Reality Television

Fix Me Up A Home:

Fixer Upper, Property Brothers & Love It or List It

Aired on: HGTV

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                I don’t watch many reality series, but when I do, they all seem to air on HGTV, a television channel all about homes, whether it’s finding the right starter home, vacation home, international dream home or fixing up a home.  I’m partial to the fixer-upper shows that prove that a house with good bare bones can become the home of your dreams with a little elbow grease and ingenuity and a lot of vision.

                Fixer Upper is one of my favorites.  Married couple Chip and Joanna Gaines help create dream homes out of run down properties in the Waco/Dallas, Texas area.  Meeting after they both graduated from Baylor University, the couple eventually married and purchased a home that they gutted and renovated together.  They’ve been doing it ever since as the owner of Magnolia Homes which includes a real estate company, construction company and design company. 

                There are several aspects of this show that I love.  First, Chip and Joanna take homes that are rundown and wouldn’t ordinarily get a second look and share their vision of what the house would look like, incorporating what their prospective home wants out of a new home.  Then, when it comes time for renovations, Chip shows us just how much he loves demo work and in very innovative ways sometimes.  Chip is definitely a daredevil.  Joanna, meanwhile, is coming up with some terrific designs, keeping the homeowners in the loop by showing them a computer representation of what their home will look like when they are done.  Once Chip is done with the construction, Joanna decorates, putting as much love as she can in her designs and giving the job that special touch. 

I also love that the show gives us a look at the couple’s personal lives, their farm, their interaction with their children and their love for one another.  Plus, they truly seem to have fun working on these homes and beautifying Waco and surrounding areas in Texas.  Also, the homeowners seem delighted and grateful for the work that Chip and Joanna put into their home.  I’ve never seen a renovation show where the homeowners weren’t always meddling or complaining about something in the design before the finished project was revealed.  In Fixer Upper, the homeowners seem to be very positive, having realistic expectation and appear very appreciative once they see the final product.

Another HGTV show I enjoy is Property Brothers, a Canadian series featuring twin brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott.  Getting into real estate, renovations and design while pursuing an acting career, they still dabble in acting, writing, producing and more, but we’re here to talk about the show that first brought them to our attention.  The premise of Property Brothers is to take a prospective homeowner’s wishes for a new home, show them one that has all of their desires and then show them a rundown home that they can turn into their dream home.  I always laugh at the prospective homeowner’s budget and what they think they can get for that kind of money.  It is always sobering for that homeowner to see what their non-reno dream house costs.

After that sobering experience, realtor Drew takes them on a trip to various rundown properties and Jonathan explains what a renovation and redesign might look like on that particular property.  Most of the time, the buyer doesn’t really see the potential of the home or the possibility of renovating it to suit their needs.  But they are on this show for a reason and eventually choose a property for Jonathan to start work on.  Drew always tries to get the price down for the buyer so there is wiggle room in reno costs.  Once Jonathan starts ripping up walls and floors, there is inevitably some sort of surprise coming in the way of mold, rotting wood, termites, leaks or something of the sort.  I know a lot about load-bearing walls and beams and fixes thanks to this show. 

And then there are the homeowners themselves, adding to the budget by changing their mind on design plans or by wanting to add their own special touches on things with more expensive items or add-ons.  And they always seem to get annoyed when things don’t go their way or Jonathan tells them that something they want to change is impossible.  For homeowners who had no realistic idea of what their budget could afford them in the first place, these folks can often seem ungrateful during the renovation process.  Of course, their whole attitude changes once they see the final product. 

There are a few things to enjoy about this show.  For one, I love that Drew and Scott can see potential in older homes and would rather work on renovating them than on new construction.  It always seems such a waste to me that there are so many homes on the market and people would rather have new construction and open concept.  I love how the two put these homeowners in place with firmness and a bit of comedy, letting them know just what they can afford to do and what they can’t.  I also enjoy the interaction between the brothers – they seem to really enjoy working together and goofing on each other.  And of course, I love seeing the final project and how it came to fruition.

            Another great show is Love It or List It, another Canadian-based renovation show starring realtor David Visentin and designer Hilary Farr.  On this series, homeowners express their woes regarding their current home and why it is not working for them.  One of the homeowner invariably wants to find a newer, larger home, while the other still wants to live in their current home, but concedes that it needs work to suit their family’s needs.  It is Hilary’s job to work with the homeowner’s budget to come up with a design that will work for them, making them want to stay.  It’s David’s job to find a home within their budget that has all of their wants and needs that they can move into.

Again, this is a show in which the homeowners have very unrealistic dreams.  Most of the time, they have had their current home for years and have done very little to improve upon it or make it work for them as their family grew.  Then, usually on a very small budget, they expect Hilary to work miracles, despite issues with mold or foundation problems or heating/cooling problems.  They never want to hear what surprises Hilary’s construction crew come across and how it will eat into the budget, crossing some sort of design fix off of the list.  But don’t think that David’s job is easy either.  Usually the half that wants to leave enjoys the homes he shows, but the one that wants to stay can almost always find fault in each home he shows them.

At the end of the renovations, the couple is brought back into their home and shown the results, which often wow both homeowners.  They are also shown what their home’s projected selling price would be after renovations should they decide to sell.  Then they have to choose: will they love it or list it.  More often than not, they love it, something I totally understand given the fact that there was a reason behind choosing that home all those years ago.  Homeowners can become very attached to their homes and improvements to a home they felt was near perfect when they first purchased it can convince them to stay.  Sometimes, they list it, feeling that the home David has shown them will be better.  However, I am a realist.  Just because you have a higher projected listing price on your current home, what makes you think that the house will actually sell for that, especially at times when the housing market is not up to par.  And what makes you think that the listing price for the new property will be what you end up paying in the end?

What I enjoy about this show, other than the banter between Hilary and David are the innovative designs that Hilary comes up to get the homeowners to want to stay.  Even when she can’t do everything the homeowners want, she finds a way to wow them into staying.  To me this is preferable – taking an existing home with good bones and making it work, rather than starting over.  I always cheer when the homeowners decide to stay.

So, there you have it, my home renovation reality show recommendations, all found on HGTV.  You can find all new episodes of Fixer Upper on Tuesdays at 9pm EST, new episodes of Property Brothers on Wednesdays at 9pm EST and new episodes of Love It or List It on Mondays at 9pm EST.  Or, if you want to see some old episodes, HGTV shows reruns, often in bulk so you can binge.  You can also see older episodes and find out more about these shows at


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