The producers of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (aired 2003-2012) knew they had a winner in the very premise of their show. A construction crew, led by the charismatic Ty Pennington, granted gorgeous new homes to people who struggled with financial hardship or were otherwise deserving of such a life-changing experience. It seemed like the perfect feel-good watch – who doesn't fantasize about landing the home of their dreams? Each episode captured the moment of the home reveal, when everyone in the family, their friends and neighbors, cried happy tears. So did the audience. But was it all too good to be true? Is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition fake?
In one sense, the answer is no – they really do build those houses. But behind the scenes of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the situation is not always as joyous and exciting as it appears onscreen. None of the families' financial problems vanished when they entered their freshly constructed palatial estates. The new houses came with pools and gourmet kitchens, but also with very high real estate taxes and astronomical utility bills. Over the years, a number of the "lucky" families have been forced to sell their homes, and some have even gone into foreclosure.
None of those outcomes are what any of the families ever expected. But when presented with such an offer, who would turn it down? Fans might think Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is one of the best reality TV shows ever, but the truth is much darker than you might expect. That's how Extreme Home Makeover is faked: by taking advantage of the dreams of desperate families.
Arlene Nickless's New Home Went Into Foreclosure
Arlene Nickless was featured on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in 2008. The show came out to gift her a new house after the death of her husband. The home built for the Michigan mom and their children boasted four bedrooms, stone columns, and an indoor water wall. The kids' rooms were state of the art as well. One son had a LEGO-themed bedroom and another featured an airplane bed.
Over the years, the family struggled to keep the higher bills and taxes paid, though they had a good deal of assistance from donations by utility companies and charities. But by 2017, Nickless's home went into foreclosure.
Eric Hebert's Household Bills TripledPhoto: Johan Storajes / via YouTube
A man in Idaho who took in his orphaned niece and nephew to raise was sad to sell the gorgeous home built for the new family in November of 2006 by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Eric Hebert and the children were positively euphoric when they first saw their new 3,600 square-foot home, which featured a fireplace, a hot tub, and fancy outdoor play stations for the kids.
But the single, construction-working Hebert couldn't keep up with the higher taxes on the property, and he put it up for sale in 2008. He was concerned that the volunteers who had helped build the home would believe he was selling the property to make a profit. "I'm doing it not to lose money," he said.
The Jacobos' Financial Problems Became Even More Serious
Another over-the-top example of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition disasters concerns the Jacobo family of Kansas City, MO. They had always struggled financially and, by 2006, their extended family of 12 was living in a house far too small for comfort. After the show wrapped, they had a new home that was five times larger, with room for everyone and a fantastic backyard playground for the children.
Despite the optimistic outlook the Jacobos undoubtedly had, moving into a luxury home did not solve their existing money problems. The couple began to feel the pinch immediately. Not only did their tax and utility bills double, they still had a mortgage on their old home. A fundraising effort was quickly struck up to help the family afford their higher cost of living.
Sadie Holmes's Home And Office Racked Up Massive Maintenance Costs
Sadie Holmes and her charity were selected for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in 2006. She was the ideal candidate: the former drug addict and single mother now worked on behalf of the drug-addicted and homeless in Orlando, FL.
The show constructed a luxurious 7,000 square foot home and office suite for Holmes, and even paid the cost of real estate taxes for her. However, the much higher utility bills and costs of upkeep and maintenance drove the property into foreclosure just six years later.