Art Decor

This Is Why So Many Wacoans Struggle To Celebrate Magnolia (Fixer Upper) & Their Impact On Waco

It’s been many years now since Chip & Joanna Gaines have become household names due to their hugely successful and popular TV show Fixer Upper on HGTV. And since then, their business empire in Waco (the city where I was born, and where I’ve lived about 45 of my 49 years of life) has grown from a TV show, to a huge retail store, bakery, restaurant, bed and breakfasts, a real estate company, a media network, and now a restored “castle” that is (or will soon be) open for tours.

Their impact on Waco can’t be missed. Waco has gone from a sleepy little town that most people miss if they blink while driving through on their way up I-35 traveling from Austin to Dallas, to an actual tourist attraction, and a tourist attraction for positive reasons (unlike those few years post-1993, if you know what I mean).

But if you talk to the average Wacoan — those who just live here and live normal lives here — most of them are getting a bit burned out on all things Magnolia. I hear it when I talk to people around town. I see it when I read comments on articles from the local media. Most have been feeling for a long time that it’s just enough.

In the beginning, everyone enjoyed the positive press that Waco was finally getting. But when things finally started affecting the real lives of real Wacoans, and in ways that weren’t so helpful, the feelings started to turn. And that’s where a lot of Wacoans find themselves today.

To show you what I mean, I’ll show you this example that I came across just this week. Many of you may remember The Gorman House, which was featured during the first season of Fixer Upper. Well, that house is on the market right now for $1.2 million. Here are some pictures from the Zillow listing:

You can see a lot more pictures on the listing here.

It truly is a beautiful house, and they did a great job remodeling it. The problem is that price. $1.2 million.

I don’t know how property taxes work in other states. But here, property taxes are directly correlated to the assessed value of the house, which is determined largely by the value of the other houses in the neighborhood.

So if the current owner of this house managed to actually sell this house for $1.2 million, that will then affect the value of the other houses in the area, which means that those homeowners will then have their property taxes increased. All because of this house.

It’s the very same issue I have with the awful flip house next door to us (which still hasn’t sold, by the way). We bought our house almost nine years ago for $80,000, and since then, our house has gone up in assessed value every year, which means we pay more property taxes each year.

But if that house next door to us had actually sold for the original (and insane) asking price of $450,000, that would have artificially driven up the assessed value of our house right next door, which means that our property taxes (and all my our neighbors’ property taxes) would have taken a huge jump the next year all because of that one house.

So that brings us back to The Gorman House. Of course, they can ask whatever they want for the house. They could ask $4 million for that house. It won’t really matter until someone actually buys it. But the very fact that someone feels like they can actually put that $1.2 million price tag on that house is directly related to the fact that Chip and Joanna’s names (and the Fixer Upper name) are attached to that house. I mean, that info is being used to market the house, so clearly it’s seen as information that will drive up the value of the house.

But what does the rest of the neighborhood look like? Well, I took some screenshots from the Google Street View on the Zillow listing. These are all public, so I’m not violating any privacy here. But here are some of the houses just down from The Gorman House on the same side of the street.

Here’s the house directly across from The Gorman House.

And here’s one more directly across from The Gorman House.

Now I don’t presume to know anything about any of these people who live in these homes. They could all be very wealthy and just choose to live in modest homes. But something tells me that’s probably not the case. Here’s a quick look at the home values in that area…

I mean, there’s nothing even remotely close to $1.2 million in that area. So if that house sells for $1.2 million, or even a $1 million, or even $700,000, I can’t imagine what will happen to the people who live in that neighborhood. That sale will drive up the assessed values of the homes around it, which in turn will drive up the property taxes of all the houses around it.

What happens to the person who’s just barely hanging on after the struggles of the last two years, and now they can’t afford their property taxes anymore? They could lose their home all because of an artificially inflated value of a home in their neighborhood due to nothing more than a brand name. It’s a real problem that I’ve been hearing about for quite a few years now.

The same thing happened to the Fixer Upper house in my mom’s neighborhood. Once they got their hands on that house and remodeled it, the price tag skyrocketed. The houses in that area, if I had to guess, were probably valued at around $285,000 and under at that time back in 2016. And if my memory serves me correctly, I’m pretty sure when that Fixer Upper house was listed for sale the last time, they put an insane $1 million price tag on it. I may be wrong about that price, but I do remember being absolutely stunned at the asking price. I mean, I laughed at it. I scoffed. And the ONLY reason someone would think that they could get that price for that house is because of the names attached to it.

I was right, thank goodness. The house didn’t sell for that price, but it did sell for a much higher price than what all of the other houses in that area were valued at. And since then, the property taxes on that house have gone from $1800/year to $7200/year, which in turn, has an effect on all of the other houses in that neighborhood.

Anyway, that’s the story of Waco that doesn’t get told very much. I have to admit that as a native Wacoan, I’m kind of on the “burned out” end of the spectrum. Every time Chip and Joanna buy another property and announce another business, I just want to say, “When will it be enough?”

I did get upset when they took a Waco landmark — the Waco Elite Cafe — that has been a Waco icon for decades, and where Elvis Presley ate when he was stationed at Ft. Hood, and gutted the place, drenched it in their “farmhouse” look, and put their brand name on it. That didn’t set well with me at all. It didn’t set well with a lot of Wacoans.

And it upsets me now that they’ve redone another Waco landmark — an historic “castle” that was built in 1890 — and have remodeled it and are going to charge $50 per person for tours. I mean, I don’t know of a nicer way to say it, but that just seems greedy to me. Heck, you can buy a ticket to tour the Biltmore House for $89, so paying $50 for a home tour in Waco, Texas, just seems ridiculous to me. I’ll admit that I’m incredibly disappointed by their decision to charge that much to tour this Waco landmark. And I swear, if I were to walk into that landmark and see shiplap on any of those walls, I’d probably lose my mind. 😀

Anyway, that’s the downside to having the Magnolia empire take over your city. To be clear, I don’t dislike Chip and Joanna. I don’t know them. I’ve met Joanna and talked with her on a few occasions (all before their Fixer Upper fame), and she was perfectly nice. I don’t have anything against them on a personal level. But when I saw that Gorman House listing a few days ago, and saw the asking price, and having just seen the local newspaper article announcing the $50-per-person tours of another Magnolia-branded Waco landmark, I did let out an exasperated sigh once again, and think to myself, “When is enough going to be enough?”