EVERY SUNDAY EVENING AT 8 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, millions of Americans spends an hour being amazed at how a team of a half dozen good-looking designers on ABC's “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” can take a house from drawing to completion in a week. If they really want to be amazed, they should take a look at the total commitment of hundreds of home building professionals who put in tens of thousands of hours, off-camera and without a make-up artist, to make a dream come true for a deserving family.
BUILDER recently hung out with Beazer Homes USA as its employees, vendors, and a host of other big-hearted pros built a home for the Harper family in the Atlanta suburb of Lake City, Ga.
In answer to the questions that everyone asks, yes, the family really doesn't know they've been selected until the design team shows up with their bus and their bullhorn to give them the news. They know they're one of the finalists, but the excitement on their faces on the show is real. Yes, the house really is built and decorated in a week.
And yes, the families are amazing people who really need help. In the case of the Beazer house, Milton and Patricia Harper had saved for years to get out of a dangerous housing situation in New York City. They had known the heartbreak of losing a child, who choked to death at dinner one night because paramedics were delayed in reaching him; they were waiting for the police escort required to enter the projects. The Harpers finally found what they thought was their dream home in Atlanta; a 1,400-square-foot ranch with a basement in a neighborhood near an elementary school. By all appearances, it was a lovely home. As life-long renters, they didn't know some of the things they should look for in a home purchase beyond location, price, and bedroom count.
After they moved in, they were horrified to discover that the septic system backed up into the basement every time it rained. At times, the family had 3 feet of raw sewage in their home. It soaked into the walls, destroyed the carpets, permeated their clothes, and created noxious fumes that threatened the health of their three sons. Thousands of dollars in repairs failed to correct the problem; the family literally was forced to sleep in their van when it rained. They couldn't live in their house, but they certainly couldn't sell it either.
Out of money and options, they made an application video and sent it off to “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
Planning Is Everything What they didn't know on the morning of Jan. 16 when the design team and Beazer representatives arrived to give them the good news was that dozens of people already had been working for weeks on their new home. While viewers of the hit show get the impression that the designers think up a plan for the house and then call a builder to make it happen, the reality is a little different. Make that a lot different.
For Beazer Homes, whose build started Tuesday, Jan. 18, and officially ended when company president and CEO Ian McCarthy handed team leader Ty Pennington the keys on the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 22, the frenzy began the first week of December.
Georgia division President Lou Steffens says his wife is partly responsible for the company's participation.
“She's very much into the show,” he says. “She said, ‘You guys have to do this.' I found someone to get a hold of and they said, ‘Funny you should call us. We're coming to Atlanta; we heard about you from HomeAid.'”
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.