Art and Entertainment

extreme makeover foreclosure, extreme makeover harper
AP/Journal Constitution, Johnny Crawford
The "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" home of the Harper family in Gerogia. The Harpers
filed for bankruptcy in an effort to keep their home, on which they'd taken out a
$450,000 loan that they can't repay. 

Recession Forces Even "Extreme Makeover" to Downsize

April 07, 2010 02:00 PM
by Haley A. Lovett
With many "Extreme Makeover" homeowners struggling financially, the show has responded by scaling back to better fit the current economic climate.

"Extreme Makeover" Rethinks "Bigger Is Better"

In this recession, stories of families losing their homes to foreclosure are all too common. But for "Extreme Makeover" homeowners, the scenario seems especially ironic: A struggling family receives a lavish new home on national TV, only to find themselves financially strapped with astronomical utility bills, higher taxes and bigger mortgage payments than they can afford.

"Extreme Makeover" producers have responded to the problem by downsizing. "These days, the show is backing away from the boom-era showpieces," Dawn Wotapka reports for The Wall Street Journal.

In 2005, a home in Georgia was transformed into a 5,300-square-foot English castle with five fireplaces, an outdoor kitchen, five bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

"I think our hearts were in the right place, but we just got carried way," Tracy Hutson, an interior designer with the show, told Wotapka.

Now, the average size of makeovers is 2,800 to 3,000 square feet, and the homes are getting more enivornmentally-friendly products, like solar panels and low water-flow toilets.

Background: "Extreme Makeover" homes go on the market

Approximately six families have put their "Extreme" homes on the market, for reasons such as rising property taxes and utility bills, or because they used the home as collateral on a loan they couldn’t repay.

Eric Hebert put his "Extreme Makeover" house up for sale in 2008, saying that he couldn’t afford the maintenance on the home, according to the Associated Press. Hebert, of Sandpoint, Idaho, then took out a loan against the house. In 2009, the bank foreclosed on the house when Hebert became unable to make payments.

Victor Marrero moved into his "Extreme Makeover" home in August 2007, and then in May 2008 he put the New Jersey home on the market for nearly $500,000. According to, Marrero said the home “was too costly to maintain” and that the money he’d been given by the show was not enough to pay all of his debts. One day after he listed the property, however, Marrero removed the listing.

In Atlanta, one "Extreme Makeover" family has had nothing but financial trouble since moving into their new home. Milton and Patricia Harper received their home in January 2005. The family used the house as collateral for a $450,000 loan to start a construction business. When the business failed, the house went into foreclosure in July 2008, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

After working out a plan to pay back the loan and avoid foreclosure, they again faced foreclosure, according to WSB Atlanta. The Harpers also owed debt to credit card companies, pawn shops and a cell phone company, and had outstanding garbage bills with the city. The house was scheduled to be auctioned off, but the Harpers avoided this by filing for bankruptcy.

In 2006, former drug addict turned charity worker Sadie Holmes faced foreclosure on her "Extreme Makeover" home because of nearly $30,000 in fines due to code violations. A pro-bono lawyer came to her rescue and helped Holmes save her home, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In December 2008, Judy and Larry Vardon were saved from losing their "Extreme Makeover" home. According to Michigan Live, the Vardon's financial burden was reduced thanks to donations to help them pay for their mortgage (which had increased since the makeover), as well as medical care for their son, who is blind and autistic.

Reference: "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"; Mortgages and foreclosures

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" premiered on ABC on Dec. 3, 2003. Families can be nominated, and have often endured hardships.

To learn more about the process of getting a mortgage for a home, or to understand the foreclosure process, visit the findingDulcinea Mortgages Web Guide and the foreclosure section of our Home Selling Web Guide.

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