What does a car accident in North Waco, Texas, have to do with ? Apparently everything, according to Kelly and Ken Downs, who appeared on of HGTV's hit show Fixer Upper. Due to what they deem an unsafe neighborhood, the couple's first year in their renovated house has been an unhappy one, they say — and one that ultimately culminated in an allegedly drunk driver into their home early Saturday morning.
"It's like the Wild West here," Kelly told the . "There's been a lot of commotion coming from the bars and the store across the street."
Now, the Downses' complaints have left locals and Fixer Upper fans across the country wondering: Is there a "" to everyone's favorite home renovation show?
Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad WACO?
In the Downses' , Chip and Joanna call the dilapidated 1905 Craftsman at 1902 Alexander Avenue a "wild card." Surprisingly, Waco newcomers Kelly and Ken purchase the run-down option for $35,000, showing that they have the "guts to take on a Fixer Upper," even one aptly nicknamed "Three Little Pigs House".
You remember the children's story: The first and second pigs built houses of straw and sticks, which were no match for the big bad wolf, who promptly blew them down and ate the inhabitants. But the wise third pig built his house of bricks. When the wolf couldn't huff and puff it away, he climbed down the chimney and wound up as dinner himself.
It's not the cheeriest of fairy tales, but it's one that certainly suited the house — even more so in hindsight. After $215,000 of renovations, no wolf's exhale was going to disassemble this fixer-upper, no matter that it wasn't made of brick (ironically, Kelly was vocal about her distaste for brick homes). A car on the other hand, is a different story.
"The yard is built up several feet, and he hit the embankment of the yard, apparently went airborne, and like a lot of older homes, this house was built up off the ground, so he cleared the rest of the yard," Waco Assistant Fire Chief Don Yeager said in a statement about the driver. "He didn't hurt the hedges, but he took out the railing on the porch and went right into the window of the front room and hit an interior wall that might be a load-bearing wall."
Kelly and Ken were asleep just one room beyond. Thankfully, the couple was unharmed, and the driver, Allen Wayne Miller, only sustained minor injuries. But although it was Miller behind the wheel, the homeowners are ultimately pointing fingers at Magnolia Realty, and what they see as the bigger-picture problem.
Location, Location, Location
"We take the worst house in the best neighborhood and turn it into our clients' dream home," Joanna famously says in the Fixer Upper intro. Only, Kelly and Ken don't believe their neighborhood fits that formula. According to the Waco Trib, the newlyweds have complained about "late-night noise from nearby bars, suspicious activity, and push-back, some of it anti-Fixer Upper" — all issues that have the Downses questioning why showed them a property in such a "bad neighborhood" in the first place.
Of course, no one can make you buy a home. In fact, real estate agents by law are on the crime rate or nearby schools, or even whether a neighborhood is "good" or "bad" in general, as it might indicate a preference for a particular demographic — a potential violation of the Fair Housing Act. So if being close to a religious institution or school — or away from a bar, in the Downses' case — is important to you, you have to do your own research, talking to residents of the area and .
Although a car destroying your home is indeed traumatizing, the Downses' other complaints make one wonder: Did they visit their would-be neighborhood before putting in an offer? The convenience store across the street was there when the Downses moved in —so was Connect Night Club, located just down the block (in fact, a Connect bouncer, Ethan Kennedy, actually and ran over to help). Or perhaps, as wonders, maybe they hoped that the neighborhood would quickly conform, or gentrify, around their newly renovated house.
"It is not the prettiest looking neighborhood, but anytime I've ever heard gunshots or anything violent it has never been across the street or a block away," Kennedy said to the Tribune. "It is never in that neighborhood, and I've never had any problems with people coming up and trying to cause a problem."
Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton told the newspaper that he had increased patrols in response to the Downses' complaints. And, he insists, crime in that neighborhood isn't any higher or lower than elsewhere in town.
The "Fixer Upper" Effect
"We have been intimidated and harassed," Kelly told the newspaper of ongoing issues in her new neighborhood. "People have complained about their taxes going up because we moved here. Store owners have complained about taxes."
Indeed, the "Fixer Upper effect" on property taxes has been a hot topic for some Waco area citizens. In June, McClennan County homeowners (sometimes by more than $100,000) in the year following Fixer Upper fame. But Chief Appraiser Andrew Hahn Jr. has maintained that houses featured on the show are viewed separately from surrounding properties. "We have a different neighborhood code for those than other homes in the neighborhood, because they are actually selling for more than regular homes," he . "We don't use them as comparable for other homes that are renovated by other homeowners."
Recently, another Fixer Upper couple, Cameron and Jessica Bell, listed their 1,050-square-foot for almost $1 million — a number that had real estate agents rubbing their eyes in disbelief and Waco residents concerned over its implications for the market and the community.
"The shotgun house on season 3 is up for sale for almost a $1 million in a neighborhood that used to be one of the worst [in Waco]," one local commented on the shared on . "Yet it's ok, realitors [sic] demolished the ugly, moved lower income families out. AND IT'S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE. (We are going to have empty retail centers, or boutiques catering to [tourists], with only opening mininum [sic] wage jobs.) I'm sad. I love Waco, but not Magnolia's Waco."
Similar sentiments have been expressed across multiple online threads, but of course, other Waco citizens love Chip and Joanna and all that Magnolia has done for the town's economy. The Gaineses have yet to issue a statement regarding the car accident and the aftermath.