By Corrie Coleman | Reporter
When Cameron and Jessie Bell bought a tiny, dilapidated shotgun house, they paid $28,000. Today, they have the same house listed for sale, asking nearly $1 million. What’s the difference? The house was featured on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” and has been remodeled by Waco’s Chip and Joanna Gaines.
People Magazine recently reported that seven Fixer Upper homes from the show’s five seasons are currently on the market. However, even more have been sold or rented in the past. While many families sell their homes for unexpected reasons, such as children or job transfers, the widely popular show has offered many clients the opportunity to make a profit.
In addition to selling homes, many owners have listed their properties on Airbnb or VRBO, popular vacation rental sites. Currently, 10 properties from the show are listed on Airbnb and mostly fall between $250-$350 per night, while others cost even more. For example, the “Chicken House,” a 1949 ranch-style home in Waco, and the “Barndominium,” a renovated barn in Lacy-Lakeview, cost $750 and $649 per night, respectively.
Even homeowners that have not been featured on “Fixer Upper” understand the value of being associated with the show. While only 10 properties on Airbnb have actually been on the show, many more include buzzwords like “Magnolia” or “Silos” in their descriptions in order to draw more traffic. One property called the “Before They Were Famous Bungalow,” claims to be a former home of the Gaineses.
Another home was shown briefly on the show but was not chosen to be remodeled. Although it was never renovated by the Gaineses, it is still listed as “Fixer Upper’s Hilltop House” and is booked for most weekends.
Krisi Bass, who owns two properties that have been on “Fixer Upper,” bought both homes from families who were featured on the show. Bass lists both of her properties, the “Barndominium” and “Little House on the Prairie,” on Airbnb and VRBO, where they remain popular vacation homes for fans of the show.
“I pretty much am booked all the way up into summer, and then I have a few bookings up into next year,” Bass said.
Bass believes that, although the media has said otherwise, the Gaineses are supportive of the re-selling or renting of homes they have remodeled.
“They just didn’t want their show to be made into a commercial end result,” Bass said. “They didn’t want [profit] to be the primary reason that people were on the show.”
In an article by the Waco Tribune-Herald, Magnolia spokesperson Brock Murphy explained that while Magnolia is understanding toward those who choose to sell or rent their homes, they want to respect the original purpose of “Fixer Upper.”
“We have no problems with our clients’ interest in using sites like VRBO and Airbnb to rent out their homes. In fact, we get it. But we are going to be more strict with our contracts involving ‘Fixer Upper’ clients moving forward,” Murphy told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “We want to honor our national viewing audience. We want to do remodels for clients’ homes. That’s the true intent of our show, and we want to ensure that does not get lost in this new vacation rental trend. What started off with perfectly understandable intentions could cast a shadow of a doubt on the much bigger picture, and we are going to do our best to protect that moving forward.”
Lacy McNamee and her husband Doug were featured on the pilot episode of Fixer Upper in 2013. Although the McNamees eventually sold the house, the family received offers for their home even before it was put on the market, but they refused.
“We got the distinct sense that they were looking to buy it to turn it into an Airbnb, and I didn’t like that,” Lacy McNamee said. “We have a really sweet neighborhood and really great relationships with our neighbors, and I just kind of thought, ‘If I was the next-door neighbor to that house, I wouldn’t want it to be turned into that.’”
After living in the home for two years, the couple had a child and moved to Woodway. When they put the house on the market, they received immediate responses.
“We put it on the market, and it sold in 24 hours,” McNamee said. “The offers and attention we got for sure were because of the show.”
McNamee thinks that, while many families on the show sell their houses for legitimate reasons, Airbnbs or VRBOs can be harmful to neighborhoods.
“Everybody has their own reasons that they do stuff,” McNamee said. “But when you live in a residential neighborhood, you want it to be homes of families and people that you know and that live there.”
Although “Fixer Upper” is finishing up its last season, the Gaineses’ work in Waco is far from over. The couple is opening a restaurant, Magnolia Table, in the coming months, and Magnolia Market at the Silos remains extremely popular. Magnolia Market at the Silos was expected to draw 1.6 million visitors in 2017 according to the Waco Convention and Visitors bureau, which is even more than the Alamo.