free home makeover of a kitchen - gorgeous!

Do people actually get free home makeovers? And can you get HGTV to pay for YOUR home renovation? Read all about it to find out.

Ever wondered if you can score a free home makeover or free home remodeling? 

Does HGTV pay for home renovations, and what exactly does the process look like?

I know we’ve wondered about the possibility of getting our 1975-home up to speed using this method.

That’s because whenever we’re faced with any type of cost, I try my best to brainstorm ways to decrease expenses.

And really, no idea is too ‘out there’ or weird for me to consider…including trying to apply for home renovation show.

I mean, honestly, I would love someone to fix my house for free!

Psst: need emergency home repair assistance? I've got an article on 197 financial emergency resources, both national programs and by the 10 major cities in the U.S. 

Like for our upstairs bathroom. Think: cracked, 1970s-era vanity, cracked/stained tub, a sub-floor that needs to be leveled, etc.

We’ve just had our first child, and I would love to renovate the heck out of that place.

I’d rather not have to do it ourselves again (we renovated both our downstairs bathrooms), because I just don’t have the time and energy and expertise to do it.

And if we hired out? Well, that’s a whole other mental obstacle (getting quotes, trusting someone to do the work, making deposits, etc.), on top of the huge costs involved.

I’m an HGTV and home renovation show-junkie myself, and am fascinated by finding out which shows pay for your home renovations versus which shows make you pony up.

I’ve been doing some digging around to answer important questions like whether or not free home makeovers exist, does HGTV pay for home renovations, do HGTV participants get paid, and more.

Let me show you what I found.


Free Home Renovations – Are They Real?

While watching one of these drool-worthy home renovations, have you ever had wild fantasies of your own home getting the VIP experience, complete with quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, and that sun room that’s been dripping into your dreams…

But your actual budget to do the work would be somewhere along the lines of $5,000 (and let’s be honest – it feels like a stretch, at that).

So, would your budget + wants be realistic if you got accepted to be on HGTV show?

A 2011 interview with Kathleen Finch, then Senior Vice President and General Manager of HGTV, sheds some murky light on the whole issue.

“In some shows, we come in and we pay for everything. In others we are following along on a regularly scheduled renovation anyway. In some cases, we share the costs with the homeowner. There is no hard and fast rule.”

Thanks for the clarification, Kathleen.

From my research, I’ve found that a plus to getting on one of these shows is that unrealistic expectations combined with a small budget can actually sometimes win.

That’s because most of these shows contract with local companies to cut their costs down to half or less of what the job is actually worth.

According to an article by Kiplinger,

“Networks often partner with advertisers that provide free materials, and some contractors that appear on these shows will work at discounted rates in exchange for free publicity.”

It’s quite similar to the blogging world, where I get a constant deluge of emails from advertisers asking me to write a blog post for their company for free in exchange for awesome traffic (admittedly, it gets a little shoddy when you try to pay the electric bill with all that “traffic”, as I’m sure can be the case with those local contractors trying to get free advertising as well).

But that’s not the whole store. And if you want to apply to an actual show, you probably want to know the specifics ahead of time!

So, let’s look at specific shows, and what they do/do not pay for.

Does HGTV Pay for Renovations?

HGTV is, admittedly, probably the most popular network for home renovations.

They’ve got shows like Fixer Upper, Love it Or List It, House Hunters, Property Brothers, Desert Flippers, and many others.

You've probably wondered, “how can I get my house remodeled for free?”

So, if you apply to one of these shows, does HGTV pay for renovations?

Psst: Hiring a contractor for your renovation? How do you negotiate with a contractor? You definitely want to check out my 7 questions and phrases to use while negotiating your major home repair costs.

We’ll break this question down per show below. But generally speaking? No, the renovations are not free. In fact, it looks like you’ll need a minimum range of at least $30,000 to $90,000 to spend on your home’s renovations.

  • Property Brothers: The casting call for 2019 shows that, among other things, to apply for this show you must have a renovation budget of at least $90,000. For this, the site says, “You will be provided with design advice and a completed renovation of 3-4 fully designed rooms in 7 weeks!”
  • Buying and Selling: The casting call for 2019 showed that you’ll need a minimum renovation and minimum design budget of $50,000 to apply for this show.
  • Love it Or List It: This is one of my personal favorite shows! To be on it, you’ve got to have at least a $50,000 renovation budget.
  • House Hunters: Yes, you have to buy your own home. Actually, you have to already be in the closing phase of having purchased a home. Hmmm…here’s a detailed article on this with snippets from various contestants.
  • Restored: To be on this show, you’ve got to have a minimum budget of $80,000 for them to work with. Also note that you have to move out of your house for the 5-8 weeks it’ll take to complete the job and – here’s the kicker – “the show does not reimburse for accommodations.”
  • Fixer Upper: While I couldn’t find a casting call to verify, reportedly, you need at least a budget of $30,000 to be on the show.

And that’s not all. What about all that furniture that magically appears on reveal day – do the families and couples get to keep them?

Well, it depends on the show.

Let’s look at a few specific examples about whether or not you get to keep the furniture:

  • Property Brothers: Want to keep the furniture that gets added to your renovated home? While many shows only put in staged furniture (see below) that participants must then buy afterwards if they want to keep, Drew Scott from Property Brothers has said on his blog (though, link no longer works) that everyone gets to keep the furniture in their renovations.
  • Property Brothers’ Buying and Selling: While people get to keep the furniture on the original property Brothers show, they apparently do not get to on the Buying and Selling Drew and Jonathan Scott show.
  • Fixer Upper: You know all that gorgeous furniture filling the participants’ renovated home? It turns out, they’ll have to buy it to actually keep it. *womp, womp*. Jamie Ferguson was a client on the show, and got to meet the famous Joanna and Chip Gaines as she and her husband got their new Waco, Texas home renovated. One plus is, Jamie said that all the rooms were renovated (but the ones that weren’t shown didn’t have the elaborate staging). Still, at the end, she ended up only purchasing a few of the pieces of furniture.

The bottom line: you (and I) may have had wild dreams about HGTV and other shows come in and take over everything while you + your family get sent to the spa.

And while there are some clear positives to getting your renovation done this way – you get amazing experts + designers who are doing the renovations at cost (meaning the labor and lots of materials from local manufacturers are donated), a time frame they’re going to meet, and you know you’ve got some recourse in case something goes wrong – just know that you also have to pay for it.

Pssst: Do you think you just get that donated labor and materials on tv shows that remodel homes for free? Not so. The IRS typically gets a cut of whatever “free” things you are given. Find out about that plus many more in an article I wrote about the money realities behind being on a home renovation show like HGTV.

*dreams crushed*.

Let’s move onto something else that could give us a silver lining – do HGTV participants get paid?

Do HGTV Participants Get Paid?

You would think that appearing on television equals a nice payday, even for us non-stars.

Pssst: wondering how much do reality tv stars make

But I can tell you from personal experience – I was actually on a casting call Skype with a show about cheapskates several years ago – and from research that the “payday” isn’t anything near what you would think.

Especially given the amount of time it takes to film everything (heck, it’s kind of like the small return you get on the time + energy you put into blogging! Again, personal experience…).

Granted, this information is even more difficult to find than whether or not a network will actually pay for your renovation – at least with that, we have actual proof from casting applications.

From the research I’ve done to find out how much HGTV participants get paid, I will share that it seems to be a paltry amount. We’re talking less than $1,000, per family, for the entire thing (which can take up to 12 weeks, and up to 10-12 days of filming within those weeks).

Here is an example:

  • House Hunters: Past participants have spilled the beans, and this show is one of the cheaper ones in terms of pay. It looks like, from several sources, to be around $500. However, another participant shares, “The director treated us to lunch each of the five days we were on set, took my family to dinner one night and provided us with on-set snacks every day. We missed that pampered treatment after it was all over.” At least there’s free food!

I’d love to give more examples, but it’s difficult to find this information!

Wow, maybe we should start a reality TV union for participants! Just kidding…mostly.

How to Get Your House Remodeled for Free – TV Shows that Remodel Homes for Free

We’ve discussed a lot about HGTV so far, and know now that you can’t get a free home renovation on the network’s dime (though, you do get one at cost).

So, are there ANY TV shows that remodel homes for free out there?

Your best bet in finding a “free” home modeling is to enter giveaways and sweepstakes where money is given towards making your home into a dream home.

Some key phrases/words to use when googling the newest contests and sweepstakes available:

  • home makeover sweepstakes 2018/2019/current year
  • win a home makeover 2018/2019/current year
  • hgtv dream home 2019 entry

You can also visit these hotspots that are regularly updated with new home sweepstakes:

Remember that there are money consequences to winning free things (such as having to pay taxes on the winning value). Learn about that and more in my article on the money realities of being on a home renovation show.

How to Apply for HGTV Makeovers (and DIY Network Makeovers) – HGTV Casting

You’ve read (or skipped around) and you’re finally here – ready to apply to one of the shows we’ve talked about above?


There are two main website pages you want to continually watch, as they are updated fairly regularly with new casting calls for both HGTV Makeovers and DIY Network Makeovers. And they’re official, so you’re getting the information straight from the networks themselves.

  • HGTV Makeover Applications: These are broken down by show, by location where you need to be purchasing a home or already own a home, and each application has very specific information for what they’re looking for. This is a gold mine! Well…if you have tens of thousands of dollars to get done the renovations you want to.
  • DIY Network Makeover Applications: Again, you’ll find the most up to date casting call information on this page from the actual network itself – the best source. So, check back often!

I’ll also leave you direct links to some popular shows to apply to for how to get your home renovated for free (or somewhat free…):

Remember, there are lots of considerations to make when deciding if you want to apply for one of these shows. Aside from the invasion into your life + privacy, you need to know that your property taxes could increase due to an increased appraisal on your home, the repairs may be shoddy/hastily done due to the show’s time constraints, and there could be added maintenance costs because of things like huge fountain fixtures, pools, etc.

As for us, perhaps one day our bathroom will make it onto a show like Bath Crashers…you just never know.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.
22 replies
  1. Cathy Martin says:

    We have bought a house two years ago October and it is an odd designed house and we need help getting it ideas to maybe redesign. I think good bones but inside not so good . Would love to get help anything

    Thanks Cathy

  2. Jennifer Labeau says:

    I have lived in my house for twenty years, payed off. Unfortunately I am nearing retirement and my husband cannot find permanent work. So we are living on my income only. My house is a shambles!! My husband tore apart dining room and never redid it. My kitchen is old and worn and needs everything. My bathroom is small but a wreck too. Cannot afford to redo anything. I would love to be on a show and they remodel it for free. All I wanted all my life is to have a nice home to life in and invite people in and not be ashamed of the shambles . So we never have anyone in our house, and I would love to because I love to cook and be able to have family over for dinner and holidays and anything!! Looking for a miracle to happen because that’s what I need to make this happen!!!!

  3. Jennifer Faulk says:

    I live on SSI and take care of myself and my family including 3 cats and 3 dogs. I have no money after bills and I was wondering how I can renovate my house. I’m in serious need of help. I live in Avinger, Tx.

  4. Julie Kovacs says:

    Hi I have 40.000 too remodel my home Kitchen and bath rooms. I would love hgtv help I live in naples Florida Does anyone know how I contact them too see if I could be on tv and they help me w projects

    • Julie Kovacs says:

      How can I be on hgtv and have them fix my condo. Love them all. Big fan. Needs help

    • Julie Kovacs says:

      40.000 looking for help from hgtv. Naples Florida. How do I apply w them

  5. Celeste says:

    I am tired of looking at this ugly house

  6. Melinda Lindsey says:

    Have land and home we can’t live in yet. Won’t send no big story. I tell that to God each day. Just need to win. Thanks Melinda

  7. karen brown says:

    Hello, I am 69 years old and adopted 3 young siblings in 2017 and a foster daughter who still lives with me. I have small functionalbe home but could benefit from adding another bathroom (only have one) and some cosmetic lifts. My income in considerable low for 5 people. Anyone know if these situations are given consideration?

  8. kim says:

    To the CBS’s Mary Calvi. Otis Livingston and Cindy Hsu was talking about Mary Calvi’s private life they set you up!


    Hi, my request is a little different. My mom and dad purchased their home in 1970. We went thru a fire in 1973 I believe that’s the correct year. My father was a sergeant on the local police force, and passed away 4 years ago. My mom ( God bless her) still lives in the home with her cat. The house has never been updated since the fire. My husband and myself, along with my 2 other siblings, have done a few minor things for our mom. Since our dad passed, my mom rarely leaves the house. She would love a new kitchen, and has saved up for one. She is now on a fixed income. And always has an excuse as to why NOW is not a good time. My mom has worked hard all of her life, and she is the HAPPIEST, KINDEST, MOST CARING person I’ve ever met, even now…. she deserves a makeover for her home. I would love some feedback, on how, or what I can do to make this happen for her…. my siblings and I are ready to push up our sleeves and get to work. Drew and Johnathan would be our first choice, however, my mama loves the pioneer woman. Actually. WE LOVE ALL OF THE SHOWS. Can anyone out there help? Thank you…

    • Laura Roland says:

      I hope someone does something for you mother. I am a mother of 5 and have had a lote of hardships. You mother is so proud of you i am sure . please someone help this wonderful daughter….. I will not for get you or your mother and if so day in the near future i hit the loto i will promise give your mother the kitchen she deserves. With love laura Roland

  10. Julie says:

    I would love to be considerd for a home makeover. My husband and I are both teachers in Erie P.a. My husband works 3 jobs to provide for our family. We have 4 handsome sons. We dream about all the things we could do to our home. This will be our 25 wedding anniversary. This would be the best gift ever! It would be so fun to be on tv with our family.

  11. Reynolds says:

    I have lived in my home for over 35 years i have my mother my dog and my cat that live here .i have grandkids with all the time. Its a 3 bedroom brick.i just got it paid off. But it really needs some major TCL. I want to be able to pass this house down to my middle grandson. Poor baby his first few years were crazy him and his parent moved alot. Dad was into drugs etc. So this is where he feels secure. I have no money i live pay check to pay check.So if i did get a make over i could afford the taxes. But one can dream and one can ask .the carpet is the carpet we put in 30 some odd years ago .i am gonna try and paint this spring.We live in texas and everyone here knows spring is about 2 weeks long.Sorry so much to say not enough time but i would live to fix up my HOME to give to my grandson some day. I have lots medical issues im 58 and my little mom is 78 .any way thank yu for your time .Just sharing a dream i have . Thank yu

  12. Tamny Baddley says:

    My mom and dad are elderly, they owe 25,00 on there home but are to week for keep up. Can you help?

  13. LISA EASTER says:

    We have a beautiful home we love we want to turn more into a farm home with white light and white open spaces.

  14. Alanna says:

    Hi, my husband and I just got married in 2017. We bought our first home, but it needs major TLC! It needs a new boiler, water heater. It needs some rewiring, it needs cosmetic makeovers, it needs fans installed in the bathroom and kitchen, it needs better insulation, it needs a better bathroom, a new basement with a finished floor (and we have a downstairs bathroom that needs work) and I need a lot of gardening done (which I am terrible at). Now don’t get me wrong, we do actually love the house and the neighborhood but honestly, I pull my hair because I want so many things to happen…particularly with the heat because we live in new England and need heat in the winter that consistently works,. We are keeping up the mortgage and making it our own, but I want a beautiful house and the thought of it never happening to us just because of the lack of money makes me want to cry. My dearest and fondest wish would be to redo it and win a free total home makeover, I dream of it everyday. I will reward the person who can help, but I don’t have much. All I want is a beautiful home where everything works perfectly and I don’t think it is undoable but no one wants to help us out. If we had the money you know we would but we don’t. Help, please. We sure could use it.

    • Vonnie says:

      Hi! I purchased a house several years ago, and although it didn’t seem like it needed a lot of work, it does. I am slowly fixing every thing up. Each year I take on a new project – roofs (yes I have two types) have been replaced, exterior fireplace re-stuccoed, and this year will be window replacement. I am putting in the sweat equity where I can, and contracting out things outside of my expertise. I suggest taking on one project at a time and using your tax refund to fund it! It will take longer, but you won’t have to do everything all at once.

    • Sarita says:

      Hi Alana,
      Your home sounds like mine. I live in Washington DC and I need everything done. However I plan to move once I can decently get major things repaired. From roof to basement and everything in between, needs to be done to my home. It would be nice if there was an exchange type program, where homeowners helped other homeowners. That both parties have a budget for each room/project. Maybe get some training from local warehouses like Home Depot or Lowe’s hardware (they offer free classes on how to do certain things) to do that project. (anything outside the scope of our knowledge, the homeowner would have to get contracted, like roofing, electric wiring etc). I think painting, crown moldings, flooring, door replacement etc. Small stuff like that can be done if you learn/ or already know how easily. Then each homeowner go to the others home and remodel/repair or fix that issue. The labor would be free and your money used to work on your project. I saw your post and that just popped into my head. I am in the same situation as you with my home. I know how you feel I really do. It’s hard living in a home that’s not updated. I need a total home make over too. My front and backyards could be awesome gardens if I only had the money.
      It be nice if HGTV can come up with show called “Homeowner Renovation Exchange” Homeowners would do the work on each others homes and HGTV would air it. Not sure how all the money part for airing it and all that would work but it would be an awesome way to help Homeowners with limited or no income, to get repairs/renovations done.

  15. KATHY NEWMAN says:


  16. Money Beagle says:

    As tempting as it is to consider, I have two issues. First is that I don’t think I’d want my life and home on display for the world. Second, is that there are two agendas at play, and they may not often align. My agenda would be to get the renovation done, but the shows agenda is to put together something entertaining. To me, there’s too big a risk in those not intersecting, and if that’s the case, guess who ends up with the short end of the stick?

    • Amanda says:

      Yes — I don’t think I’ve heard of someone successfully suing an HGTV show if they were dissatisfied with the results. Good points!


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