‘Why the Heck Did I Buy This House?’: Kim Wolfe on Bringing ‘Survivor’ Lessons to HGTV Show

Kim Wolfe in Why the Heck Did I Buy This House
HGTV/Samantha Biemer

Kim Wolfe has taken the competitive fire that carried her to victory on Survivor into Why the Heck Did I Buy This House? series. Wolfe was the winner of Survivor: One World in 2012. She also returned to compete in Survivor: Winners at War in 2020.

The proud Texan was able to take her passion for design and property renovation into Why the Heck Did I Buy This House?, now gearing up for Season 2. The show sees Wolfe help homeowners in the San Antonio area who have buyer’s remorse. Whether it’s dysfunctional layouts or outdated spaces, she’ll work with a team including her partner and husband Bryan for these transformations. At the end of the day, her efforts are helping clients realize the dream vision they had for their property.

Here the HGTV personality and mom opens up about challenges faced this season and if she’ll ever return to Survivor.

Now that you’re part of the HGTV family, how do you compare Survivor fans with HGTV fans? 

Kim Wolfe: I don’t know if I can. I feel Survivor fans are meaner. Not all of them, but I think it’s more of a contentious experience with Survivor. With HGTV, everyone is happy. So far, night and day experience. I also think with Survivor, I met so many people because I traveled and did charity events and interacted with Survivor superfans. The level of intensity around that show. There is nothing like it.

KIm and Bryan Wolfe

Kim and Bryan Wolfe

How did Survivor prepare you for filming a TV show like this? 

I think it did so much to prepare me. I think Survivor is such a tricky intro to TV. There is a lot of anxiety waiting and watching those episodes to see what happened and what got said you don’t know about and if you’re going to look crazy. I learned a lot about how to stay at peace with myself and how to do work I’m proud of and rest in that. I think it takes confidence in what you’re doing to weather a TV career well. I think Survivor set me up to enjoy this more than I would if I hadn’t done that.

What did you learn from the first season that you may have changed or tweaked? 

In Season 1, we jumped into the deep end of the pool. We had no idea what we were getting into. There was so much we had to figure out. In season 2, we were better staffed and had great people around us. I had an actual team. In Season 1,  it was me, one other girl, and Bryan. In Season 2, we had a team of 10 people. We had seven builders in Season 2 rather than two. It enabled everything to run so much more smoothly. We were able to prepare the homeowners for the experience. I think personally I learned that a lot of people’s favorite spaces from the first season were spaces where we took risks and did something more dramatic and edgy. I took liberties knowing that. The risks paid off across the board.

You are helping people who feel they are in these hopeless situations. Talk a bit about your approach to easing them into the process.  

It’s such a vulnerable thing for people to take you into their homes and show you all the things they are embarrassed about and put that on national television. You have a high dose of anxiety. I think it’s reminding them, and for me to see it through their rosy glasses, about what about this house made it the one for them. We can prioritize and fix those other things. We figure out the reasons they are unwilling to move because there must be a reason they want to stay and do this with this house.

What can you say about the housing projects you’ll be working on this season? 

I think that what I love is that it’s endless challenging and tricky. I gain experience, but each house is a new whole thing to wrap my head around and tackle. What I get excited about is the people. It’s what brings me great energy meeting these homeowners and figuring out who they are and what they want to happen. Then I will give them the very best version of what they want through my design lens. It’s eight families, eight houses, and different styles. The houses don’t look the same at all.

We did some 1950s and 1960s ranchers, which we have a lot of in San Antonio. We did incredible very cool historic places, which was a delight working with original architecture…We had one house with like eight paint colors on the outside. We did a lake house that was 40 minutes outside of town. It’s a much more diverse sampling of all areas of San Antonio.

How would you describe your working dynamic with Bryan? 

You are watching in real-time us process how to work together. It’s not an act. It has been difficult. We are very different and very yin and yang. We’re different in the way we approach things. I’m not risk adverse. The more challenging and crazier it sounds the better. Bryan loves a safety net. He is detail-oriented and budget-oriented. He is a data analyst by trade, all about numbers for him. I’m about moods, vibes, and experiences. It has been challenging for us to figure out how to navigate this world together. I’m proud of what we accomplished. We’ve come a long way creating a recipe for success and building a great team for support. I’m pretty thrilled about that.

So he is the bad cop to your good cop? 

I used to jokingly call him the dream crusher. By nature, he loves to shoot holes in things. That is his superpower. Seeing if something can sink or float. That’s good for me. I need that. It’s checks and balances. And it clarifies for me what I’m unwilling to compromise on. There are certain things I will fight for. I learned to shoot holes in things myself. Before taking the plan to Bryan, I can give him a more vetted thing to look at.

How is it having the kids involved in the show? 

It’s the opposite of Nate [Berkus] and Jeremiah [Brent]. I watch their show and their kids are dressed beautifully with beautiful loafers walking down a street. My kids are on skateboards in a gas station parking lot with no shoes on drinking Big Red. I haven’t seen the episodes, so I don’t know what makes it or not. Who I am is what you get. What you see is what you get. I think it’s a very authentic representation of who we are as a family. We’ll see what that looks like.

Do the kids like being filmed? 

They are funny about it. None of them seem to enjoy it when the camera is around. We don’t have a budding actor or actress in the group They are fascinated by it. They enjoy watching the show and are proud of it, but they are funny. They can be private, but once we turn the cameras on, they either act completely crazy, lose their mind or nobody will talk. There is no happy median. You never know what they’ll get.

Rico Leon, Kim Myles, and Kim Wolfe (L to R), BOTM (1)

Rico Leon, Kim Myles, and Kim Wolfe in Battle on the Mountain. (HGTV)

You were just named a mentor for Battle on the Mountain. What can you tell us about that experience? This show seems to be the best of both worlds for you. 

It blew away every expectation I had of work being fun. It was a blast. Competition meets home renovation was magical. My two favorite things To get to do them both and having the competition component made it very enjoyable. My show I feel like I’m in self-competition with myself. This was actual challenges. I got to compete with my team. It was fun and intense. It was very dramatic when it was going down. I know they captured that, so I’m curious to watch. The teams brought great intensity and wanted to win very badly. I was so proud of my team.

Looking at HGTV, who do you think would do well in the Survivor arena? 

I got to meet a handful over the summer. Rico [León] from Rico to the Rescue, no way. That guy would be gone first tribal council. Kim Myles is very clever and has a way of making friends with everyone. I also think Jasmine Roth would do well. She is quiet, well-spoken, and smart. She doesn’t over-assert herself and come out super flashy. I don’t think Alison Victoria would do well at all. I only say that about Alison because she is super outspoken. She would make a great character, but I don’t think she would make it to the end. I think Ty Pennington would do well. I think he is very good socially and seems to have that and do well with the survival component. He seems to love being in nature. I think he would make a good run. From people I met, that’s how they would stack up.

Would you ever do Survivor again? 

No. I went back and didn’t win. During Winners at War, I placed ninth and already had that. It’s not as fun to not win. I think I just realized I’d done that. It was such a good experience for me, but you can be so miserable. It’s grueling, and I don’t know if I could talk myself into it again. I think my Survivor days are done.

At the same time you probably have the mindset that if you can survive Survivor, you can survive anything with any project 

It’s true. It recalibrates you for comfort in your life.

Why the Heck Did I Buy This House? Premiere, December 26, 9/8c, HGTV

Battle on the Mountain Premiere, January 22, 9/8c, HGTV