Extreme Makeover: South Union Edition

EXTREME MAKEOVER: SOUTH UNION EDITION Texas Children’s Hospital pharmacy technician Eric Johnson, his wife Elaine, and their 5 daughters — all of whom live in a 720-sq.-ft. Hurricane-Ike-damaged house at 3613 Goodhope St. in South Union — learned over the weekend that they’ll be traveling to Paris this week. When they return on Saturday, they’ll find their old home gone and a new 4,500-sq.-ft. 2-story home installed in its place, designed by Studio RED Architects and the team from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and constructed by HHN Homes and hundreds of volunteers. The Harrises run a small marriage and family counseling nonprofit they founded called Optimum Lifestyle. Host Ty Pennington and the EM:HE crew are promising an “innovative tears-free episode” of the teevee show this time (the Harrises got the news in a comedy club). And no, this home is not in the Third Ward. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]

22 Comment

  • And no, this home is not in the Third Ward.

    The Chronicle, well, just ain’t what it used to be. Although some would say it never was. Which is probably why Hearst bought the Post and shut the Post down. They should have shut the Chronicle down.

    As for the Johnsons the real surprise will come when the 1099 arrives along with the new HCAD appraisal. I suspect their neighbors will be surprised as well by their new HCAD appraisals.

  • Good point Matt, what is it like 4-6 of these homes have been foreclosed on?

  • Johnson/Harris, which is it?

  • @PYEWACKET2: It was a typo. Fixed now. Thanks!

  • I just can’t imagine what the electric bill alone is going to be on a 4,500 sq. ft. house. I know I couldn’t afford it and I don’t have five kids to raise.

    What’s so wrong with a 2,500 sq. ft. home, so they can afford to pay the utilities and the property taxes into the future?

  • Tears free episode? That’s the whole reason saps like me watch the show.

  • Didn’t this program start as truly a makeover (as in repair, mitigate & update)show and turn into a demolition and construction operation?

    Going to 4500 sq ft from 720 is a huge change in lifestyle and expense. Sometimes the builder or a donor actually does pay off the mortgage, but not every time, and as others have pointed out there are increased property taxes and utility bills.

  • From John:

    Good point Matt, what is it like 4-6 of these homes have been foreclosed on?

    They’ve built more than 160 homes. 4-6 foreclosures would not be outside current norms. Why are people always trying to diss – everything? It’s lame.

  • When I saw this in the Chron this morning I had the same thought about the power bills and property taxes, but I think we need to give the Johnson family some credit for being able to think of these things themselves. Maybe they’ve had money for renovations, but the house wasn’t worth it. Maybe they’ve been able to afford something better in the suburbs, but didn’t want to leave their community. Maybe they’re doing this for publicity for the volunteer work they do.

  • That lot is 5000 sq.ft so to get a 4500 sq.ft house on there you’ve got to be talking three floors. Current HCAD valuation is 31k, total. One thing is for certain it’ll certainly stand out.

  • From Heights Weirdo:

    What’s so wrong with a 2,500 sq. ft. home, so they can afford to pay the utilities and the property taxes into the future?


    Nothing is wrong with it but 4,500 square feet is “flashier and splashier” and has more “magic” to it than 2,500 square feet. And flashy and splashy and magic is what advertisers like. Which is how the show manages to build these homes and still show a profit. A lot of profit.

    I would suspect more than just 4-6 of the “lucky ones” have found themselves in over their head. I recall reading a number of them took out home equity loans. More foreclosures may be coming.

    I have to wonder how many 2,500 homes could have been built by Habitat for Humanity with the money that will be poured into this one. Not only construction but high-end appliances and all sorts of electronic wizardry and lots of decorator items. None cheap. Even if everything were donate, well, we all love a little magic. But not everyone finds it. And that of course eventually also causes resentment by the neighbors who see someone else getting big and beautiful for nothing.

    Flame away…

  • Matt, I read, I think it was a New York Times story on this. One of the recipients was a very young man who had stepped up to take care of his nieces after the death of their parents and they were living in marginal conditions, but it was all they could afford. Extreme Makeover built them one of their over-the-top houses and gave them some money.

    The man said the electric bill alone was $1,800 a month and he couldn’t come up with that kind of money after the cash was gone, nor raise the kind of money needed for the upkeep of the high-end items the house required.

    He ended up taking out a mortgage just to try to keep the house running. Then, when he couldn’t pay that big mortgage, they tried to sell, but couldn’t sell the house because it was an over-the-top house in a poorer neighborhood. They had no market. The young man was devastated by the foreclosure.

    All done for ratings and making money for the network, not true charity and what’s best for the family. I so wish that wasn’t the case, because these are usually some truly deserving families.

    Why can’t they show off a smaller home with cool features like solar panels, double duty furniture and such. That stuff sells on HGTV like gangbusters.

  • Whoops…I think he might have been raising his little sisters. I forgot the details, but it was heartbreaking.

  • Worthwhile reading (that is somewhat on topic):



    If the links don’t come through, just google “AJC Extreme Makeover Harper” and click on a link or two.

  • My friend and I saw their bus pulled over by HPD on Montrose, just south of Allen Parkway. Email me I’ll send you the picture, she and I laughed our butts off. Maybe philanthropy is illegal in Houston?!?

  • I can’t feel sorry for the Harpers, they took out a mortgage to start a business that failed. They made a poor decision that risked their home and squandered their blessings in the process. That was a slap in the donors faces. Also shows how requiring classes in money management for recipients might be a good idea for some.

  • It took them 3 years to lose it? Wonder what they are doing now.

    I sincerely hope this Houston family is prepared for all that a large new home will bring.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  • yeah honestly I wish the recipients all the best, but, believe that expecting the worst is a good place to start.
    IE: is it possible to convert the property to a foundation (community center or school) in the future? Get a board of directors and sell out?

  • being one of the board’s pessimist i don’t have much to offer here. i of course have issues with the intentional misperceptions of companies endeavors into for-profit philanthropy, but i think it’s important to look at the quality of help being offered more than anything else. of course ty and the crew have done a lot for many people and nobody can deny this, but i don’t find much value in building overly-lavish luxury homes because sometimes it only solves one piece of the puzzle. are any of these worth more than a fraction of what they cost to build? how many other needy families could benefit from this if they were given more modest homes? (= show cancelled of course). what happens to the homes once the families have grown up and moved out? what if the family needs to move in the future to have better/new job prospects?

    i wonder if many of these families would just rather sell the house and buy scholarships to better schools (for the 3rd ward family), generous lifetime insurance plans (for those harboring the disabled), or a better degree to secure a more promising financial future (for the just plain unlucky). just seems to me like the wisest thing for some of the folks would be to just sell the home the second the tv cameras are gone and buy a modest home in an area with good schools and furnish it off with some furniture from the Ty Pennington collection. invest the leftover money in your future, not a home that nobody needs.

  • Even without a mortgage, it would still take some serious cash to run a 4,500 s.f. home. How is burdening a family in need of help with these additional costs helping them? They’d be hard-pressed to even sell it, unless they practically gave it away. It’s like those HGTV Dream Homes the channel gives away: A white elephant.

  • I’m just pleased that some on Swamplot have a “social conscience” which I had begun to wonder about.

    I think the Johnsons probably will be one of the true success stories – they both seem to have their priorities in order so to speak.