The Surprising Way ‘Fixer Upper’ Changed the Way People Buy Houses

There was a time not too long ago when linoleum kitchens, outdated electrical, and wood paneled walls were huge turnoffs for homebuyers. Most prospective buyers were either building fresh new homes or at least looking for brand-spanking-new houses to own.

They cared little about builder grade materials—they just wanted everything sparkling new and pretty. But times have changed. According to Realtor.com’s spring homebuyer survey, 60% of buyers are considering homes that require renovations.

Somehow Chip and Joanna Gaines (along with several other notable HGTV hosts) managed to change all that. Now home buyers are turning up their noses at new construction and lining up around the block for ramshackle old farmhouses. They don’t want a monstrous McMansion on a postage stamp-sized lot—they want something with historical significance that they can lovingly restore.

They also want shiplap.

Chip and Joanna Gaines
Chip and Joanna Gaines | Brook Christopher/FilmMagic

Why did Chip and Joanna Gaines become so popular?

Part of the reason everyone loves the Gaineses so much is they have that irresistible on-screen chemistry that you just can’t fake. Their idyllic farm life with so many kids and animals seems like the American Dream come true.

But Fixer Upper wasn’t just popular because of the charismatic show hosts. The show first aired in 2013, which also coincided with a time when unemployment was down and first-time homebuyers were flooding the market. Those buyers didn’t want the new construction that dominated the decade before—they wanted more modestly priced houses that they could put their personal stamp on.

There are a few reasons for this. With each passing year came more technology. Now homeowners didn’t need to hire contractors for every little project. Instead, they could head to Pinterest, or YouTube, or even HGTV.com to plan their own renovation projects and save tons of money. The internet gave homebuyers a sense of empowerment and DIY-thriftiness.

Homeowners want to make a profit

Another reason people are flocking to older homes to rehab? The potential profits.

Chip and Joanna Gaines advocate for buying “the worst house in the best neighborhood” and building instant equity by doing smart upgrades. At the end of each episode of Fixer Upper, Chip Gaines gleefully explains how much more the house is worth compared to how much the homeowner spent buying and renovating it. They always come out ahead.

Instead of being turned off by ugly paint colors and dated fixtures, prospective buyers are intentionally seeking out these exact features and expecting to make money changing them. Shows like Flip or Flop, Property Brothers, and Rehab Addict help perpetuate this idea that there’s huge money to be made by making simple home upgrades.

The ‘Fixer Upper’ effect has changed the housing market

Besides just changing the types of houses people are looking for, the Fixer Upper phenomenon has had some other notable changes as well. An estimated 95% of people with intentions of renovating their homes believe that they’ll get a return on their investment.

However, home renovation shows in general tend to glamorize this concept, making it seem so easy to undertake massive renovations. The thing they don’t show? Weeks of work by huge teams of highly skilled professionals. It’s not all swinging sledgehammers and giggling.

Chip and Joanna Gaines gave great advice

Because of Fixer Upper and shows like it, some realtors are advising sellers to avoid tackling renovations before they list. Since buyers are so desperate to get their hands on a project, an unrenovated home is often more desirable!

The shiplap trend may come and go, but there is one essential real estate truth that stays eternal: it’s all about location. Chip and Joanna Gaines advocate for choosing a neighborhood over a house and worrying about doing the work later. That’s actually fantastic advice.