Extreme Makeover Home Edition awarded struggling families with their dream homes but it didn’t always finish with a happy ending. Unfortunately, glossy new kitchens weren’t enough to overcome their real underlying family issues, including one situation where children were allegedly forced to leave.
Families with life-changing struggles, whether that be financial problems or health issues had their stress somewhat alleviated with grand shiny new homes courtesy of Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
However, sometimes it proved too good to be true as the show didn’t always transform lives as family problems continued or new hurdles arose as a consequence.
Four Extreme Makeover Home Edition misfortunes
The Higgins children filed a lawsuit
In March 2005, Extreme Makeover lent its expertise to the Leomiti-Higgins family. The five Higgins children tragically lost their parents within 10 weeks of each other, leaving them orphaned, as per East Valley Tribune. Thankfully, their neighbors, the Leomiti family, took them into their modest Santa Fe Springs home despite already having three children.
With eight kids now in the home, they were the perfect family for Extreme Makeover. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was replaced with a nine-bedroom mansion, but the Higgins were allegedly forced to leave by the Leomiti’s soon after the broadcast, reports Seattle Times.
The orphaned children filed a lawsuit against ABC and the Leomiti family, with court documents stating the family “began a campaign of harassment, humiliation, and intimidation designed to drive them out of the house.” The Higgins allegedly moved out and notified show producers Lock And Key, who reportedly “did little or nothing to help them”.
The suit also stated that ABC portrayed the Higgins’ in a false light by rebroadcasting the episode which no longer reflected their living situation.
Higgins’s attorney, Patrick Mesisca, acknowledged that his clients were never “promised a house in writing”, though the network’s statements could’ve been legally classed as a promise writes Fox News. . According to The List, the Leomitis disputed the claims and ABC’s alleged breach of contract claims were dismissed.
Increased tax and utility bills
Although families were awarded a modern new home for free, maintenance costs weren’t part of the package. Many stars struggled to make ends meet with the dramatic tax and bill increase.
Deseret claims that bills for the Okvath family soared from $500 to $1200, and property taxes quintupled. In 2008, their six-bedroom mansion went into foreclosure, and parents Kassandra and Bryan had to sell their two cars to cancel the auction.
The home was placed on the market for $1.8 million in 2007, but after three price drops, it was ultimately sold for $540K.
The Oatman-Gaitan family: “The house didn’t change her”
The Oatman family was in desperate need of a home makeover as Debbie was a single mother raising four sons, three of whom she adopted. Unfortunately, two of her kids were diagnosed with HIV.
Their house’s mold issue made them a perfect candidate for the show, but Times Union reports that after the cameras left, “physical scuffles and verbal abuse” from Debbie directed at the kids “was not uncommon”, son Kevin Oatman allegedly explained.
Local authorities reportedly received 18 incident claims from 1997 – 2007, including from marijuana possession to domestic disputes, but she was never convicted, states the publication.
Two of the Oatman children left the home and Debbie’s husband, Joe Gaitan, remarried. He said in 2011: “The house didn’t change her. She’s still her plain old nasty self.”
Neighbours worried about nearby drug rehab center
Like the Okvath’s, Larry and Melissa Beach were unable to keep up with their new mansion’s costs and property tax. The couple adopted and fostered 85 special needs children, but as they matured and left the home, living costs of $12K – $15K were higher than the value of the home, Larry told Houston Chronicle.
The property was eventually purchased by Butch Woolfolk for $500,000 in 2013, who turned it into Kemah Palms Recovery – a high-end drug rehab center.
Neighbours, however, were worried the new institution would affect their property prices, as well as their safety. Woolfolk claimed that the center would only welcome “high net worth individuals” as visits apparently cost $20K – $40k for one or two month stints, as per Daily Mail.