What happens when the cameras stop rolling and HGTV goes home? These real life home renovation show participants share the true stories of things that happened to their house after the "reno" was over. Stories edited for clarity.
"I work for one of the construction companies that was contracted to build the new house on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition". This was like 10+ years ago when the show was at the height of its popularity. Anyways, it was a huge nice house built for a widowed mother with several kids (father had recently died, hence why she was on the show...). Even though the house was "given" to her, she couldn't afford it after a year or so (property tax, electricity, water, upkeep, etc...) and put it on the market. Simply owning a home of that size is very expensive and she couldn't afford it."
"I interned for Extreme Makeover:Home Edition in the early 2000s. Yes, the homeowners' taxes go through the roof. Tons of the families on it end up selling everything that was put in the house (computers, appliances, etc) to help pay the property taxes.
I worked on two houses on set, then they moved to other parts of California and wouldn't send a free intern there. The first one was in South Central. As we were putting out toys for the kids, someone mentioned that at the last house they did in South Central, everything like what we were putting out was stolen almost immediately. The dad of that family also lost his job because of the mandatory vacation to Disneyland. He tried to work something out with both the production company and his job, but neither would budge. If they wanted the house makeover, he had to leave with his family do the show could get fun family vacation shots.
The other house was in a city about two hours outside of LA. The new house was HUGE (the family did have a lot of kids), and took up most of the lot. I can't even imagine how much their taxes went up. A local band turned famous donated a bunch of merchandise to the kids, but they couldn't show any of it on air because it didn't benefit ABC, Disney or Sears. So every time a kid found something band related, "Oooooh [band] tickets!" they couldn't use the footage. Wasn't much to reveal after that. Oh, and one of the kids' shared bedrooms was AWFUL. It was something like a country western/weird jungle split. Plus the show gave them an indoor basketball court, but some of the kids still had to share rooms, which did not make sense to me. The bedrooms all looked pretty cheaply done. I can't imagine they held up.
It was an interesting experience. Lots of hidden downsides to those houses. But they really do everything in a week. And some of the designers were truly nice and wanted to help people."
"My brother and his roommate were on House Hunters about 4 years ago and loved it. They were the two guys in Waco that sounded like straight country bumpkins (although my brother has since lost that accent...).
His friend was actually the one buying the house and my brother was just renting from him, but the producers insisted he be a major part of the show and pretend to have big opinions on the house he wasn’t even buying to make it interesting. After a lot of back-and-forth, he finally honed in wanting a “craftsman style” home (again, still not even the purchaser), and I think said it 500 times. Still don’t think he even knows what that means.
They both got paid a couple hundred bucks, but had to take a week or so off of work. Ended up feeling so uncomfortable that they just drank all day and had fun with it. They also recently had their episode on the show where the comedians roast them, which was pretty funny to watch.
Oh, and his roommate already owned the house prior to filming, so it was all completely fake."
"My friend was on Love It or List It. Every single part was fabricated. They were never going to sell, but they filmed two endings, one loving it, one listing it. Family disputes were fabricated, even the budget was pulled out of thin air. One of the houses that they went to look at wasn't even for sale. Those shows are total garbage. As for the work they did, not great."
"A family member of mine was on a DIY show called Turf Wars. They basically come in and remodel your and a neighbors backyard and then have a "vote" to see who wins the remodel. The show itself was pretty clear cut, they would come in and give a bunch of orders, take some "candid" shots of work being done and then hang around letting the owner and contracting crew do the work. The hosts were pretty friendly but just kind of gave orders. The voting though was kind of a joke. They had people from the neighborhood come and check out the backyards at different times and one of the yards was inspected in perfect conditions to let the decor shine with the other was just quickly given a walkthrough. Both of the yards honestly looked great but the winning house (neighbor, not family member) had been in the neighborhood for a few years while my family had recently moved in so weren't well known. The problem was the neighbor had a really large centerpiece to their backyard remodel that was a little impractical for the smallish backyard they had, and there was hardly any covered sitting areas so if the weather wasn't great (and it's not that great haha) it wasn't a comfortable area to sit around and either get baked by the sun or rained on.
Less than a year later the centerpiece was removed and the pond cemented over as it was too much upkeep and their backyard fell back to just a cement block, while my family still had the whole backyard setup there as it was much more practical. They kept it until they moved out about 3-4 years later, not sure if still around but would be surprised if it was removed at all."
"My Father-In-Law is a contractor. His team helped with a build for a home makeover show shooting in Las Vegas.
He said they were told to work fast & cheap, which throws quality out the window. There would also be moments where the crew would finish something, then the producers would bring in the "volunteers" to hammer the last nail and act like they did the project.
My husband remembers being in the crowd for the big reveal when the family drives up. He said they did it over and over and over again...to the point where even the family didn't look excited for their new home."
"My cousin is a concrete contractor in the upper Midwest. His company was “invited” to participate in an Extreme Makeover Home Edition renovation for a family several years ago. He was the concrete contractor and poured a slab and footings for a 1,000 sq. ft. addition. A couple of things he noted was that he was required to furnish all labor and materials at no cost to the family or production company. In exchange he would be rewarded handsomely with “exposure”. Also, he thought it was weird that Ty Pennington was there on set for about 45 minutes on day 1, and about 30 minutes on the last day. In the interim, he was nowhere to be seen. So, the production team does some seriously creative editing to make it look like Ty is there all week."
"Some family friends was on one of those shows (it might have been extreme makeover home edition or something like that, but I'm not totally sure- we met them a few years after it was aired). Their son was 6-ish years old and really into trains, so he got an insanely train themed room, complete with a ride-on train that chugged slowly on a track around the room. It was great at first, but he outgrew it really quickly and was embarrassed by his train room within a few years. The house looked great on TV but IRL it looked a little tacky and unconventional (such as novelty-themed bathrooms with no cabinet space). And they'd only renovated a few rooms so the house looked weird with 4 or 5 over the top rooms and then the rest were plain, outdated rooms. I remember they had a hard time selling it because the rooms were decorated so specifically and it looked weird and cartoonish in photos. The paint on the outside of the house started chipping off within weeks and the house looked HORRIBLE with big chunks of peeled off paint. Also, they said those shows have WAY more people behind the scenes doing the more technical jobs while the cast and crew do a few easier jobs for the cameras."
"Plumbing and remodeling company I work for did plumbing for an HGTV show about 10 years ago. We did the hook ups for the new laundry room. The homeowners picked some fancy Moroccan tile for the floors at some upscale NYC boutique and the host of the show decided it would look better without grout...which went about as well as you’d expect.
Filming wrapped, and we were called back out a few weeks later to replace the fancy tile that immediately chipped and became dangerous with some boring tile. Had to sign NDAs, etc."
"My company took part in a very well known British renovation show.
We donated £6,000 worth of equipment. They promised good advertising in return for free equipment and labour.
We found out after filming that the producers had asked our 2 largest rival companies to do the work and they said no. We couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to get involved in such a good cause.
The families story about why they deserved the work was apparently exaggerated and no one had bothered to research this properly.
The show never aired."
"Kind of in a similar vein, there was that show Gordon Ramsey does where he renovates hotels that are in shambles. One of the early episodes he was in Las Cruces and I have relatives in nearby El Paso that kept me filled in since I'm a big Ramsey fan. It did not go over well for the owner following the episode.
Said episode is on YouTube if you got a fun hour of time to kill: https://youtu.be/UsBwQC7FCJg
Anyways, in the episode the lady is running a "unique stay" hotel into the ground with mediocre food nothing at all like local cuisine and bad singing like Cher that she does in the dining area. I'm not gonna fault her for singing badly, but she should have realized this was driving away customers and taken Ramsey's advice.
Ramsey stayed for a week and this was a big deal in Las Cruces because celebrities usually aren't out in West Texas or New Mexico. His show also paid as compensation for filming a major renovation with new furniture etc. After filming, Ramsey and company went off on their way, and I also gotta mention this lady is disliked already in the city of Las Cruces.
As for what happened after? A lot of things. The bar down the road did a watch party of the episode when it went live, and pulled all the works with an outdoor projector and a whole huge event out of it. Rather than heed advice, the lady decided to sell off the furniture and stuff that Ramsey provided and go back to old ways, which meant people stopped coming, especially she was disliked even more after it was found out she did that. She eventually had to sell off the hotel entirely and skipped town. As for the "head chef" / cook that Ramsey was talking food trucks with in the episode, I think the dude eventually either started a taco truck of his own or is working for one, and is doing well last I heard.
At least somebody gets a happy ending in all that."
"My family was on a home renovation show when I was a kid, in the late 90s early 2000s. I think it was Changing Rooms or possibly another show by the same cast and producers. It was one of those shows where they do 3 rooms in the house and mine was one of the rooms they decorated. It looked so pretty, they decorated it to look like a fairy woodland with huge tree murals on the walls and a nights sky of stars hanging from the ceiling. But it held up really badly, all the murals on the wall peeled off and it looked bad pretty quickly. I had fun shooting the show though and it was a cool story to tell my friends at school."
"Friends were on a show a few years ago. It was super intense 3 weeks of filming and the redesign looked great on camera. In reality it was literally things stuck together with staples and tape. After the show my friend took 2 weeks off work to rebuild everything properly."
"Remember "Extreme Makeover?" A show where they build or hugely remake a home for a needy person/owner?
They did one here in my town (won't say for privacy) and my brother, a builder was approached to help build a home in the dead of winter. Bros couldn't help but our friends-the neighbors to the home, volunteered and the home was completed in one week.
In heavy rain, and cold, they built it, and now the home has any number of problems too. The owner went back on "Extreme Makeover" to fix everything, and was told, "you got this for free, fix it yourself.""
"My sister’s master bedroom got a makeover on a “surprise your spouse” show. The designer was going for an “Arabian nights” romantic vibe but it ended up pretty weird looking with all the closets hidden behind yards of draped fabric. They took it all down and painted the room a neutral color within months. They also took the ceiling fan out and replaced it with a giant tree branch wired up with twinkling lights. Not too long afterwards half the lights went out and it was too hot in the room without the fan, so that got put back as well. On the bright side it didn’t cost them anything and was a fun experience, and they got a couple of new furniture pieces out of it but in the end they didn’t keep any of it the same."
"We had friends who were on a show a few years ago. It was super intense 3 weeks of filming and the redesign looked great on camera. In reality it was literally things stuck together with staples and tape. After the show my friend took 2 weeks off work to rebuild everything properly. Like, the curtains were stapled to the wall so they had to buy curtain rods and do it properly. The crew ran out of time so only half the wall was painted, the other half was off camera. The designer wanted square chairs that could be used as tables but in reality they were empty cardboard boxes wrapped in fabric. My friend liked the idea so asked a real carpenter to make real ones."
"I was building a very energy efficient house and Renovation Nation did part of an episode about it. They made us out to be heroes for building green in what was then “a terrible neighborhood” while the camera panned over to my neighbor’s house across the street. He hated me for about ten years after that.
Honestly there is not much to look at when you build that way so I think the show was probably pretty boring. We did add solar panels recently and now the house produces as much energy as it uses."
"My college roommate and her husband were on Fixer Upper. They were so excited! Until everything started. They could barely give their input for their vision of the house. They had to "accept" whatever style Joanna thought best for their house. It was gorgeous, obviously, but not them. Ya know? They also barely saw Joanna & Chip. Told to act as if they were long time close friends, but in reality she said she spent maybe 1hr total with Joanna."
"My sister had her bathroom remodeled for a show. They took two back to back ancient 1970s styled bathrooms and made one giant bathroom with a walk in, no door shower and a bathtub that fills from a faucet in the ceiling and marble sinks. They paid for all the materials while the show paid for the design and labor. Still the show said "you have to buy these two sinks. Uh, they are $1500 each. .... "yes buy them".
She did further renovations later, but rents that house out now because they bought a new place. I think the bathroom certainly brought a wow factor from the renters. If it were me, having two back to back bathrooms with updated fixtures and paint would be worth a lot more than one giant bathroom with separate walk in shower, huge 50 gallon tub and a single toilet (and two marble sinks) because practically speaking only one person can use that at a time and it feels like you're pooping in a living room or something, it's so big."
"I helped find someone to feature for a home renovation show after they were the victim of a rogue contractor that took tens of thousands of dollars from them, leaving them with nothing left and not doing the work.
I felt pretty good about myself that I was able to talk the person through what would happen, sit them down and chat over the pros and cons, and find a pathway through so that they could have a habitable home and normal family life again, especially as the family had had it rough even before the rogue contractor.
The renovation looked great and there's no way the family would have been able to have gone ahead without the help & funding from the TV show.
Funny thing is, I got a call from the person about 6 months later and they said that the TV company had been in touch and sent out another builder who re-did much of the work and made it even nicer, because they since found out the guy they originally used was another bad contractor!
What I'll always remember though is the transformation in the person. The first time I met them they were crying, shaking uncontrollably, afraid of the rogue trader and utterly desperate, with seemingly no way out. Over the course of my dealings with them they changed to such an extent it was like a different person. They were bubbly, positive and resilient - they were able to laugh off the issue where they had to have a 2nd builder out and while they were in talks with the TV people, it actually even led to a freelance job offer for them as well.
They'd been at rock bottom, and this was the catalyst that turned it round and it was totally unexpected for them. I believe it was genuinely life-changing. This was at least 10 years back now, but I'll never forget it. Hope the family's still doing well."
"My in-laws own a roofing company and did an extreme home makeover. They were required to donate all the materials and time. They were allowed to write it off as a charitable contribution at the end of the year, but otherwise were pretty out of luck. They had to work only at night because they couldn't be "filmed" while working on the roof. The people that were helping were terrible and my wife's father said the house wasn't built to code at all. The woman that owned the house lost it three or so years later because she had it repossessed by the IRS due to back property taxes. There is a stipulation in tax codes that says if you leave a single wall up, it's considered a "remodel" and they can only raise your taxes by 3% max in the state, but if you demo the entire house, it's considered "new construction" and they can raise it by whatever the new property value is. The show knew this, but what's it matter to them right? They got a year jerker TV show out of it. The whole thing was sketchy and from the sound of it, pretty sad."
"Wacoan here - I don't know anyone who has been on the show, but they did do a house down the street from my mom. From what I've seen, the owners haven't maintained it well.
As for Chip & Joanna, a coworker's kid played on the same Little League team as one of their kids, so the parents had to all sign releases. But Chip only showed up to one game and Joanna to none so... And their church is... very fundamentalist."
"My dad is a contractor and so he decided to contactHGTV to see if they would be willing to film an episode on them so he could remodel his house for less money (because they pay for some of it) they said yes and my dad made us do all the work. We knocked the walls down, we fixed the plumbing (my dad and my brothers all know these kinds of things) and then when the film crew came they literally just filmed shots of the host hammering random nothings around the house with a fancy screwdriver and then left. My dad told us all to look super surprised during the big reveal even though we had literally built the house ourselves lol. They woman host person chose some major things herself. Like they wanted to give my dad a work out room, and she decided to paint it like this bright yet somehow still dark green. Then she wanted an accent wall in our living room, and my parents hated it because it was striped pattern which made the wall look uneven. It was crazy but I have some fun videos of me destroying my childhood home with a giant sledge hammer."
"My uncles were on one of the shows, but they were criticized as another person came to “clean up their mess”.
It turned out that they kept trying to do their jobs, but the owner kept changing plans on them and asking for things that weren’t safe. Eventually they quit because they weren’t going to go against building or electrical code, cut their losses, and left. They even offered to put things back, but the owner just wouldn’t let them.
By the time the other person got there, there were half finished renovations and they got blasted pretty hard on national television. It didn’t hurt their business, because they had so many loyal clients and a 2 year wait list for major projects, but it still makes them angry 10 years later.
They think the owner did it intentionally to get featured on TV, and he had an in for cheaper repairs.
Another family friend of ours was on one of the buying shows like house hunters. They were told to lie about their jobs, and had actually purchased the home before it started and had to pick the house they already bought on their budgets."