Is flipping houses a good thing or a bad thing? That’s the question that more and more observers have been asking about the skyrocketing popularity of shows like House Hunters, Property Brothers, Flip or Flop or the spate of other mostly HGTV programs airing these days.
The most obvious criticism of these shows is that they inspire envy among homeowners and buyers everywhere. Is watching home improvement shows any better than staring at hour after hour of the Home Shopping Network? Both encourage nonstop materialistic ogling, after all.
And it’s not just that now everyone wants an open concept kitchen and granite countertops and double vanities in the bathroom. It’s also that a surprising number of people now know how much it costs each time their friends undertake a home improvement. It’s a little tacky.
And maybe it’s more nefarious than that. As Caitlin Flanagan noted in a recent piece for New York magazine:
We are supposed to be in rehab from our housing binge of ten years ago, the one that nearly bankrupted the country. We are supposed to be in a state of contrition. But our national love of HGTV suggests that the dream won’t die. The longing it addresses is impervious to market corrections, or personal financial realities, and as economists continue to explore the true causes of the 2008 financial crisis, they are beginning to suspect that some speculative Americans acting on that longing got us into that mess as much as—or more than—unscrupulous bankers or Wall Street. In fact, the network may now be tempting its millions of fans to dip their toes back into the most dangerous waters of the past crisis: flipping.
But even the act of flipping has caused concern among many viewers. Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, have been criticized not only for belonging to an evangelical church and working with Target rather than local businesses, but also because they are creating homes that are supposedly way too expensive for the residents of Waco, Texas. Some of the people whose homes they have flipped are actually renting them out by the night.
It is perhaps this last criticism that Andy and Ashley Williams, two military veterans with a new show called Flip or Flop Fort Worth, seem to be concerned with avoiding. In a video introducing their new show, Andy explains that he doesn’t just go into the best neighborhoods and buy the worst houses. He goes into the “second best neighborhoods” and he buys “multiple houses.” He explains: “I want to revitalize the area.”
The two have a much more down-to-earth vibe than, say, Tarek and Christina, the original flip or floppers. It probably helps that the two are African-American, met in high school, and worked their way up from very little. Andy and Ashley come across as much less prissy, more hard-working and even patriotic compared to other house-flipping stars. As Andy says, real estate allows us to “buy a little piece of America.”
It also doesn’t hurt that they like to hire veterans to work on their projects.
The two describe their business as more than a business—a kind of natural extension of their time in the military. “We continue to serve as we revitalize neighborhoods.”
It is not clear whether all of this talk of community and country will protect Flip or Flop Fort Worth from the same kind of criticism that other shows have endured. But in their pursuit of the American dream—nice houses and a highly rated TV show—Andy and Ashley deserve as much success as anyone.