Rules the contestants on Fixer Upper had to follow

Although we have Behind the Design, TV just isn't the same without the uniquely loveable Fixer UpperThe design series wrapped up its fifth and final season in April 2018. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't go back and binge-watch your favorite episodes.

In November 2018, The Today Show caught up with Joanna and revealed all of the (many) things she and Chip have been up to since the series ended in April. Chip and Jo have since opened a restaurant, Magnolia Table, in their hometown of Waco, Texas. They've also welcomed their fifth child, a son, Crew. Joanna even penned a design book Homebody. As you can see, they're not exactly taking it easy post-Fixer Upper. Still, we can't help but miss the show — and get a little jealous that we missed our chance to be on it.

So, why not make yourself a ham sandwich, sit back, relax, and revisit the series with us? Here are some crazy rules homeowners had to follow to be a contestant on the incredibly popular series.

The application process was a bit much

If you ever thought about applying for Fixer Upper when the series was on the air, you should know it was quite a process. Ahead of Season 5, HGTV posted an open casting call for any who wanted to take a stab at starring on the show. Country Living reported that part of the application procedure included a whopping "71-step questionnaire." If that sounds like more than the usual amount of questions for a design show, that's because it most certainly is. The questionnaire for the popular HGTV series Love it or List it, for example, asks applicants a total of 23 questions.

Jaime Ferguson, a contestant from Fixer Upper Season 3, revealed to blogger Rachel Teodoro that the application process did not end with the questionnaire. A Skype interview, several phone calls, and even in-person meetings were required before Jaime and her husband Kyle Ferguson could star on the show.

Contestants couldn't be boring

While each and every contestant on Fixer Upper had their own unique personalities, there was something they all had in common: they weren't boring. Or, at least they weren't boring when the cameras were rolling. In addition to meeting the age requirement of 21 years old, Southern Living reported that applicants needed to be "outgoing, energetic, and fun."

Rachel and Luke Whyte, who, like the Fergusons, also appeared on the third season of Fixer Upper, told Country Living that the "reactions and conversations" you saw on the show were indeed real." Without an "outgoing, energetic, and fun" personality, this would likely be pretty difficult. The former contestant specified that sometimes "the producers might have you repeat things a few times" or "they might film things multiple times from different angles," but they're not phoning it in. "The hard thing is remembering what you said before when asked to repeat it," she admitted.

Preparation was a must

Although Jaime Ferguson ultimately had to complete a thorough questionnaire, take a few phone calls, and survive both Skype and in-person meetings before starring on the hit design show, the contestant revealed to blogger Rachel Teodoro that she actually heard back from the casting agency just one day after she applied to HGTV to appear with her husband on Fixer Upper

While the home renovations can take months, filming — much like casting — happens quicker than you'd imagine. At least for the contestants, that is. "We did all our shots in one day," Season 3 contestant Jeff Jones said in an interview with Apartment Therapy published in April 2018. "It was exhausting." This also resulted in having to take some time off from work to fit Fixer Upper's tight filming schedule. Nevertheless, the contestant said he and his wife, Sara Jones, "would do it again in a heartbeat."

Contestants must live near Chip and Jo

Even if you've only just started binging Fixer Upper, you've probably already noticed a familiar theme: Waco, Texas. Unlike Tiny LuxuryHouse Hunters, and other popular HGTV shows that select applicants from all across the United States, Fixer Upper drew contestants from a very narrow pool. 

If you were looking to renovate a home within just 40 miles of Waco, you'd have been in luck. HGTV confirmed to Today that those who wanted to be on the show must have been within that limited radius to be considered for the show. After all, that is where Chip and Joanna live and raise their family.

With the combined success of Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna Gaines' other business ventures in Waco, plus the fact that many of the homes renovated by the power couple sit in the heart of Texas town, Waco has practically transformed into Gainesville. You can even take a Fixer Upper-themed tour, fittingly called "The Magnolia Trail," if you happen to visit the area.

Contestants had to do what?

As real as Fixer Upper may have been, the series is still guilty of embellishing — not unlike many, many other reality television shows. In each episode, Chip and Joanna bring the contestants out to view three properties. After coming up with pros and cons of each home, the contestants then pick their favorite and voila! That's the home they get. Anyone who has ever bought a house, however, knows the process is not that simple. 

Season 3 contestant David Ridley revealed to Fox News that he had actually bought his home before he was even chosen to be on the show. "You have to be under contract to be on the show," he explained, "They show you other homes but you already have one." After you're selected, the home is then reviewed by Chip, Joanna, and their team, according to Ridley. Although this truth takes some of the reality out of the reality show, it does make for a more entertaining viewing experience.

The renovation budget had to be substantial

In addition to securing a property in or around Waco, Texas, a contestant on Fixer Upper would also need to secure financing for the repairs. Just how much were the contestants required to pony up? At the bare minimum, $30,000, HGTV confirmed to Today. Furthermore, the application form (via Country Living) advised prospective contestants that "financial contribution should be proportional to the amount of renovations your new home will need." Naturally, the folks at Fixer Upper wouldn't want any participants to have their properties left unfinished.

Although the renovation budget is fairly high, the minimum overall budget including house purchase is low: between $30,000 and $50,000. Hmm. Considering the minimum reno budget, you'd either have to be gifted a house, or get a real fixer upper to stay in that price range. The form further revealed that there was no maximum budget as it merely stipulates "over 300,000" in the "overall budget field." Just imagine what Jo could design with a budget that big. 

Trusting Chip and Jo was non-negotiable

If you're someone who likes to always be in control, you would've had a difficult time being a contestant on Fixer Upper. The exhaustive application (via Today) informed applicants that "while the design team will take your thoughts into consideration, you will have to accept that some final renovation choices may differ from your original decisions or desires." That's not to say Chip and Joanna ignored the participants' wishes.

Former contestant Rachel Whyte revealed to Country Living what Joanna asked her to do prior to the renovation: create a Pinterest board. This way Joanna was able to get a sense of her individual style. Whyte further explained that she and her husband were "pretty hands off and fully trusted [Chip and Joanna]." Their only must-haves, Whyte revealed, "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 [her husband] Luke." She added, "They gave us all that and more!"

No peeking was permitted

In each episode of Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna take their clients out to see their fixer upper for the first time post-renovation. Using a before picture of the property supersized to fit two giant posters on wheels, the couple first remind the contestants of what the home used to look like. The posters are pulled apart to reveal the fixed up home in all its Magnolia glory.

In an interview with Glamour, Chip revealed that he came up with the idea when filming the pilot and asked his buddies to help him put it together. Sure enough, the hosts of Fixer Upper continued to use the posters through all five seasons. But, is that really the first time the contestants get to see their home? According to former participant Doug McNamee, yes. He revealed to Waco Tribune-Harold that he and his family were under "strict orders" not to visit the property. "They wanted it to be a complete surprise, and it took discipline not to sneak a look," he said.

What about the furniture?

One of the best parts of Fixer Upper is, of course, the design. Joanna fills the participants' homes with furniture and arranges everything flawlessly. But, there's a catch: the contestants don't actually get to keep the furniture. At least not for free.

Former contestant Rachel Whyte revealed to Country Living that all of the staged furniture and decorations — aside from custom pieces — are taken out of the home after cameras stop rolling. That is, unless you have the means to pay for it.

"They give you an itemized list of how much everything costs at the end to see if you want to purchase things at a discounted price," Whyte revealed. Still, the former contestant said, "I wasn't really sad to see the staged decorations go. We did buy some of the decor, but I was excited to fill our home with our things and make it ours."