If you watch the DIY Network, you know that Ashley and Michael Cordray of Galveston—he’s BOI, she’s originally from Spring—buy wrecked historic homes on the island, renovate them, and sell them through their real estate firm, Save 1900. Their eight-episode TV debut, Big Texas Fix, aired in April.
There are hopes that DIY’s sister network, HGTV, will pick up a new season of their show this fall. In the meantime, the Cordrays’ work continues. We met up with the couple at one of the homes featured on the show, the Mystery House—a raised cottage that dates to 1893, so named because “we had no idea what we were going to do with it,” Ashley explains—to talk about what it was like to restore eight houses in six months, the future of their beloved island, and how nothing on TV is ever as easy as it seems.
How did you get started restoring houses?
Ashley: We dated for two months, and then we bought a house down here in 2011. Everybody thought we were crazy. … It needed new foundation, roof, siding, windows, plumbing, electrical—everything.
Did you ever think you’d be on TV?
Ashley: No. I didn’t even believe it when they called.
Michael: It’s almost impossible. You have to have so many things fall into place.
What do you think they saw in you?
Michael: Everybody sets up [to Skype with TV production companies] in their office or somewhere pretty. We set up in some abandoned house. We were sweating and swatting mosquitoes, and it was filthy. It was just passion, I think.
Ashley: At that time, 2017, the city was tearing down so many houses. There was an influx of money from the government to help people fix their houses up. … If it was cheaper to build a new house, they would tear it down. That was the push for us to try to buy more houses.
How do you go about that?
Ashley: The hardest part of everything we do isn't fixing up the houses, but buying them. You see an abandoned house, and it looks like it’s about to fall over; the owner lives in another state, but they won’t sell to you. We are dealing with three homes right now, and the city wants them down so bad.
Michael: We spend money to save them. … Hopefully, they stay standing.
What was filming a TV show like?
Michael: It was stress level 1,000. It was a long day of filming, and then we would have to go check up on every job site to see what we needed for the next day, and then just let the dogs out and breathe and eat.
Ashley: We thought we would be filming three or four days a week. It was six and a half. We weren’t prepared. We were used to being our own designers, our own general contractors, our own everything. I bought everything in every house, even the sheets that went under the comforter. If the reveal was at 6 a.m., the furniture didn’t start coming in until 1 a.m.
So, how real is the show?
Ashley: The first day of filming every house was tough, because that’s not real. Walk up to this house like you have never seen it before, they would say. Some of the houses, we had owned for a year.
Michael: We are spontaneous, and the television schedule is not. If we’re filming something and I get a call about an amazing door that just got thrown out, I’m ready to go. But the crew is like, We are talking about this blue tile. … They try and make it look like you built the whole house by yourselves in a couple of weeks. The reality is pretty obvious, that there is a massive team.
Any other surprises?
Ashley: The one thing we have been really shocked about is that they never once asked about whether we had the money to do these projects. We borrowed $1.5 million from a lender. But what if we didn’t? I guess they had faith.
Michael: Or what if we would have run out of money? That’s the more dangerous thing. The account starts out really happy, and then you’re on the last house and you have $12 left. You’re like, Cut. Done.
Would you do a second season?
Ashley: Absolutely. But we need more help.
Michael: The last day of filming we were like, What the hell was that? I would never do that again. Then, two days later: We could probably do that again.
Ashley: It’s cool to look at the houses and what we were able to accomplish. In the end, if the show can get just an ounce of the popularity that Fixer Upper has gotten, it would be great. Galveston is already cool. Waco had nothing.
Michael: If it brings 50 or 100 cool people to town or fixes 50 or 100 houses, then, come on, that’s done great things for Galveston. That’s the only reason to film the show.