If you were a TV-watching human in the early 2000s, you definitely remember Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show had a heartwarming premise: A family in need would get a brand new house, built in just a week with the help of a design team and the local community.
Suzi Altman / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images
But have you ever wondered what happened to those families after the cameras went down? Did they keep the house or sell it? Did the construction quality hold up over time? And what does the house look like now?
Well, a viral Reddit thread invited people who’ve been on Extreme Makeover — either as a recipient of a free house, or a community member who helped build it — to share their stories. And y’all, they did NOT hold back. Here are some of the top-voted responses from users:
1. “They did one here in my town (won’t say where, for privacy) and my brother, a builder, was approached to help build a home in the dead of winter. Bro couldn’t help, but our friends — the neighbors to the home — volunteered, and the home was completed in one week. In heavy rain and cold, they built it, and now the home has any number of problems. The owner went back to Extreme Makeover to fix everything, and was told, ‘You got this for free, fix it yourself.'”
2. “I work for one of the construction companies that was contracted to build the new house on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. This was like 10+ years ago, when the show was at the height of its popularity. Anyway, it was a huge, nice house built for a widowed mother with several kids (father had recently died, hence why she was on the show). Even though the house was ‘given’ to her, she couldn’t afford it after a year or so (property tax, electricity, water, upkeep, etc…) and put it on the market. Simply owning a home of that size is very expensive, and she couldn’t afford it.”
3. “Extreme Home Makeover redid a house in my neighborhood when I was in high school. The family had to move out a year or so later because they couldn’t afford to pay the upkeep and taxes on it.”
4. “My family was on this show, and the house has held up pretty well, after the settling issues and some patches to the foundation. We were lucky, and everything for us was delayed to avoid winter. The delay forced us to apply for the show again but we were in a tough spot. Can confirm the increase in taxes mentioned in other comments. Definitely was another thing to stress about.”
5. “They did one a couple towns over from where I used to live. When we heard about it, we went out to see them, watch them build it, and obviously see if we could see the ‘stars’ of the show. The area they built this house wasn’t the greatest area around. They were old houses built in the ’60s and ’70s on pretty large acre lots, but the area was awful and all the houses were in some state of disrepair. Crime was high, rent there was super cheap, and most was government paid. We always wondered what they would do to secure the house considering the crime in the area. The answer was…
Nothing. They slapped a $400,000 house with giant plate windows and sliding glass doors down in the middle of a high crime neighborhood where the average house price was probably $60,000. Then they filmed exactly where all the new home tech and automation was, exactly how to get around the house from one room to the next, and aired it on national TV. A week after that show aired, it was all over the local news that the house was (surprise!) broken into and cleaned out. Every TV, every computer, everything.”
6. “Extreme Makeover came to my town in like 2013–14, and did a demolition and new build of a house for my family friends. Luckily, they had the means to keep the house (property taxes went WAY up). It’s still a really nice house, and a few people I know have even gotten married there. The house held up super well.”
7. “Extreme Makeover came to our area and redid a fire station and, I think, a local high school that was fucked up during Hurricane Rita. My brother is a firefighter and also well-versed in construction. He said the fire station was not functional at all. Half the sinks weren’t even hooked up, light switches and plugs were just attached to the wall and non-functioning. Then they couldn’t use the station at first because the fire alarm system didn’t work, and the building itself wasn’t up to fire code. The high school was just as bad.”
8. “Not a home, but a school renovation done by the Extreme Home Makeover crew. Questionable paint color choices on the exterior of our buildings. They repainted a few of the classrooms, and a lot of the paint didn’t actually go all the way up to the edge/ceiling. You could see roller marks… They replaced some furniture such as desks and installed those smart boards. They redid the quad on campus that was a large patch of dirt into one with ponds and tiles. It was cool, but hard to maintain probably. As everyone mentioned in their experiences, they did a half-ass job. It’s like that meme of Homer Simpson looking fit, but he’s holding back his skin with a bunch of large clips.”
Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF
9. “I interned for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in the early 2000s. Yes, their taxes go through the roof. Tons of the families on it end up selling everything that was put in the house (computers, appliances, etc.) to help pay the property taxes.
I worked on two houses on set, then they moved to other parts of California and wouldn’t send a free intern there. The first one was in South Central. As we were putting out toys for the kids, someone mentioned that at the last house they did, everything like what we were putting out was stolen almost immediately. The dad of that family also lost his job because of the mandatory vacation to Disneyland. He tried to work something out with both the production company and his job, but neither would budge. If they wanted the house makeover, he had to leave with his family so the show could get fun family vacation shots.
The other house was in a city about two hours outside of LA. The new house was HUGE (the family did have a lot of kids), and took up most of the lot. I can’t even imagine how much their taxes went up. A local band turned famous donated a bunch of merch to the kids, but they couldn’t show any of it on air because it didn’t benefit ABC, Disney, or Sears. So every time a kid found something band related — ‘Oooooh, [band] tickets!’ — they couldn’t use the footage. Wasn’t much to reveal after that. Oh, and one of the kids’ shared bedrooms was AWFUL. It was something like a country western/weird jungle split. Plus the show gave them an indoor basketball court, but some of the kids still had to share rooms, which did not make sense to me. The bedrooms all looked pretty cheaply done. I can’t imagine they held up.
It was an interesting experience. Lots of hidden downsides to those houses. But they really do everything in a week. And some of the designers were truly nice and wanted to help people.”
Katherine Bomboy / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images
10. “A house a couple blocks away from me was renovated by Extreme Home Makeover about 16 years ago. The landscaping is still nice, the wood fence is starting to show a little wear, but the owners seem to take good care of it. I don’t know what the interior looks like, of course, but from the outside it still looks pretty good.”
11. “Not me, but a family in my hometown had their home completely rebuilt back in 2009 on Extreme Home Makeover... Their home was condemned, so it was completely torn down and rebuilt, additionally the family was given a brand new car, they built a home gym for the oldest son full of weights, and the local grocery store chain gave them a years supply of groceries. Within a year the car they had been given had been sold and replaced with two cars, one of which barely ran and the other was on cinderblocks the day they bought it. The gym equipment had all been sold, and the mom had been arrested for stealing from the local Walmart. Drove past their house early this year, and it looks like a shithole due to how poorly the family cared for it. I have no idea if they still live there.”
12. “I once worked for a local ABC affiliate and was given some access to one of the Extreme Makeover homes. Totally razed the house like always, installed some weird-ass modifications for an older lady who it turned out didn’t even live there, built this bizarre backyard playground that any real estate agent would see and say, ‘Yeah, fuck this,’ and leave. Turns out the family lied about quite a bit to get the house. Couple was already divorced — only one person even lived in the house before it was redone. It came out soon after the reveal that their plan was to get a new house for the sole reason of selling it off. Their neighbors had a lot to say. Needless to say, we did not play up the episode when it finally aired.
BTW… I was there for the infamous ‘door knock’ with Ty Pennington, which was actually done twice. Once for real, and another time for the show. Little known fact: For every family that gets ‘the knock,’ there are two other families who get a phone call telling them they didn’t win. Ouch.”
13. “A house around the corner from my mom’s work was on Extreme Home Makeover a while ago. The show used a conference room in my mom’s work to do the interviews. The house looked great, but just did not fit in with the neighborhood. The surrounding houses are nice ranch-style single homes that sell for around $200K–$250K. This house is easily twice as big as all the other homes. It’s two stories and because of how big it is, it actually has less land. I heard from someone who knew the family that within a year, fixtures were starting to become loose, they had tons of plumbing issues, and I believe they had foundational issues within two years. When the family put it up for sale a few years later (they couldn’t afford the new property taxes on it) it was listed for $750K. No one in their right mind would pay that much to live in that neighborhood. I believe they did eventually sell it, but for much less than anticipated.”
14. “There’s a house in my city that was on Extreme Makeover. It’s in shambles, and the family wasn’t able to keep up with the cost of it from what I’ve heard. It’s a bummer.”
15. “My cousin is a concrete contractor in the upper midwest. His company was ‘invited’ to participate in an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition renovation for a family several years ago. He was the concrete contractor, and poured a slab and footings for a 1,000 square foot addition… He was required to furnish all labor and materials at no cost to the family or the production company. In exchange he would be rewarded handsomely with ‘exposure.’ Also, he thought it was weird that Ty Pennington was there on set for about 45 minutes on day one, and about 30 minutes on the last day. In the interim, he was nowhere to be seen. So, the production team allegedly did some seriously creative editing to make it look like Ty was there all week.”
Fred Watkins / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images
16. “There was substantial volunteer labor for this show, sponsored by large corporate sponsors that wanted to look good. Their employees would ‘volunteer’ and wear corporate T-shirts while working on the show, and the corporate sponsor would have to pay money for the advertising.
I worked for a large corporation that tried to force us to volunteer (unpaid) for this show. It was basically mandatory that we show up and do manual labor (again, unpaid) so that our employer would look good, and so Extreme Home Makeover, also a for-profit show, didn’t have to pay for unskilled labor.
The penalty for not showing up as a ‘volunteer’ was a markdown on your yearly review… This is clearly a violation of labor laws, and multiple of us reported it to the company’s ethics line. The whole ‘forced volunteering’ concept got shut down quick, and suddenly that was no longer a requirement on your review… but not before quite a few employees begrudgingly ‘volunteered.’ Oh, I almost forgot — if the filming interfered with your regular work schedule, you had to use vacation time, or make the time up.”
Suzi Altman / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images
17. “When I was in college, my summer job was laying concrete and we did a house for Extreme Home Makeover. Pretty cool experience. The house was for a sweet little old lady who looked after underprivileged kids after school. Unfortunately, I think the house was subject to vandalism after the show, and wasn’t kept up over the years. Side note, the crew were all super awesome except Ty.”
18. “My wife’s sister bought a house that was on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition after the original owners divorced. This was probably five years after the makeover. They had no issues and things seemed to hold up well. No complaints that I am aware of.”
19. “Just wanted to say: I know a lady who got picked to be on Extreme Home Makeover. She had stolen from us the year before. If she has gotten mountainous hemorrhoids, I haven’t heard about it, so it’s possible that curses don’t work.”
20. “I was technically on the final episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, where they did seven homes in seven days in Joplin after the tornado. You could only see my back, and I had a blanket over me because it was cold that night… My stepdad worked for the disposal company that took care of trash and whatnot, and my mom and sister actually volunteered to go in and help clean up the houses. My grandpa volunteered as well. Ty Pennington came right up to my grandma and talked with us a bit, and she said it was cold, so he gave us a group hug. According to my stepdad however, the seven homes they brought in were pre-fabricated apparently, and they just basically finished them up. Now I don’t know if that’s true or not, or how the owners are doing since I don’t live in Joplin anymore. (Thankfully and unfortunately).”
Katherine Bomboy-thornton / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images
You can read the full thread of responses — which includes several other hit home makeover shows — on Reddit.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.