Extreme Makeover Home Edition: The Truth About The Show

Sep 03, 2021James Montalvo

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was one of ABC's more popular shows. It ran from 2003 to 2012 and showed us a host of families receiving a slew of beautiful and breathtaking renovations to their homes. Such a great premise, right? Well, it's reality tv so you know there's always a catch. This show wasn't exempt from that. With the reboot already on HGTV, here's the truth behind the original Extreme Makeover: Home Edition you should know!

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GETTING ON THE SHOW

The show featured real families with real problems with their homes. That much is true, but getting onto the show was an immense challenge all on its self. The casting department is said to have gone through roughly a thousand applications a day. Unfortunately, as we all know, the show picked out the applications they knew they could work on without sacrificing practicality and a good story to tell.

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RATINGS MATTERED MOST

If you've sat through an episode of the show and didn't shed a single tear, then you're probably a robot. NBC's Smoking Gun revealed that the show's producers purposely searched for the most tear-jerking stories they could find in their applications to feature on the show. What's reality tv without any drama?

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THEY TOOK THE WORDS 'EXTREME' TO HEART

One of the biggest draws of the show was the sheer amount of outlandish and, let's be honest, impractical ideas that the crew had for the different renovations they worked on. Some that take the cake were voice-activated everything, home theaters, a carousel, and let's not forget the rainforest bedroom. 

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IT'S NOT COMPLETELY FREE

You'd be pretty naive to believe that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is completely free. Yes, you get an amazing and beautiful house after the makeover. You get your fifteen minutes of fame too. Unfortunately, when all that is over you get slapped with the unmentionables after. We're talking about higher taxes, utility bills, and maintenance costs that you might not be able to afford in the first place. 

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GREAT HOUSE, HERE'S THE BILL

A perfect example of this would be the Dickinson family. Both parents were working long and hard hours but the family was still barely making ends meet. Then came in the crew of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and their ranch-style home were turned into a 4000 square foot mansion. It was great, but it tripled their monthly utility bills. They eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2016.

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SOME CONTESTANTS EVEN LIED TO GET ON

We get it, people will do anything to get on tv. What's more, people will do anything to get a free house makeover and get featured on tv. One infamous example of this came in 2009 when the Cerda family told the show's producers that their two daughters had developed chronic illnesses because of a mold problem in their house. They got a really swanky makeover complete with fancy ventilation. However, their lies eventually caught up with them. 

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YOU CAN'T KEEP THINGS HIDDEN FOR LONG

The Cerda family's high-end ventilation systems eventually cost them their home. They couldn't keep up with the costs of living in it and eventually sold it. But that's not all, when they moved to a different city, the doctors that cared for their 'sick' kids began questioning the illness their children had. They were eventually caught and the kids are now in safer hands.

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THE SHOW MAY HAVE BEEN OVERDOING IT

From the audience's point of view, getting a house as beautiful as the ones on the show should be a dream come true. However, some keen-eyed folks have pointed out that the show may have given a little too much. So much so that the family's the featured didn't really need that much house, to begin with. Which brings us to this point.

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SOME ARE FLIPPING IT BEFORE THEY LOSE IT

Imagine having to take care of a family in a house too small for you, with bills too high for your salary to cover? Tough right? Now imagine being given a mansion but being told you still have to maintain the same lifestyle as before. It's an impossible task. Victor Marrero ended up selling the house he was built because he couldn't afford the $700-$1200 monthly utility bills anymore.

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FORECLOSURES HAPPEN QUITE OFTEN

With all this talk about the dire situations, the original production left families in the aftermath of their show it's believable that some families have had to let go of the mansion that was given to them. Some weren't so lucky and even defaulted. The Harvey family, which was featured in 2005, had their house auctioned away by the banks within only six years.

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MANY LOST MORE THAN THEIR HOMES

The Oakvaths were an Arizona family that got an amazing showplace home. This the one that had a home theater and carousel inside of it. The family with eight children struggled to keep up with the intense electrical bills and had to take a $400,000 loan. It eventually soured the relationship of the couple, forcing them to split and sell the house at under market value.

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TOO MUCH FOR ONE MAN

Eric Hebert, a kind-hearted man who took in his orphaned niece and nephew was given a 3,600 square-foot home with a hot tub and fireplace. But the house proved to be too much for a single person to afford to maintain. Working as a construction worker, Hebert couldn't keep up with the payments for the house and ended up selling it off to save himself from drowning from debt as well. 

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FLIPPING IT FOR A LITTE MORE

It also doesn't come as a surprise when a family decides to sell the newly renovated house at a profit after Extreme Makeover: Home Edition passes through. In all honesty, it's a smart move since the show tends to give you more than you bargained for in the first place. Larry and Melissa Beach, who's house became a home to some 85 children with special needs over several years ended up trading up in 2010. Their neighbors weren't to keen on it. 

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UNHAPPY NEIGHBORS

The Beaches did end up selling their house. Their neighbors, though happy for them, weren't all that happy. During the course of the home's makeover, many of the neighbors donated their time to help with the build. When the beaches left, they started getting worried that their own homes' property values were going to go down cause the Beaches sold their mansion to a man who wanted to use the place as a high-end rehab facility

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WHAT THE NEIGHBORS EXPERIENCE WHEN THE CAMERAS ARE OFF

Throughout each episode of the original show, you'll see a host of people working tirelessly on making the house as beautiful as it can be within such a short period of time. Neighbors, family members, and people from the community donate their time to help out. But the work is really non-stop. This means that the neighbors have to deal with all the ruckus of the renovation all-day.

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ONE COMMUNITY REALLY HATED IT

In 2008, Curtis and Alisha King were selected for the show. Initially, their community was ecstatic for them, but as the renovations began and the realities began flowing through, their neighbors were upset that the film and construction crews ruined their lawns and that the usual bus stop was moved to accommodate the show. It even reached the city council.

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THE TRICKINESS OF TAXES

For those of you who own homes, you know that renovations, home improvements, and extensions can get more expensive because of the bloating of the property taxes you have to pay. The show does help the family with the tax problems upfront via a loophole they found about having your house rented for less than fifteen days, and the rent payment is the renovation so families don't have to pay taxes on the renovation, but there is still one trick.

Image Source: Getty Images/Los Angeles Times/Ken Hively

WHAT COMES AFTER IS THE TROUBLE

Though it's great that the families don't have to pay taxes for the renovations done to the house they are built, they do have to deal with the surge in property tax that they get when the renovations are done. Again, its one of those situations wherein you have to know if you're prepared to take on what the show is really offering.

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THE HOUSES WEREN'T ALL DONE

You read that right. One of the amazing appeals of the show is that the show proposes that the 'extreme makeover' that the families get is done in the fastest possible time. We've all heard of horror stories about terrible contractors who do sub-par work before, but to have that happen on a television show is just unacceptable.

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GETTING WORSE THAN A MAKEOVER

The Georgia Yazzie family got the short end of the stick after their home was turned over to them. Within weeks, issues like the roof leaking, greywater seeping out, and electrical work not functioning was only the beginning. ABC covered some of the minor repairs that needed to be done on the show, but as for the rest of it, the family was on their own.

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PRIVACY WAS ONE OF THE COSTS

One of the prices you have to pay when you decide to have your self featured on tv is privacy. Some of the families weren't prepared for that as some extreme fans of the extreme makeover show liked to track down these houses and to catch a glimpse of them and the people living there. Suffice to say things could get weird for the families.

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REALITY TV CAN BRING OUT THE WORST IN PEOPLE

Earlier we talked about the Cerda family, who faked their kids' illnesses. This time let us introduce the Leomiti family. Phil and Loki brought three orphans, the Higginses, who had lost their parents to illnesses, real ones. They charmed the producers of the show, and the blended family was given a beautiful mansion that could fit them all. It was a fairy tale, or so we thought.

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IT ESCALATED QUICKLY

According to the Higgins children, it took mere weeks after the show's episode airing for the Leomiti family to systematically remove the three orphaned children from their new home. Claims of very nasty tactics employed by the Leomiti family to for the young Higginses out were raised and it even went to court.

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WHAT THE FACE OF THE SHOW HAD TO SAY

The show definitely received a ton of backlash for how several of the families featured on it fared after Ty and the team had gone through. He had this to say, "We left them with a financial adviser. However, if the family chooses to triple-mortgage their house to start a business that they’ve never done before just to see if they can get into it, that’s their own demise."

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HE BELIEVES THEY WERE DOING GOOD

He also said, “Not only do we build a brand new house, we usually paid off the college tuition for their children — basically left them without any debt whatsoever" He finished by saying, "But that’s what press does. They were like, ‘This is too good to be true, what is really happening?’ But with ‘Extreme’ it really was that good.”

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WHAT IS TY UP TO THESE DAYS?

Ty Pennington and the crew of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition spent an estimate 240 days a year working on the show. They helped build about 200 homes in the span of 10 seasons. Since the show ended, Ty has hosted The Revolution, TNT's On the Menu, and the Food Network series American Diner Revival. He's also got his own furniture line with Sears. Busy man.

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THE 2020 REBOOT

HGTV saw that there could be something done to the show's format, and after eight years away, brought it over to their network. This time, Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Fergusson is at the helm. With a new network behind it, and a new star as the face of the show, the new and improved Extreme Makeover: Home Edition promises to employ a much different strategy.

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NEW STRATEGIES

In order to avoid the pitfalls of the original show, this reboot promises to be more practical. Fergusson tells USA Today, "We’re not giving people more than they need. You’re not going to see crazy playrooms, slides going into pools." He also added that the show aims to change people's lives and not their lifestyles. What do you think?

Image Source: Getty Images/Amy Sussman

The original Extreme Makeover: Home Edition certainly gave the world an entertaining reality tv show. It was definitely one that defined a generation of reality tv, but it had its faults. Have you seen the HGTV reboot? What do you think of it so far? Let us know in the comment section and make sure to check our Amomedia for more great content. 

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