Two historic homes near downtown Waco have hit the market, both with asking prices exceeding $1 million, a figure local real estate agents and builders say is less striking as far-flung executives retire to this area and more professionals see Greater Waco’s quality of life appealing.
The iconic Migel House at 1425 Columbus Ave., with its wine room, bowling alley, stained-glass windows and five gas fireplaces, now is being shown by Kelly Realtors’ Tricia Griffin. She secured the listing May 4 and has seen interest in the property, Griffin said. It was designed in 1910 by local architect Milton W. Scott for department-store mogul Louey Migel and is owned by Dwyer Group executive Robert Tunmire. It now serves as a bed and breakfast.
The asking price is $1.2 million.
Another home with an intriguing past sits at 1503 Washington Ave., in a slice of old Waco.
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Wade Morrison, credited with naming the Dr Pepper drink invented in his drug store, made it his family home for decades, and later Christian musician David Crowder spent six years remodeling the 7,100-square-foot residence before leaving Waco for Nashville and Atlanta. It carries an asking price of $1.45 million.
Robert Otis and his wife, Sue, bought the house four years ago when they moved from Chicago to Waco, where Otis served as CEO of National Lloyds Insurance. Robert Otis said his family is moving back to Chicago, where he has accepted a position with Kemper Insurance.
He regretfully leaves a community he has come to love, he said.
“Nobody wanted to buy this house a few years ago,” he said. “Since then, everybody has been telling me how much they like it.”
He said he chose to live near Waco’s inner-city, confident downtown stood on the brink of big changes. McLane Stadium had opened on the banks of Lake Brazos, entrepreneurs were eyeing Austin Avenue and beyond, planning shops, loft apartments, restaurants and entertainment venues later fueled by the phenomenon that became Magnolia Market at the Silos.
“This is my fifth year in Waco, and when I got here, downtown was just moving away from being a ghost town,” Otis said. “I had lunch with Matt Meadors, president of the Waco chamber, and I told him about Cincinnati, Ohio, and the wildly successful redevelopment of their downtown. I saw the stadium going up, the terrific walkability of downtown, and we have become committed to doing our part to contributing to the process.”
To that end, he said, he is pursuing a planned unit development of upscale town houses on property visible from his front porch.
“I’m interested in developing the entire block, and for the past six months, the local architectural firm of RBDR has been preparing plans for us,” he said. “We hope to create Georgetown-style town homes, with styling that will borrow heavily from beautiful old apartments renovated a few years back.”
He said he wants to sell the house to someone who loves it just as much as his family does.
He said he is not worried if it does not sell in a timely manner.
“That’s OK. It could become our summer or winter home,” Otis said.
Those arrangements likely will prove unnecessary, Magnolia Realty agent Haley Holden said. She is predicting a buyer will emerge within 50 days, Holden said.
She has experience marketing upscale homes carrying six-figure asking prices, having shown or received offers on properties in the upscale Hidden Valley and Hills at Childress Creek subdivisions, she said. She relies heavily on social media, and her listing for the Morrison home already has garnered almost 200,000 likes on Facebook, she said.
“The history behind it is a selling point,” Holden said. “The Dr Pepper founder built it. Crowder made music there. Years ago, the area was not the nicest. But new businesses are arriving, and there are plans for those high-end town homes. It’s really just a unique property, and beautiful.”
Tunmire, reportedly out of the country and unavailable for comment, bought the Tuscan-style Migel House and adjacent property for $155,000 in 2012, then spent two years and more than $1 million on renovations.
It has been actively marketed by Kelly Realtors on-and-off since the renovations and has appeared on The Wall Street Journal real estate page.
Griffin, the listing agent, said she is encountering fresh interest in the mansion.
In today’s real estate market, the $1.2 million asking price should not prove daunting, several agents said.
“The average sale price locally is $195,000, and there remains a very small market for million-dollar homes, but there is more hope for finding a buyer than there used to be,” veteran residential agent Camille Johnson said. “I just sold one in Hidden Valley for more than $1 million, several in the $800,000 to $900,000 range. Ten years ago, a $500,000 house would have been difficult to sell. But today, million-dollar sales are not unheard of.”
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Buyers, she said, include “business owners, physicians, corporate executives, big-time attorneys and people moving in from out of state.”
“Waco is attracting so many good people,” Johnson said. “It has been changed by Chip and Joanna (Gaines), but it’s more than that. We have a strong economy. Real estate has always been a good investment here.”
Scott Bland, a local builder and president of the Heart of Texas Builders Association, said new homes carrying a $1 million-plus asking price traditionally were custom-built homes constructed to the taste and specifications of clients. No way would a builder toss up a speculative home priced at more than $1 million. But times change, he said.
“We’re getting an influx of higher-paying jobs, more people in the medical field,” Bland said. “On two occasions, we had retirees moving here who had well-paying executive jobs. Their intention was to ‘downsize,’ but they ended up having us build homes priced at $1.5 million to $2 million.”
A $2 million house in Waco “is a heck of a lot of home,” he said. On the East Coast or in California that price “does not move the needle.”
“Investors come here, see how much house they get for that price, and they are like a kid in a candy store,” Bland said. “They don’t think twice about spending that.”
Then there is Hawkesdene, the 17,000-square-foot mansion overlooking Lake Waco that Jim and Nell Hawkins placed on the market in June 2017.
It carries an asking price of $6.4 million.
“I’m getting no action on that, not even lookers,” Johnson, the listing agent, said. “We had one that tried but did not come forth with qualifications. We’re trying to protect our clients. We are not going to deal with anyone just wanting to take a tour of the place.”
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