He demolishes. She decorates.
Together, the stars of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop Fort Worth” strike deals all over Texas, flipping houses to make a profit — and for a good cause.
“Every project that we do is an impact project,” said Andy Williams, one-half of the on-screen, dreadlocked duo. “Our passion is about helping veterans reintegrate.”
Before there were cameras, Andy and Ashley Williams founded Recon Realty to help veterans transition into the real estate industry. They provide hands-on training for veterans new to the field, and the duo also seeks other veteran-owned companies as business partners. This creates what Andy Williams calls “an ecosystem that’s self-supporting.”
The business — and the show — has its roots in the couple’s military backgrounds. Ashley Williams, 32, is a former soldier, and Andy Williams, 36, served in the Marine Corps. After getting out of the military in 2004, he worked in Iraq for the private security firm Blackwater, now called Academi, and bought his first investment property back home while overseas.
Andy Williams has the entrepreneurial bug to thank for his now-full-time business, his show and even his marriage.
“She was in the gym, and I was working out, and she was sitting there and playing in the gym,” he said, recalling the couple’s first meeting in Baghdad in 2005, where Ashley Williams was deployed as a patient administrator for the Army. “I asked her if she needed help, and based on my observations, she didn’t know what she was doing.”
So, he went over to her and asked if she wanted his help as a personal trainer, and she accepted.
“He’s pretty much always been an entrepreneur,” said Ashley Williams, who readily admits she wasn’t taking her workout seriously that day.
The couple, married since 2009, laugh as they tell the story of their relationship, which started with Ashley Williams giving her future husband the wrong phone number after that first meeting. But a little reconnaissance to find out where she worked so he could see her again wasn’t anything the former Marine couldn’t handle.
Ashley Williams, who also worked for Blackwater post-military, was new to the real estate business when she joined her husband’s venture. But she quickly realized the benefits of the gig, especially after having their first child in 2011.
“I think for us, measuring success is being able to be at home and be with the kids. And having that flexible lifestyle is what real estate did for us and what we worked for,” she said.
The couple buys homes in need of renovation, then either puts them back on the market to sell or rent them out. They keep a large majority of the properties they buy and live off the cash flow, which has allowed them to buy their way out of the workforce, they said.
Fast forward to a 2015 vacation for Ashley Williams’ 30th birthday when, instead of sipping cocktails and relaxing on a beach as planned, Andy Williams started talking about Recon Realty to other vacationers. He didn’t realize until after the meeting that his new acquaintances had ties to one of the most popular cable TV networks.
That encounter led to a sizzle reel in April 2016, a pilot called “Flipping Texas,” and a full season of filming “Flip or Flop Fort Worth” that began the following year.
“It was really like a happenstance — serendipity,” Ashley Williams said.
When asked why the network was attracted to the Williamses’ house-flipping business, John Feld, HGTV senior vice president of original programming and production, said in an email, “We were impressed by the passion Andy and Ashley have towards improving neighborhoods with their renovations. In addition, this is a profession they have chosen that allows them both more time together and with their young family. That always resonates with our audience.”
He also noted that the couple’s military background shows up in their work ethic and the determination they bring to every project they take on.
The couple said they agreed to star in “Flip or Flop Fort Worth” to get the word out about their passion and mission, which they believe others can follow.
When the cameras aren’t rolling, the couple have up to 10 veterans shadowing them on their renovation projects from start to finish. This helps them transition into becoming flippers and landlords themselves. And when they need a landscaper or general contractor, for example, they call up fellow veterans who own those types of businesses.
That’s how Julian Cofer started working with the couple last fall. One of their assistants called him because the Williamses were looking for a home inspector with a military background, he said.
After meeting Andy Williams, Cofer quickly took note of the other man’s desire to show other former service members “that there is life after the military.”
“He does want to try to surround himself with an all-veteran circle,” Cofer said. “The veterans — they’re a little bit more reliable than civilians. They have a different attitude, a go-get-’em-type attitude, versus a lot of civilians that haven’t served in the military. He likes that, and we can adapt to changes really quickly where others might have a problem.”
“We build this community of patriots that are passionate about the industry that we fell in love with but also benefit from the opportunities that it yields,” Andy Williams said.
The jury is still out on whether there will be a season two for the couple on HGTV; Feld didn’t give any hints.
“If they say yes, we’re definitely ready,” Ashley Williams said.
In the meantime, the couple said they are working with a university to start a certificate program in residential redevelopment this year and are continuing to just do their thing.
“Right now, we’re just spending the downtime ... working with the veteran community, continuing to work within the neighborhoods and continuing to operate our passion,” Andy Williams said.
And if a longer TV tenure is in the cards, he wants to make one thing clear.
“It’s not really about Ashley and I. It’s about the mission.”
Natalie Gross has been reporting for Military Times since 2017. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.