The Salary You Need to Live in Fixer Upper’s Waco, Texas

published Dec 12, 2018
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(Image credit: Courtesy of HGTV)

Ask anyone about Waco, Texas, and most likely they’ll ask “Isn’t that where Chip and Joanna are from?” Thanks to Gaineses, the stars of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” interest in this central Texas community has skyrocketed over the last few years. As a result, Waco, Texas has not only become a huge tourist destination, but it has also sparked the interest of potential home buyers.

“Of course, Chip and Joanna have made a big impact on our town,” said Jennifer Dolezel, Realtor with RE/MAX Centex REALTORS in Waco. “Those relocating to the area really like how Chip and Joanna present themselves and people kind of want to see that and be a part of it.”

They’ve made such a big impact that the Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau even created a Magnolia Trail of places to see that have been mentioned on the show (yes, the restaurant and silos are on it!)

But before you pack your bags, you might be interested to know that Waco is more than just a fixer upper city. The Gaineses might flip many homes at significantly low prices, but the median home value in Waco is actually $116,800 and the median listing price is $175,000 (still super affordable compared to the national median listing price of $275,000.)

Using Zillow’s mortgage calculator, with a 30-year-fixed loan at the current interest rate of 4.543 percent and a 10 percent down payment on a $116,800 home, your mortgage payment would be about $740 a month. That same loan for a home at $175,000 would cost you a monthly mortgage payment of about $1,084.

Based upon the guideline that your mortgage should take up 28 percent of your pre-tax monthly income, you’d need to earn about a household income of between $32,000 and $50,000 to afford to live in Waco.

Don’t flip out

Home values in the Waco area have been on an uptick for awhile, increasing 14.3 percent over the past year.

“The property values have increased, which also means taxes are going up,” says Dolezel.

Although there are exceptions to everything—the numbers you see on “Fixer Upper” don’t always reflect reality.

“You’re not going to buy a house for $55,000 and then make $100,000 on it,” Dolezel says. “Typically that $55,000 home is not in an area that you’re going to get your money back.”

For example, one of Dolezel’s current listings is this 2,270 square-foot, four-bedroom, two-bath home on N 43rd Street in Waco. It’s currently on the market for $194,500. It needs some work but has good bones—and a beautiful sunroom!

(Image credit: Jennifer Dolezel)

Just outside of Waco, there’s also this three-bedroom, three full-bath house in Robinson—Dolezel says this 2,500 square-foot home is very similar to other houses she sees on the Waco market. At $259,900, the home comes with two master suites, jacuzzi tubs, and a wood-burning fireplace.

Despite all the fixing up, it’s still a great place to life

The good news though is that Waco hasn’t gotten completely swallowed up by tourists and relocators. (Although Carla Pendergraft, the director of marketing for the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau was quoted as saying that Waco’s tourism traffic—pre-Chip and Joanna—topped out at around 500,000-600,000 people per year, but in 2017 it was projected to be 2.6 million.)

“Waco is still small enough where it’s not a crazy hustle and bustle, like some of the bigger cities,” said Dolezel. “Our city is also starting to revive because of the things that have been going on in our downtown area.”

That downtown revitalization is a multi-million dollar project included adding 294 loft apartments, more than 10,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and transforming the downtown farmers market.

Even if you’re not a Gaines fan, you’ll find there is much to do in town. Residents can enjoy parks and museums, such as the the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum, Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute (yes, you’re a Pepper, too!), and the Earle-Harrison House & Pape Gardens. The popular Cameron Park Zoo rests on 52 acres and is adjacent to the Brazos River. You also can go back in time at the 18-acre Homestead Craft Village, which includes a 200-year-old barn, the Potter’s House, a woodworking shop, a restored 1760 gristmill, fiber arts, herb garden, and more. It’s also home to Baylor University and is located 1.5 hours from Dallas, and about two hours from Austin, in case the small city ever feels too small.