Extreme Makeover Home Edition Leaves Homeowners In Perdition

Some of the winners of ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition (EMHE) got a boobie prize. The Free Money Finance blog has found a few examples of EMHE recipients now in foreclosure, because after the workmen, camera crews, and glitz left, they were left with more house than they can afford. In one case, the town is hosting dinner raffles to help keep the family afloat. Here’s an extreme makeover for you: how about giving the people a house that fits their budget? I guess that doesn’t sell as many Twinkies.

Two More Extreme Makeover Home Edition Homes in Trouble [FreeMoneyFinance] (Photo: Newtownia)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    Ouch, no good deed goes unforclosed.

  2. FLConsumer says:

    I always wondered how people were going to afford the beautiful houses the show built. Even just the utility bills on some of the homes would be substantially larger than what the families appeared to be able to afford. I also wonder how some of the families’ spending habits changed once they moved into their new homes as well. Larger house of shiny new things tends to cause more shiny new things to be bought to fill said house.

  3. Bladefist says:

    Yea I was always curious how those people were going to afford property taxes, energy, etc etc.

    It’s the same with winning a free car. The property taxes and sales taxes will bury you. Just give me money plez

    I cant blame the tv show though. They did a good deed. They can sell the house, make a ton, move into a lower priced house.

  4. errr, one of the foreclosures happened becuase the homeowner took out “a bad loan”.

    Don’t think that EMHE should be blamed for that.

  5. Bladefist says:

    @FLConsumer: jinks. u owe me a coke

  6. taney71 says:

    Well, some of it is the family’s fault. Take for instance this extreme makeover family ([www.denverpost.com]) who used their home as collateral for a $450,000 loan to finance a construction business. Is that the show’s fault that the family did this and now has to pay the bank back? I don’t think so.

    And to add to this story the company who built the home raised $250,000 for the family which included scholarships for the kids and a home-maintenance fund.

    I think you are painting way too much of a sympathetic picture of the families and making the show and others out to be the bad guys.

  7. timsgm1418 says:

    the one I heard about was in foreclosure because the family mortgaged the property for $480,000 for a business that failed. I’m pretty sure Extreme Makeover pays off the mortgage. I’d like a little more in depth investigation. Everytime I’ve watched the show (admittedly it’s been awhile) they always say the house is paid off and they are giving living expenses

  8. MadameX says:

    One article I read said that EMHE gives the recipients enough money to pay the property taxes for 25 years.

    So yeah, while the utilities would probably be an issue for a lot of these people, greed and bad financial choices appear to be a factor in many of these cases.

  9. B says:

    @Bladefist: Maybe, but those houses tend to be really hard to sell. Aside from the questionable workmanship of the repairs, you’re looking at a house that’s suddenly worth a lot more then the surrounding houses. Anybody able to afford it is more likely to want a place in a more exclusive neighborhood, or one on a larger lot.

  10. @CreativeLinks: I was just about to say…

    Re: bad loan guy. Would you blame the lottery for the number of winners who ended up broke 2 years later? This guy needs to take some personal responsibility for his own poor choices.

  11. pHluid says:

    The problem is two fold. Yes, the homes are just far too large to maintain, utility wise, for most of these people. They’d be better off building smaller, but just as nice, homes, with maximum energy efficiency throughout, which would cost the same or less than the massive homes they’re building, and cost them only as much or less than they were paying before.

    Secondly, there is absolutely no reason these people should be taxed on the new homes value. Laws need to be enacted to freeze the property tax rates for charity homes until they are sold. Property taxes are a big enough scam without forcing people into eternal poverty conditions because they can’t afford to accept the charity offered to them.

  12. forgottenpassword says:

    I guess, small, plain, modest houses dont make for good ratings.

    Hell!, I would have sold the house & bought a smaller, older one.

  13. samurailynn says:

    I haven’t ever watched any of these shows… are the houses paid off at end of the show? If the families were paying rent or mortgage before the home improvements, wouldn’t not having to pay a mortgage anymore make up for the difference in utility bills and property taxes?

  14. samurailynn says:

    Also… who builds/remodels houses these days and doesn’t do a lot of work on making them energy efficient?

  15. @MadameX:

    What Financial Preparations Are Afforded The Players?

    * Players are granted lump sums to cover tax liabilities, such as in the case of Rocket Science Laboratories, which produces Fox’s “Renovate My Family.” But such tax payments are considered income so adjustments are made to ensure that ultimately, NO tax is owed. You win a ranch and you get additional bucks to cover the taxes: now that is SWEET!

    * The players are encouraged or advised to refinance their newly refurbished house, and with the increase in equity, they will be able to pay off the additional property tax generated.

  16. forgottenpassword says:


    You know… that would be a good new program model. A tv show that greens your home (or builds you a new one) in the newest money-saving green technology.

  17. ironchef says:

    deserving families don’t equate to the most fiscally responsible families.

    If I won a prize as big as that, I’d be a lot more fiscally responsible than the idiots who would put a huge loan against their HOME.

    Time to rent out some rooms and help pay the bills. There is no shame in having such a sweet pad and renting the rooms out to people willing to share the costs.

  18. bohemian says:

    There were issues like this with the HGTV dream homes the first two or three years. They gave people the home but no further money to cover federal taxes on the “gift” income or the property taxes. The property taxes alone on some of these houses was insane. They were in exclusive areas with higher tax rates and they were huge swanky luxury homes. They had the related massive utility bills too. After the story of the first few winners not just having to sell the homes but ending up in the hole they started adding some cash to cover expenses but it wasn’t enough.

    The extra cash might cover property taxes and upkeep until you could sell it if your lucky. If you couldn’t sell the place within about a year you would start losing your own money.

  19. bohemian says:

    @samurailynn: Shows that are more worried about installing granite counter tops to make the reveal more dramatic.

  20. ironchef says:


    Energy efficiency is probably there. But leaving the lights on, running the giant subzero fridges and plasma screens sure eats up juice. The owners don’t know how to conserve.

  21. karmaghost says:

    See, I knew it wouldn’t always work out. A lot of these houses have what I can only imagine are huge utility bills and the property taxes probably skyrocket as the house value is now much, much more than it was previously. Also, I’m wondering what kind of taxes they need to pay/claim on all the new stuff they’ve been given for free. It’s like when Oprah gave all those studio audience members free cars, but a lot of people didn’t realize they had to pay taxes on them.

  22. Gman says:

    That is one thing i have always hated about the show. For the amount they spend on that one house, they can build a fairly large town home complex for several families.

    While I am on a rant: what is with all of the upper-middle class families they choose? I understand that the kid/adult has some heartbreaking problem. I feel really, really sorry for them. But there are many, many, many more deserving families out there who can barely afford a roof over their head. These families at least have that.

  23. warf0x0r says:

    Typically, from the 3 eps I’ve seen, the recipients of the house usually get a large sum of money to go with it.

    Enough to cover the increase in taxes and what not for a while… but yeah I always wondered how they eventually payed for that when the gift money ran out.

  24. Coles_Law says:

    ” Here’s an extreme makeover for you: how about giving the people a house that fits their budget?”

    The pilot episode for “Moderate Makeover: Home Edition” flopped pretty hard.

  25. Orv says:

    @G99: Cynical answer: People like to watch shows about people like them. Poor people are not a demographic advertisers want to cater to.

  26. Marshfield says:

    Two comments:
    1. the people borrowed against the house for a business that failed. Businesses fail all the time. Bear Sterns failed, and those people are supposedly experts at what they do. So it may or may not have been a good decision at the time, hindsight is 20/20.
    2. People could always start selling off the 50″ plasma TV sets in the house. I think every EMHE has 2-3 of them.

  27. katylostherart says:

    the people who took out the business loan against their house don’t deserve more charity. they took something completely donated to them and tried to turn into a profit.

    if ehme gives them 25 years worth of property tax money and tehre was a load of money mismanaged by the family after the show was done, again, they should get a financial adviser and learn to deal with their mistakes since.

    i can understand where the utilities would take a chunk out of the wallet, but that’s also poor money management. if you saw a huge jump in the first month or two of your utilities then you should learn to conserve. especially since it would probably only be in whatever it was that did the heating. the cooking, water usage, electricity (besides heating) shouldn’t have changed all that much because those are dependent on people using them, not just the house being there. my friend recently bought a condo, just got her first electricity bill and she thought “wow, that’s a freaking lot” so she tries to conserve energy.

    i dunno. things like this are a windfall. when you get something spectacular you shouldn’t treat it as if it’ll happen ever again. those that did will just have to face the music.

    @G99: most of the episodes i’ve seen did NOT have upper middle class families.

  28. taney71 says:

    My mother always says your home isn’t a bank. Don’t use it as such. Using your home for a loan on a business is just plain stupid.

  29. Jon Mason says:

    @taney71: Exactly: Don’t have all your eggs in one basket… I understand that nobody takes out a loan against their house thinking their business will fail, and many massively successful businesses didn’t get where there are without their founders spending lifesavings, getting three mortgages etc. And if you are willing to take that risk of losing it all, more power to you – but don’t risk it all when you had nothing and now have been given a helping hand back up. People need to learn to be content with what they have. With a paid-off mortgage and property tax most people could afford to work minimum wage and still pay for their utilities, food etc… why did these people have to reach for even more

  30. Crabfeast says:


    I agree. After they had their show here, our local newspaper discovered that the family who received the home had an annual household income of over $200,000. That’s just plain ridiculous, and some of the people who actually volunteered a little on the home felt a little cheated about it. Someone with that much income and a little sense is very well off compared to most other people.

  31. TVGenius says:

    These stories have been around for 2-3 years. Back then, the big deal was that they had to list the house as income, then pay income tax on it, since basically it’s game show winnings.

  32. legwork says:

    This seems remarkably similar to the majority of lottery winners who lose everything within a year. 90%? Maybe the producers could solicit monthly money management counseling to go along with all the construction donations.

  33. puddleglum411 says:

    Seriously? You people are complaining about utilities costs? Utilities costs are all that’s left!They build these house and give the recipients: a fund to pay taxes for 25 years. a fund for home maintenance. and as often as not college funds for the kids. I could work at MCDONALDS and afford utilities on a 4000 sq ft house if I had no home payment, and a fund for taxes and maintenance, and didn’t have to save for my kid’s education.

  34. GearheadGeek says:

    Also, what you consider “extreme” is important. My partner and I live in a house that’s about 1400 sq. ft. (and that’s all, there’s no basement that’s not counted in the square footage but is available for use.) If I won an “extreme home” prize, I’d probably want to build about 1800-2000 sq. ft. of high-quality, energy-efficient, well-designed home.

    However, while that home would play well in Dwell, it probably wouldn’t be the sort of thing ABC viewers were all hot about. I’d rather have a highly energy-efficient house than a media room. I’d rather have a well-sized, well-equipped kitchen than a 30-foot ceiling in the living room, and I’d rather have a reasonably-sized home in a city neighborhood than some McMansion in the ‘burbs, so I’m obviously unamerican. That undergrad in architecture has rendered me a freak. :)

  35. XTC46 says:

    @GearheadGeek: I agree with you. I dont want a 4k square foot house. Id be happy with 1500 ft and a nice yard. They can even leave the material and the land, ill take care of the rest.

  36. Dyscord says:

    “Building a house that fits their budget?” If some of these people had a budget for a nice house then they wouldn’t be in the predicament that they were in the first place.

    Sounds a little like poor money management in some cases. The one article has a guy talking about how his heating bills were 300 a month for the winter. My grandparents would pay that much if they weren’t on a budget from the gas company. A lot of utilities tend to have budgets for those with low income.

    If everything is paid for, utilities shouldn’t be a big deal.

  37. coan_net says:

    Yea…. I only skimmed over some of the other comments, but many of them are saying the same thing when I read this article.

    As I understand it, the house owners are given the house already paid for – so only thing they need to worry about are taxes. (and if they were already paying a house payment, any smart person would put that money into an account to pay for the taxes)

    …. but for the few episodes that I caught, the house owners are not exactly brain surgeons…. and I believe most of the problems is (1) they are taking loan out on the house and defaulting or (2) not saving money to pay for taxes.

    Anyway, even though I know Consumerist does not like to hear this – but with this story, I believe in most examples it is the home owners fault.

    (and if not, then the owners should own the house – sell it and then use the profit to move into a house they can afford. Simple.)

  38. tex1ntux says:

    @coan_net: Just because someone took out a half million dollar loan against their awesome new house doesn’t mean ABC isn’t responsible.

    Wait, that makes no sense.
    Consumerist is starting to do quite a few articles about bad consumers instead of bad companies.

  39. ironchef says:

    As a habitat for humanity volunteer, it sickens me to see all the excess splashed on to a single family. The families that get to live in one of the habitat houses are very modest and live within their means.

    On a South Central LA build, we installed only one piece of extravagance into the town homes….a $30,000 solar panel system to help pay for utilities. The rest of the houses had very modest particle board with laminate furnishings and about 1200 sq. feet of living space for a family of 3.

  40. VeiledThreats says:

    One of the episodes built a huge new home for a family of like 10 but used lots of solar panels and other energy efficient upgrades. They said their bill on the new house that was 3x the size of their old one was $50 cheaper than their older, smaller, less energy efficient pad. Besides, as said above, if they pay off their mortgage and all they have to pay is utilities and property taxes, it really shouldn’t be a struggle. I pay about $200 a month in electric bills during the summer in my new home, easily done on burger flipping pay.

    In California, as a side note, property taxes are paid on a property based on the last appraised value when securing a mortgage. So if a home is remodeled like that here and the current mortgage was based on a value of say $120,000, property taxes will be calculated on that amount until, or if, the home is reappraised for a new loan (which an EMHE house really shouldn’t be). They enacted this legislation to protect older homeowners who bought their little craftsman homes in the 50’s and never refinanced so they wouldn’t have to pay property taxes on super inflated modern day values for the home they paid $20,000 for 50 years ago.

  41. golfinggiraffe says:

    @tex1ntux: There isn’t anything wrong with that, is there? Not many sites address “bad consumers”.

  42. vk2tds says:

    The problem is actually the TAX system. It seems to be based on the value of the house and land. Here in Australia the local taxes are only based on the value of the land, and are about $1000 per year.

  43. ironchef says:


    They would have to preserve a single original wall to make that tax valuation work under prop 13. A lot of homeowners do that to keep the prop 13 loophole.

    As far as I know…EMHE houses are complete demo projects, starting from a flat slab.

  44. bohemian says:

    @GearheadGeek: If ABC gave someone an appropriately sized house with energy efficient gear inside in a walkable neighborhood they wouldn’t be able to help sell people on the idea that they need all this crap.

    Huge flat panel TVs, stainless steel commercial appliances, granite counter tops and enough room to house a museum. Even wonder how this became the defacto American ideal of the perfect home? Because it sells lots of expensive stuff for Home Depot.

    Maybe I see past it because I am an architecture geek and see more benefit out of the planned simplicity of an old craftsman style home than a McMansion.

  45. Ayo says:

    I’m pretty sure the first Extreme Makeover family took a loan out and used there House as collateral. I can imagine what they were thinking after the first month of settling in there home… “Free Money!!!”

    I guess they should change the show to Extreme Financial Makeover and give them money to make even more bad decisions with it.

  46. Pylon83 says:

    I can’t find it (I’m too lazy to look too hard), but I recall reading an article about how EMHE (or one of the other home makeover shows) pulled off the projects and avoided some tax consequences. The production companies “rents” the property from the owners for 2 weeks, completes all of the improvements during those two weeks and the improvements are then “forfeited” to the owner at the end of the lease.

  47. Sudonum says:

    As per Proposition 13 [en.wikipedia.org])

  48. Sudonum says:

    Damn computer, as I was saying, As per Proposition 13 [en.wikipedia.org]):

    “Under Proposition 13, the annual real estate tax on a parcel of residential property is limited to 1% of its assessed value. This “assessed value,” however, may only be increased by a maximum of 2% per year, until and unless the property is resold (not refinanced).”

    As long as they don’t transfer title to the land, the taxes won’t go up more than 2% a year.

  49. trogam says:

    I never thoguht about that.before…damn. That really does suck…well, at least they could sell those giant houses right?

  50. cornhuskertom says:

    I used to live two doors down from a family that had one of these houses built for them. There is no “cookie cutter” payoff model for the show. The producers do their best to find a local builder who will solicit donations of money and furnishings to the family. In some cases, enough money is raised to pay for college, the mortgage, etc. In other cases, they are not so successful. Many of the families, my friends included, are still saddled with the mortgage they had on the home originally.

  51. lockdog says:

    @ironchef: I work for Habitat for Humanity here in Lexington, and building the “simple, decent, affordable house,” is just half the story. All of our homeowners go through classes in budgeting, financial planning and avoiding predatory lending. Our homes are all super-insulated, four star energy certified and built to exceed code. That’s not to say they are no frills. All have at least two full baths and most of our new plans have vaulted ceilings and open floorplans. We build in older neighborhoods, so we try to incorporate local architectural detail, like brick facades, front porches, and even cedar shake siding where appropriate. We build for families who wouldn’t qualify for even the riskiest sub-prime loans, yet we still have an extremely low default rate. And of course, we use the proceeds from our 0 interest mortgages to just keep building more homes for more families.

  52. ShortBus says:

    @lockdog: How pervasive is Christianity in Habitat for Humanity?

    I’ve looked into volunteering at a local soup kitchen and a battered woman’s shelter only find out that they are religious organizations. The prob is I’m not Christian and would not feel comfortable giving my time/work to an organization that uses it to proselytize.

  53. raleel says:

    @ShortBus: I didn’t think it was too bad when I volunteers. mostly a lot of hard work.

  54. katoninetales says:

    @ShortBus: I don’t think the volunteers are over the top, but the organization itself is explicitly Christian. The blurb on the first Google hit for “Habitat for Humanity”: “Habitat for Humanity Int’l
    A nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing organization building simple, decent, affordable housing in partnership with people in need.
    http://www.habitat.org/ – 29k”

  55. Invective says:

    @ShortBus: I can tell you exactly what Habitat for Humanity is like. I’m disabled with a serious disease that nobody ever recovers from. The Ex wife (Not disabled.) secretly begins her plans for taking the Habitat of the Humanity house for herself. Then the Wife has floor plans secretly made up and just before work begins on the new home, she has a host of trucks and cars show up to move her and our young Daughters out of the rental we were in. She goes down to Social Security and has the Social Security funds that were for the care of our daughters, transferred to her bank account. (She lied to them and told them that I was the one who moved out.) Then she starts an affair with one of the local sheriff’s deputies. Meanwhile, sick and literally forced to sleep on the floor in an empty home, I am left behind in a rental that really should have been torn down. (It rained as much inside as it did outside.) I am quickly evicted because of course there was no way I could afford that rent. Since there is not much in the way of affordable housing in Idaho, I was forced to live between motels and my car. When I could afford it I stayed in a cheap motel and when the Social Security money ran out, I had to live in my car. With no family, or friends to help, I was totally on my own for the better part of a year. I contacted the local Habitat of Humanity and begged them for help. I was told there was nothing they can do and that the organization was closing down. I applied for and was rejected to live in the local subsidized apartments. Even though I lived in Idaho for the better part of 10 years it didn’t matter because I was not locally born, so all subsidies are refused, including all Idaho Department of Health and Welfare aid. So the moral of the story is, Habitat of Humanity is subject to local rules only, the national organization doesn’t care, or monitor what it is the locals are doing. Only the local connected are allowed a home, if not, you’re out of luck. They don’t watch over the family, nor do they make sure that safeguards are in place to keep a scheming spouse in check. The National Habitat of Humanity organization did send a brief email saying how awful it sounded and I was wished good luck. So I’d say from my own personal experience that there’s no Christian in Habitat of Humanity here in Idaho at all and I certainly didn’t feel any Christianity in the National organization either.

  56. Crabfeast says:


    Wow, that’s horrible, but I don’t think that’s the typical “Habitat for Humanity” experience, at least, I hope not. I’m sure they do some good.

  57. pollyannacowgirl says:


    I totally agree. (I tend to agree with most everything you say. Especially on health care issues.)

    The thing that kills me about McMansions is the doors. They’re hollow. You can’t slam them – they sort of float shut. And they seem to be made for some glamorous lifestyle that the people inhabiting them don’t live.

  58. pollyannacowgirl says:

    (uh, the *houses* seem to made for some glamorous lifestyle…)

  59. synergy says:

    I thought you guys had already posted this. I must’ve seen it on another site.

    I was just waiting for this to happen. About a year ago I mentioned it to my husband’s co-workers who all work for an ABC affiliate and they didn’t believe me.

  60. lockdog says:

    @ShortBus: It can vary from affiliate to affiliate. It (usually) stops far short of proselytizing. Generally we try to be more on the side of the practicing, not the preaching. It is a little weird to be asked to open a staff meeting with a prayer, but anyone can politely decline (and often do). Some build days will start the day with a short, non denominational prayer, and maybe another quick one before lunch, especially if the sponsor of the build is a local church. Every few years we also try to get together and build a house with the local temples, mosques, synagogues, even a nearby sanghas, and have a great time. Our volunteers and sponsors have a wide range of beliefs theologically and politically and we try to be sensitive to all of them. One of the toughest decisions is whether some big fancy fundraiser will have alcohol or not (this is Kentcuky)! I too have my problems with Christianity from time to time, but find my five years with Habitat have been a rewarding experience and an example of how religions can actually get things right. But it does depend on how far south you live and just how sensitive to proselytizing you are…it could be I’ve built up enough immunity to not notice it anymore! The work is hard, but tons of fun, and you will learn a lot!

  61. shiftless says:

    Oh boo hoo. Now they have a million dollar house to sell. Booooo hooooo.

  62. lockdog says:

    @Invective: I’m sorry to hear that a local affiliate treated you that way. It was probably the reason they were being shut down. Habitat International is finally starting to flex some muscle and close local affiliates for non-performance. That said, it sounds like you were in need of immediate help, which Habitat doesn’t really do (though they should have pointed you in the right direction). Most of our partner families make a one or two year commitment before the first footing is dug.

    So, to try and bring this thread back on topic: Building a small, simple house for folks in need probably doesn’t make for glamorous TV (It would be worse than watching Tedium, I mean Medium…ughh). On second thought, I’m not that cynical. It would make for good TV, it just wouldn’t sell a lot of commercial slots for fancy appliances and granite countertops, since the homes would be built with things a lot of us already have. I’m not absolving the families from poor decision making, but the big difference between EMHE and Habitat is that at the end of the day, one is about helping people and one is about helping people and making money.

  63. bitplayer says:

    I think the raising enough money to cover a mortgage is a fairly new thing. The first few seasons a lot of folks struggled paying their new tax rates,etc. Also I’ve read multiple stories about EHM and Trading Places building basically sets instead of improved homes or rooms. The upgrades don’t last and aren’t substantial.

  64. scerwup says:

    @ShortBus: They are Christian, but, I have done a LOT of volunteer work for my local HFH, and have never felt uncomfortable or been preached to. Sometimes there may be a prayer or something, but it is nothing intrusive, and I have never been forced to do anything I didn’t want to do. Always just seemed to me like a bunch of nice decent people trying to help other people out. At least that’s the way I always took it. Try it out, it is very enjoyable and satisfying, especially when you see the people who end up with the houses.

  65. DjDynasty says:

    Every episode I have seen they pay the mortgage off, and make it clear they will be paying the property taxes for 20+ years.

    Now if it’s really bad, I can always move next door. Their taxes will go down. The county just assessed my house at $150K for basis of property taxes while I’m in the middle of a refi, that the mortgage guy, and the appraiser were college buddies, and they lied threw their teeth to get my loan to be approved because the highest they could get the value pushed was $140K

    1 car garage, no basement, 3 bedroom 1 bath ranch. in 1990 a tornado hit and leveled all but 3 houses, Mine is one of the 3 houses. When everyone rebuilt, they put in larger garages, formal dining rooms, private bathrooms for each bedroom, etc. Considering every house in this neighborhood is listing at $150 and selling for $138 lately. I couldn’t give this dump away. Even one mortgage company who was trying to use everything possible to foreclose on us because they thought they would get shit loads of equity out of the house (only owed like $20,000 from a 103K mortgage taken out 10 years ago, ARM that adjusted every 6 months. After the first adjustment the escrow account closed, and property taxes were our own thing to deal with, except the only documentation ever provided was some tiny little print on the contract that in order to keep the payment the same when the APR adjusts, no further payments will be made to escrow after June 1 2003.

    Did the Refi for 95% LTV and I’m going to do a complete tear down/remodel on my house. Brother in law is a brick layer, other brother in law works at moen. I’m an electrician so we’ll save a lot of money doing most of this ourselves.

  66. RvLeshrac says:


    You don’t pay utilities if you don’t use utilities.

    Unless they’re turning another hundred lights on and running the A/C at ridiculous levels, they shouldn’t see bills that are any (or at least much) larger.

    Case in point: My parents moved from our old 2 bedroom 1 bath house with no central air to a new 3BR/2B house with central air – and the utility bills didn’t increase at all. Why? Because they set the thermostat to reasonable levels and don’t run every appliance 24 hours a day.

    Furthermore, new houses often use newer, vastly more energy-efficient appliances. If anything, the bills should DECREASE when you get a brand new house. Many municipalities require equipment like low-flow toilets and showerheads on new construction, so this would drop utilities further.


    According to the local affiliate, the individuals who nearly lost the $450,000 home were provided with a sum of money sufficient to cover 25 years of property tax payments at the current rate – which they spent, along with the loan, with no other finances.

    I agree with the mayor. Watching individuals squander an opportunity such as this, with all of the hard work provided by members of the local community, just makes me sick.

    ABC has also repeatedly stated that they advise the winners to seek financial counseling so that situations such as these can be avoided. If they MANDATED financial counseling, I’m sure they’d be railed for it.

  67. htrout13 says:

    In NJ, they moved a family that had been living in a one-room apt in Camden, one of the (if not the) poorest and most dangerous cities in country, into a huge home on the outskirts of Camden.

    Now forgive me if I get some of the details mixed up, but from what I understand, their rent in Camden was $200/month. There were 4-5 people living together in the one-room apt. Now they have a 5 br house in an area that has 2-3 br houses. This house is twice the size than the houses in their neighborhood. The value of the house was double all of the houses around it.

    Two of the kids who had been helping dad (welfare) to make ends meet were given scholarships and have gone away to college.

    They had a fund that covered the taxes for the first few years, but the taxes were much higher than others in the neighborhood.

    The dad tried selling it, but people who could afford it didn’t want to move into Camden – a single house doesn’t bring up an area – most affluent families don’t willingly move into the ghetto..

    The father is now living in it alone, in 1-2 rooms of this entire house. He is disabled and unable to work, and his welfare/SS doesn’t cover the utilities and general living expenses.

    In this case, I tend to blame EMHE – why build a house that is so much beyond the means of the owners and the area in which it is being built. The homes they build should not be so much bigger and grander than the homes in the neighborhood they’re building in. They also need to recognize that families who are living in/near poverty are not going to be able to afford a giant home – no matter how much aid they are given.

    My mom and I were volunteers on this house, and as we watched it go up we knew it was a mistake. The owners have kept it longer than we expected though!

  68. EBounding says:

    I lived a few blocks from the Vardon family; the deaf parents who’s younger son was blind and autistic. The city wouldn’t let them expand the house and make a giant mansion, so they had to be creative to improve the house to meet the needs of the family. They didn’t just bulldoze the place, build a McMansion, and filled it with plasmas.

  69. thesuperpet says:

    @G99: I think it’s partly because the poorer familys can’t afford their own home, and I believe you have to own your own home for them to do the show.

    The show sells, and like most things, that is more important than anything to the producers.

  70. bravo369 says:

    @htrout13: I live in NJ too and when I saw that episode, I couldn’t believe it. They should’ve either moved them out of camden, built a more appropriate home, or choose someone else from NJ.

  71. bravo369 says:

    I think it stinks that ABC, builders and volunteers put all this time and effort into the house only to have the person lose it all. I think there should be a contract between the people and ABC that if the person wants to sell, ABC gets first crack and buys it at market value. ABC can then either give the house to another deserving family or have a raffle for the house will all proceeds going to charity. You might as well let some more good come out of the house if a 1st owner loses it.

  72. illtron says:

    @Bladefist: And those beautiful Kenmore appliances and Craftsman tools from Sears! Sears! Sears! Sears!

  73. dragonvpm says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: Would you blame the lottery for the number of winners who ended up broke 2 years later?

    You know, now that you mention it, I wonder why the lottery doesn’t do more to require mandatory financial counseling for people who win the bigger jackpots. I know, I know, it’s the Consumerist so some people are going to want to insist that the winners should sink or float on their own, but it seems like we hear enough horror stories about how people’s lives end up ruined after large windfalls and from what I recall it’s not unusual to hear about how other people come into the picture and leach off of or just scam the winners so you’d think a mandatory “windfall 101” type class would be a good thing to have (not unlike the way you’re obligated to take a short class on borrowing money before you get a student loan)

  74. FLConsumer says:

    @Bladefist: Do you prefer that in powder or crystal form? Or did you mean soda?

  75. onesong says:

    @Bladefist: actually, not necessarily true. a lot of these homes are in lower-income areas, making them even more ridiculous AND a burden to get rid of–it’s just far too much house for the area.

  76. mzs says:

    @ShortBus: I’m what most people would call an atheist and it did not stop me from working in a soup kitchen and food pantry for four years while in college. I just did’t let all the proselytizing get under my skin. Frankly most of the people in need had lots of problems with drugs and alcohol and when their brains were so far gone, believing that Jesus would save them seemed the only thing that would help, though for very little bursts of time. So because I am a humanist and I saw I was helping people, none of the religion stuff mattered. It particularly warmed my heart to see that the innocent kids got fed.

    All the religion talk did not bother me too much, I would simply avoid it as much as possible. It was easy with the locals, I’d just say something like, “don’t you see I’m busy here?” and they would leave me alone. With the other volunteers, it was harder. I would just say, “I don’t believe in the Bible much,” and sometimes they would prod and I would basically ignore it. Every so often some new volunteers would take issue with it but the pastor was on my side and just pointed-out I was helping more and for longer than most and would make it really clear it made him upset if it kept going on. I was lucky about that I guess but I still would have done it regardlessly I am sure, I think my skin was think enough by then. I think it is important for religious people to see that those not religious like us care about people as well.

  77. Doublenix says:


    This is terrible. Why would anyone want the ‘prize’ then if they can’t afford it? It’s great they are giving away free labor and materials, but now the homeowner is responsible for all the adjustments the improvements are going to make?

    Why aren’t they paying for the house in full, leaving the owner with tax adjustment? Why is there even a mortgage in question? You’re telling me the show can’t afford another couple thousands in expenses? Thanks a lot EMHE.

  78. battra92 says:

    @forgottenpassword: I guess, small, plain, modest houses dont make for good ratings.

    I guess not. Heck, it’d probably be cheaper and a lot more practical for them if built those Katrina homes from Lowes. I mean look at Clean House (another over the top reality show) and they make some pretty fugly houses at least look half way decent.

  79. JustaConsumer says:

    That is a really retarded show. I have no clue why anyone would watch.

  80. girly says:

    I could be wrong, but it seems to me when the show started it was more of a contest some interesting family would win and they’d make updates to the house to show viewers what kind of cool products they can buy for their homes. If any work was ‘donated’ I imagine it would be for advertising consideration.

    It didn’t take long for them to switch to picking the families with the saddest stories (whether poverty or tragedy) and compensating for their suffering with lots of gifts. This turned the product advertisers more into donors than sponsors, and got people to actually volunteer labor as if it were a charity.

    Sounds like some of the ‘sad story’ people weren’t poor, just sad, so it seems they got their wires crossed and were getting people to volunteer thinking they were helping someone truly needy.

  81. Dracoster says:

    People mention granite countertops. Most episodes doesnt feature these, as wood is used.

  82. newgalactic says:

    They can always sell from the outset and move into a smaller but livable house.

    …next topic please.

  83. cothebadger says:

    My neighbors at my parents’ house were the 100th show recipients in Minnesota. They have a bunch of kids through some unfortunate circumstances, and their house was big but not big enough to hold the whole family comfortably. I’d have to say that if their financial situation hadn’t been comfortable when the show started work (unlike so many other families on the show), they would have been screwed.

    @newgalactic: But what if they’ve been in the neighborhood for ten years and don’t want to leave?

  84. formergr says:

    @newgalactic: Or if you’d actually read any of the other comments here, you’d see that oftentimes these families *can’t* sell the house as it is now much larger or “too much” house for the rest of the neighborhood. Anyone who can afford a 5-BR house is not going to want to live in a lower income area.

    …next commenter please.

  85. narq says:

    You know, I remember seeing an episode where they built a house for some foster mother who had been taking care of over a dozen kids. How she had no money and she lived in a sad shack. They built her a 5 bedroom beautiful house in a suburban neighborhood. Then I thought to myself… didn’t they say she could barely afford food and electricity? How is that lady going to afford her property taxes?

    Nice one ABC. That’s why you remain the network nobody watches. You can’t even do things halfway good.

  86. antijamsect says:

    The dump the families were living in before the makeover was what they could afford…that’s the problem with this show. These people can’t afford anything better than what they already had, otherwise they would already have a decent house, don’t you think?

  87. LibraryGeek says:

    Quite a few people are commenting that the families should “just” sell the new houses and move into more affordable ones. There are two problems with this solution. The housing market is lousy, so it’s not that easy to sell some of these houses. As other posters have pointed out, some of the EMHE houses are twice the size of the surrounding homes. People that would typically live in the neighborhood would not be able to afford that home and those who can afford the home would not be looking at that neighborhood.
    Secondly, I’ve seen some shows where homes were built to specifically accommodate a disability or health condition. A new, more affordable home will come with all of the original problems that the new EMHE house was supposed to solve.