HGTV Checklist

Melissa Hebeler / E! Illustration

Getting on HGTV is the real American dream. To be a contestant on Fixer Upper or Love It or List It or House Hunters is to have a brush with greatness. It is to see the inner workings of that which you love most. It is to get to meet the stars of the television shows that so many wile away their days watching. 

It is to get yourself an awesome new place to live. 

But all of that comes at a price. Getting a home makeover from Chip and Joanna Gaines or enlisting the expertise of the House Hunters to find your dream home isn't quite as easy or as glamorous as it looks. Sure, it's pretty awesome, but there are a few things that prospective contestants should know before they start daydreaming about calling all that shiplap their very own. 

First, you need a house. To get on a show like Fixer Upper you need to have a space that desperately needs renovating but that also isn't a total disaster. It has to be a dramatic-enough change without creating a nearly impossible feat. If it's a new space you're after instead of a like-new space, you should probably have a house in mind that you'd like to buy. That's because programs like House Hunters prefer contestants who are already well under way in the home buying process—and they'll even take you if you've already put in an offer. It may take some of the magic away but it sure makes things efficient. 

Oh, and we should mention that all of these houses need to be in very specific locations. HGTV casts on the basis of exact locations: Shows that are hometown-based are obviously (like Fixer Upper), but they also look for home buyers and sellers by market. Just because you would make the perfect episode of Love It or List It doesn't mean they're going to pack up and travel to you.

Next you need money. Lots and lots of money. Renovation budgets vary depending on what market your desired show is in (Waco is going to cost more than Home Town's Laurel, Miss., for instance) but the bottom line is very clear: Contestants pay for the work themselves. HGTV will ensure that your wallet is large enough to cover everything its hosts are going to do before they even consider you. That cost generally ranges between $30,000-40,000.

In a bit of an ironic turn, aspiring contestants should also be equipped with a bunch of free time. Filming these shows can take up to eight hours a day and you can't exactly remote in from your office cubicle. HGTV will, of course, be flexible, but plenty of former contestants have spoken about the commitment. 

Next you'll want to hone your application-filling-out skills. The network typically has a whole host of questions with which to grill any potential contestants and whether or not your file goes to the top of the pile hinges on how witty you can be. They'll ask plenty of questions about your home (design motif, special features, any renovation that's been done in the past) and they'll also want to know about your motivations for renovation or moving. All applications ask for family photos so make sure to pick out the cutest ones possible. We're not going to suggest borrowing someone else's kids, but we're not not suggesting it.

Once you've been selected and are done freaking the out there are a few more things you should know. First, if you're on a decorating program like Fixer Upper, you do not get to keep all that cool stuff. We repeat: You do not get to keep all that cool stuff. Chip and Jo are merely using the props to stage the house to show what it would look like if those were your belongings. Once cameras turn off they'll take everything back and it will be up to you to find those rustic-chic design accents yourself. There is the option of purchasing them through Magnolia Market but expect it to cost you. 

And last but not least, do not expect to walk away from your time on HGTV with a brand new famous BFF. All the hosts are very friendly and genuine and lovely but they are also very busy. No matter how chummy things may get on set, none of them have the time or bandwidth to start hanging out with former contestants. Sure, they may throw you a wave or a wink if they see you around town, but you won't be invited to the next potluck. You'll have to settle for watching your episode on repeat, but that's better than most people will ever get. 

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