a bathroom, dust is everywhere, and workers are in your house all the time. However, those inconveniences and lack of privacy were worth it, according to “Fixer Upper” clients Jeff and Sara Jones. “We would do it again in a heartbeat,” he proclaimed in an interview with Apartment Therapy. “When else in your life do you get your whole house renovated in six weeks?!” He does have a point.
Still, because the “Fixer Upper” crew works some seriously long hours, the time Jeff and Sara spent on the show wiped them out. “We did have to take time off to film,” he continued. “We did all our shots in one day. It was exhausting.” It sure sounds like it. But, hey, once the hard work is done, you’re left with a gorgeous renovation and a TV episode to revisit.
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