“Extreme Makeover” Family May Lose Their House

Four years ago, Larry and Judy Vardon’s house was extensively remodeled thanks to ABC-TV’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, in part to accommodate their blind, autistic now-16-year-old son, Lance. Now the family faces the loss of the house: The family’s mortgage payment has almost doubled since the makeover and their medical insurance does not cover medical, dental, and other therapies for Lance. Both Larry and Judy Vardon are deaf and the renovations included the installation of cameras and flat-screen monitors for them to monitor their son. As reported in today’s Associated Press via MLive:

Adding to their insecurity, Larry Vardon, 50, works at Chrysler LLC’s Sterling Heights stamping plant. The company is on the brink of bankruptcy as it and the other Detroit automakers appeal to Congress for emergency loans.

“I’m afraid I’m going to lose my house now,” Judy Vardon, using sign language through an interpreter, told The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens for a story published Sunday. “This house really belongs to Lance. This is his environment. He can’t speak out for himself, and I hope we can save this house.”

The Vardons are trying to negotiate a lower monthly mortgage rate.

And it seems that Extreme Makeover ought to provide more than renovations to a house’s interior and exterior: It’s great to “makeover” a house, but what if the family can no longer afford to live in it?

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    • http://www.groundedfitness.com Kelly Turner

      I always wondered that. I automatically assumed that the show paid the house off, but I saw an episode where they made an announcement saying they were paying off the mortgage- so i figure they didnt do it for everyone or it wouldnt be worth announcing. Honestly, thats the hugest burden for a lot of these people- it doesnt make sense to give them this great place if they cant afford it.

    • Regan

      This sounds complicated. I hate to lay it all at the feet of the show because the story only implies, but doesn’t clearly state the reason for the financial problem.

      For whatever reason, I hope that the family is able to work with the agency to negotiate a financial arrangement that allows them to keep their home.

    • http://www.mumkeepingsane.blogspot.com Leanne

      The story doesn’t give much information. How exactly would their payment have doubled? It’s very sad if they lose their house. A lot of people are being laid off in this tough economic time.

    • http://fragilex.wordpress.com FXSmom

      I bet it doubled because it costs more to insure it and many folks, like us, have their insurance and taxes tacked on to their mortgage payments.

    • http://mayfly mayfly

      Why has the cost of the mortgage increased? What has that to do with the show? Improvements do not increase the cost a mortgage – unless refinancing is involved to pay for them.

      Improvements can increase a houses value and thus the property taxes. If thats what has happened here then the show does have some moral responsibility.

      Many game shows which once awarded merchandise now award cash. The merchandise and cash are both income, but its so much easier to pay taxes out of cash.

    • siliconmom

      I was going to say, I’ve often wondered what redoing these homes does to the property tax rate? I hadn’t considered the insurance but that makes sense too.

    • LBC

      It sounds like the house was paid off at the time of the “makeover,” but the family refinanced to an adjustable rate mortgage sometime afterwards. So I’m not sure if this really has much to do with the show. More about the economy in general? Still, that show gets on my nerves.

    • http://www.letitbeautism.blogspot.com/ bonnie

      This is really a sad thing! We actually aren’t too far from where they live. One time, Casey’s dance group danced at a special performance for kids with disabilities. This young blind boy was playing the piano beautifully and I looked to see his mom in the audience and realized it was Lance from Extreme Makeover. I went over and greeted his mom as best I could not knowing sign language. SHe was very warm and nice and asked me if Casey was Autistic, very perceptive I thought! I hope things go well for them, they seem like such a wonderful family.

      I’ve heard stories similar to this on a couple of occasions when it comes to the Extreme Makeovers.

    • siliconmom

      This is from the AP:

      “After the makeover, the couple refinanced the mortgage, and their monthly payments have nearly doubled — from $1,200 to $2,300. They had debts of $20,000 for the boy’s therapy alone.

      “We didn’t have bad spending habits,” Judy Vardon said. “My husband got laid off for a time, and insurance wouldn’t cover Lance’s autism therapy and some other things like his vision and special dental work.”

      Apparently their mortgage wasn’t paid off when EM did the renovation. The husband got laid and with the son’s bills they chose to refinance, (probably to an ARM, I imagine, as it would have given them a lower payment at first, but that’s my own theory).

      The mortgage was sold three times and each time the interest rate went up, topping out at 11% at one point. The Vardons’ annual property taxes increased after the “Extreme Makeover” from $1,874 to $2,852 as well.

      I hope that they can manage to keep their home.

    • KC Clark

      Twice that I know about (Whitehall, OH and Lake City, GA), the families were given cash to cover the increased property taxes and home maintenance. The Georgia people got $250k. In both instances, the people blew through the money and ended up in financial trouble, again. I believe both families were able to find new suckers to keep them afloat. I’m sure the Michigan family will also find some new suckers.

      Extreme Home Makeover doesn’t want to treat the recipients like little kids but maybe they should treat them like people who cannot handle money. I’d force the recipients to sign a contract with Consumer Credit Counseling Service for two or three years. Somebody needs to teach these lucky ones how to live within their means and how to not treat their house like a piggy bank.


    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      The Vardons have received $7000 in donations and will be able to keep their house—–reported in today’s Detroit Free Press.