Flipping their first home wasn’t glamorous for Edina’s Brad and Heather Fox. It had a foot of water in the basement, lead paint and mold. The project involved eating a lot of ramen noodles, delaying bill payments, and piecing together scavenged materials and DIY projects with no money, no help, and certainly no cameras to document it all.
“We bought the worst house you can possibly imagine,” Heather remembers. “But it was kind of fun—we’d watch HGTV to get inspired, and that’s where the dream started.”
They flipped one house, and then another—and the reno bug bit, hard. In the throes of the recession, they walked away from their jobs to launch a real estate company, Fox Homes in Minnetonka. It’s grown, and today the couple and their team work with 30-ish independent agents and designers, still brokering traditional real estate but also staging, designing and coordinating contractors to make not-so-optimal homes work for their clients.
“Being realtors makes us better designers, and vice versa,” Brad says. “Sometimes it’s possible to open a floor plan and be more efficient with space. Maybe we find an affordable 1960s two-story that’s 1,000 square feet less than they thought they needed, but we can make it work for them.”
When they were contacted by HGTV in September 2016, they thought it was an advertising pitch and immediately said, “No, thanks.” About the time they realized the invitation to star in a renovation show was legit, they also realized the huge shift it would mean as leaders of a growing company—and parents of Wesley and Graham, ages 5 and 7.
Their first order of business was to Google “sizzle reel”—a short commercial, of sorts, designed to give a feel for their on-screen presence—which they completed in May 2017. They got a green light from the network in July and immediately lined up a project for the pilot episode: renovating a home in St. Louis Park for Brian and Liza Hill and their growing family. They filmed in October, finished the episode by February, and it aired in July, with the Foxes and 150 of their friends seeing it for the first time at their launch party at 6Smith.
“This is 100 percent what we do. Sometimes a plane would fly overhead so we’d have to resay things, but that’s it,” says Heather, who describes long days on set using a frigid port-a-potty between takes. “We were nervous, but they did a good job capturing us. They watched every minute of film—days and days of it—and they really made us, us.”
The Fox Approach
Chip and Jo Gaines have the Magnolia Manifesto, and—though it’s not featured in a magazine, yet—the Foxes have a strong philosophy to their work, too. Whether they’re helping a client find a perfect starter home or flipping a space for a national audience, they:
- Don’t overthink. Just do it! Trends come and go, and rules are meant to be broken. “You have to be a little free-flowing to do a fixer-upper,” Heather says. “Houses have a million different moving parts, so you have to let your Type A tendencies go a little bit.”
- Don’t focus (too much) on profit. “With our real estate clients, we’re never high-pressure. We’re really just trying to help people accomplish what they want to do,” says Brad. “We overspend all the time because we want to do quality builds.”
- “Home is an extension of who you are. We’re lucky to be in a place where most people can afford a place to live—and I know there are complexities with that because it’s not true for everyone in the world—but it’s also miserable here for part of the year,” says Heather. “We’re forced to spend more time indoors, so we use colors and fun pieces to create spaces where people love to spend time.”
- Bring in local artisans wherever possible. “The Twin Cities have so many cool things happening,” Brad says. “A strong economy. Breweries. Cafes. Independent businesses. We’re excited to profile and show a few.”