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For devoted “Fixer Upper” fans planning a visit to Waco, it seems too good to be true: the chance to stay several nights in one of the homes that Waco home renovation/design couple Chip and Joanna Gaines fixed up for their HGTV cable television series.

It’s true, though, for nearly half a dozen “Fixer Upper” homes, whose owners have them listed on online property rental services VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and Airbnb. Those listings have drawn guests from coast to coast; expanded an aspect of Waco’s hospitality business; added destinations to the map for Waco and Magnolia Market visitors; and, in some cases, opened the door to new business opportunities.

The Gaineses themselves tapped into the potent combination of “Fixer Upper” popularity and the convenience of online booking when they renovated a McGregor house into a bed and breakfast named the Magnolia House. Mere hours after online reservations were made available to fans in February, the Magnolia House had booked customers throughout 2016.

At least six other “Fixer Upper” homes could be found listed on VRBO and Airbnb earlier this month, although the owners of one were in the process of downplaying its “Fixer Upper” connection: the Gorman House (season 1, episode 2), the Mailander House (season 1, episode 12), the Shotgun House (season 3, episode 12), the Barndominium (season 3, episode 11), the Chicken House (season 3, episode 18) and the Mid-Mod House (season 2, episode 11). The Harp House (season 1, episode 11) will join that number next month. Most were listed as renting from between $250 to $350 a night.

Although none of the homeowners contacted for this story had intentions of renting rooms or their houses for Airbnb or VRBO guests when they bought their homes, the prospect of a “Fixer Upper” client flipping a newly renovated home immediately into rentals is causing the Gaineses to consider changes for season 5 applicants.

“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, ” Magnolia spokesman Brock Murphy said in a statement.

“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.”

Ironically, the popularity of “Fixer Upper” and the unexpected celebrity it brought to houses and homeowners led some to turn over their properties for vacation rentals and move to another house.

Three years ago, Dave Morrow left a career teaching civil and environmental engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, to move to Waco, where his bride, Dr. Marla Hendricks, had a successful veterinary practice at Crossroads Animal Clinic.

Unwanted attention

They wanted a home close to Cameron Park and its mountain biking trails and found, with the Gaineses’ help, the Mailander House on North Fifth Street, built in 1910. But as the couple settled in, they found they weren’t alone. Cars with rubbernecking passengers would drive slowly by. Some would stop and people would get out for selfies with the house as backdrop. A few bold ones would come to the door and ask if they could look inside.

The polite, but unbidden attention led Morrow and his wife to renovate another house in Central Waco for their use and turn their Mailander House into a vacation rental. They’ve had guests from as far as California, New Jersey and Minnesota.

“They’re mostly women in their 50s and tend to be big ‘Fixer Upper’ fans or Baylor-oriented, ” Morrow said. “(The home’s interior) is very Zen. We keep it like Joanna does — no clutter.”

Morrow also throws in, for those who are interested, a healthy dose of Waco history and information and Mailander House rentals come with use of mountain bikes for nearby Cameron Park. He often drops by Magnolia Market to chat with out-of-town visitors and sing the praises of his new hometown.

“Folks are nice here. People are respectful. It’s very easy to be accepted here, ” he said. “I look at the Magnolia effort almost like Disneyland. It’s clean, a family place and where you can let your imagination go. . . . The Silos are providing a new vision of what Waco can be.”

Clint Harp of Harp Design Company, a regular collaborator with Chip and Joanna Gaines on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” plans to open his 5-bedroom “Fixer Upper” house to vacation rentals beginning next month. Staff photo— Rod Aydelotte

Public attention to Clint and Kelly Harp’s “Fixer Upper” house on North 15th Street, and also to their Harp Design Co. shop next door, caused them to move their family of five (three children ages 3 to 9) to a house in another neighborhood after about a year in their “Fixer Upper.”

“We love that house. It’s such a great house. It’s not like we didn’t want to live in it, ” said the 38-year-old Clint Harp, a frequent collaborator with Joanna Gaines on “Fixer Upper.”

Harp said he never felt “Fixer Upper” fans’ attention threatened their family’s safety, but the proximity of his shop kept his business always on his mind.

“I remember looking out the window on a Saturday in May, a great time to be playing with my kids, but I was worrying that there weren’t any cars in the (shop’s) parking lot, ” he recalled.

Moving away has allowed some needed separation between work and home.

“I feel like (the Harp House) is not ours, but in a good way. I don’t want that to stop, ” he said. “It’s such a fun thing. It’s brought joy to people and I love that.”

Converting the Harp House into use as a vacation rental has meant another round of home renovation for guest use and convenience — separating connected bedrooms and adding a hallway on the second floor, redoing a half-bath in the back of the first floor, and the like.

Future guests may be familiar with the Gaines’ work in the Harp House, but that only covered a few rooms. The Harps, as other “Fixer Upper” clients have too, finished out the balance of their five-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath house.

Change in plans

For Charmaine Hooper, who owns the Gorman House with her husband Chuck Codd, vacation rentals weren’t on the radar when their “Fixer Upper” transformation was complete. They had planned to lease space in their house for a day care, but nine months into the project, that plan changed, leaving them with an empty five-bedroom, three-bath house.

An acquaintance suggested listing it on VRBO, which Hooper did after a little investigation. Within a day, she had two customers and a new problem: 10 days to furnish the house before her first guests arrived. Since then, she’s fielded queries from as far as Belgium, England and her native Canada. With room for 12 adults, the Gorman House has hosted groups that come to Waco for weddings, family reunions, business meetings, shopping trips and Baylor University events.

“I’m blown away every time, ” she said.

Interest in “Fixer Upper” and the Gaineses’ Magnolia Market, with its iconic twin silos, draws an estimated 20, 000 visitors weekly to a downtown area that some city officials and businesspeople are calling the Silo District. It’s no surprise to Waco tourism manager Susan Morton that requests for a tour of Waco sights often include a “Fixer Upper” property.

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