When a man suspected of drunk driving smashed through the front wall of their home in Waco, Texas, early Saturday morning, Kelly Downs and her husband, Ken, were sleeping in the master suite towards the rear of the house. The couple were unharmed, but according to Kelly, the violent incident was a long time coming.
“It’s like the Wild West here. There’s been a lot of commotion coming from the bars and the store across the street,” she told the Waco Tribune of the neighborhood the couple moved to a year and a half ago. They had been selected to appear on HGTV’s hit show Fixer Upper, a dream for Kelly who was an avid viewer and a big fan of Joanna Gaines’s design style, according to an interview in local magazine, Wacoan. Now, she says, “This is a Fixer Upper gone bad.”
“It’s been a problem from the beginning,” Kelly told the Tribune. “We feel deceived by the city of Waco and [Chip and Joanna Gaines’s firm] Magnolia Realty.” A representative for Magnolia declined to comment on the Downses’ statements.
She details that she and her husband, who married in 2013 and moved to Waco specifically because of the opportunity to live in a Magnolia-designed home, found the area far from welcoming. “We have been intimidated and harassed,” she said. “There’s a big problem here. It’s not safe.”
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Waco has seen a boom in recent years thanks in large part to the popularity of the Gaines’ show and their Magnolia Market at the Silos, which has in turn boosted revenues for hotels and businesses. Tourist numbers have tripled to 1.9 million per year.
But, according to Kelly, not all residents are happy about the changes: “People have complained about their taxes going up because we moved here. Store owners have complained about taxes,” she told the Tribune.
The Downses have also been capitalizing on Waco’s growing tourist trade, renting their home through the home sharing sites VRBO and Airbnb. But the listing for the “Downs ‘Fixer Upper’ Home” on the former includes a disclosure about the neighborhood: “Our fixer-upper home is located in an older neighborhood where good people are working to improve their homes and bring up the neighborhood. It is a work in progress with which we are pleased to be involved. We ask that you please be patient and understanding as we undergo the growing pains of neighborhood revitalization. We are working with the City of Waco, council members and planners in hopes of adding improvements to this part of town.”
Fixer Upper homes have been a draw for those looking to visit the Texas city (the Gaineses’ have their own vacation rental, Magnolia House) or make a permanent move. There are currently at least four houses featured on the show on the market including a $565,000 ranch and a $1.2 million “Barndominium.”
The show, which wrapped its fourth season in March, assigns cute names to each of the properties Chip and Joanna fix up, denoting a quirk or other undesirable characteristic of the “before” house. The nickname the Downses’ destroyed cottage received in season three, episode 10 now reads like a premonition: “The Three Little Pigs House.”