Nine years ago, Arlene Nickless had her home rebuilt on national TV. The TV show that was responsible for her new house was called ‘Extreme Makeover’, and with the help of hundreds of volunteers, Arlene got her dream home. However, since the show restyled her house nine years ago, Arlene got some dreadful news. She was being evicted.
A magical transformation
The Nickless family were chosen to feature on the TV show after the unexpected death of Arlene’s husband, Tim. The widowed mom was struggling to raise their three kids on her own.
Thankfully, the ABC producers felt drawn to her story and compelled to help. All of their neighbors helped to pitch in, and her 3,200 square-foot house was made into a truly gorgeous family home.
Payments piled up
However, as the years went by, the property’s taxes tripled. After scraping the barrel, she eventually caught up with the payment. Unfortunately, there was then a couple of emergency expenses, and the single mom got behind on her bills again.
Her new lovely home was foreclosed on in September. Since then, it was up for auction for several weeks. Arlene was in despair, as she knew she was going to have to leave the property as soon as possible.
Despair and desperation
The gifted home was packed with moving trailers and cardboard boxes ready for the move on Sunday. Arlene was so overwhelmed by the whole thing because this was the family home that she and her husband had lived in for many years.
What was she and her family going to do now they didn’t have a roof over their heads? Despair and desperation started to kick in for the family, as they were going to be homeless very quickly.
Best and worst day
Arlene recalls the day that ‘Extreme Makeover’ came to her for the first time. She remembers the day fondly and says she remembers being in awe, seeing all the cameramen, producers and of course, Ty Pennington.
Sadly, this was another moment she couldn’t believe was happening, except this time, it wasn’t because she was excited. This time, it was because she was scared, upset, and worried for her family. Arlene really didn’t know what she was going to do.
Not their fault
‘Extreme Makeover’ has been under scrutiny in recent years after a number of people have been left homeless due to the increase of their property taxes after appearing on the show. However, Arlene was quick to defend the show and said that it wasn’t their fault that this had happened to her.
She has completely laid the blame on her mortgage servicer, which is now being investigated. The single mom had a wonderful experience with the team on ‘Extreme Makeover’ and never had a bad word to say about them.
According to Arlene, her home’s foreclosure was a result of an ongoing struggle before the house was even made over in the first place. She explained that she couldn’t keep up with the rising costs of her home even before ‘Extreme Makeover’ got involved.
After the makeover, the remaining balance on the home was $30,000. However, the amount had ballooned to at least $113,000 by 2016. This was more money than the single mom would ever be able to afford.
Nine months after her husband of 18 years, Tim, passed away, ‘Extreme Makeover’ was knocking on her door. She explained that her husband had contracted an illness after he had used contaminated medical supplies.
Tim fought the disease for seven long years before it eventually took his life in January 2008. This was a massive loss for the family, and they didn’t know if they were ever going to cope without a loving husband and selfless father.
Just when Arlene felt as though she was all alone in the world, something amazing happened. She was not only faced with the crew of ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’, but another unexpected kind gesture.
Over 1,600 people from the family’s neighborhood had joined the show to help rebuild their family 1860s farmhouse. The family home had been neglected since her husband had been ill, and since he passed, she hadn’t cared for it at all. When she saw all her neighbors come together to help, she couldn’t believe it.
Their old home was completely torn down and removed from the site. This was obviously hard for the family, as they had many amazing memories with their father and husband there. However, they knew it was in dire need of a makeover.
The building team took a total of five days to rebuild the property. When the crew and volunteers had finished, the family were left with a 3,300 square-foot, four-bedroom property. It had some unique features that included stone columns and dark wooden floors.
‘Extreme Makeover’ is well known for giving each individual house its own personal quirky features. This family was no exception. They built a LEGO-themed room, a blueprint themed bedroom, and finally an airplane themed bedroom for all of Arlene’s sons.
They made sure to spend the time and effort to really get to know each of the boys as they wanted things to be as personal as possible. The whole community pitched in to help with the construction of their new home.
The family has said that the crew couldn’t have gotten in touch at a better time. They were in a period in their life that was all so solemn and grey. However, when ‘Extreme Makeover’ came round, they put a spark back into the area.
After the makeover happened, the state and banks involved in the mortgage were able to cut what was owed substantially. Instead of Arlene needing to pay $140,000, she just had to find $30,000.
Since then, almost nine years later, the annual taxes on the property have more than tripled. The increase in taxes and insurance was a huge blow for the Nickless family. They had seen a massive increase in finances leaving their bank account, but no extra money going in.
They knew they had to do something, and fast, or else they were going to lose their home completely. However, finding such a large sum of money fast is not the easiest of tasks, especially with everyday life getting in the way too.
As if the bad news didn’t stop there, 2010 brought even more. One evening, as Arlene was driving home, she got into a rather serious car accident. This meant that she had medical bills and car bills to pay off on top of everything else.
This all resulted in falling behind on house payments. By the end of 2010, her lovely new home had gone to a sheriff’s sale. She desperately tried to stop the foreclosure, but it wasn’t looking promising.
Even more money
During this time, the mortgage lender offered to pay off the family’s debt if Arlene was able to come up with $15,000 in time. Before she had even had a chance to pay this amount of money, her mortgage was then taken over by another company in 2011.
For several years after, the Nickless family struggled with paying off loan after loan to pay off their ever-growing debt. They had already been through so much, and this was only getting worse.
Doing her research
Arlene did her research and was determined not to give up all hope. She looked into signing on to some mortgage affordability programs. However, in some cases, she was disqualified for their payment plans.
Arlene tried to find answers anywhere she could, yet she found it almost impossible to find someone who worked for her mortgage company who spoke English. She decided to withhold payments to the company, simply because she didn’t know where her money was going.
Mistakes in payment
She explains that she was trying to find answers anywhere she could, but the information she found online wasn’t even slightly encouraging. The state of Michigan issued an order that meant the mortgage company Arlene was with could no longer continue to demand money from the widow.
A statement was released that said the company had trouble keeping accurate records and crediting payments. Not only had Arlene been paying extortionate amounts to this company, but they were also not keeping a history of the payments correctly.
Continuing to rise
Since 2011, when the mortgage company began to service Arlene’s loan, she made no more payments toward the house. However, the company continued to pay all taxes and insurance on the family home.
The house is now valued at $270,000, which is substantially more than it was before ‘Extreme Makeover’ did it up. In 2014, the same company offered her a modification in payment, however this was still too much for the single mom.
As soon as possible
In an attempt to help, people have suggested that they try out non-profitable mortgage programs. However, these programs can only do so much before their own finances begin to run out.
In 2016, Arlene’s home went to yet another foreclosure, and this time sold for $113,000. The family were yet again unable to gather the needed funds, resulting in the house currently being listed on an auction website for $176,000. Due to this, the family is expected to leave their home as soon as possible.
Is the show to blame?
Despite Arlene stating that her situation has nothing to do with ABC’s ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’, this has also happened to a few other families who starred on the show. A spokesperson for the show stated that they would make no comments regarding this allegation.
This company acknowledge that there were issues with some of their homes and the expenses that came with them, and have said that they have since scaled back their builds to avoid this kind of thing happening again.
‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ hasn’t always made a very good name for themselves. According to sources, the Nickless family aren’t the only ones to have lost their home after being featured on the series.
What makes this worse is that the presenter, Ty Pennington, has never been very apologetic for these situations. In fact, in an interview, Pennington said that the show didn’t hold any responsibility for what happened to the families that feature on it.
As if this isn’t bad enough, there is another thing that has given the show a bad reputation. According to sources, the show isn’t exactly as well-intended as they initially seem to be. According to their description, they are all about helping to provide families with their perfect forever home.
However, it has reportedly done the exact opposite. Some of the families who have starred on the show have been forced to move house and change neighborhood. The reason for this is because they were never warned about their loss of privacy after the show.
An uncertain future
Unfortunately for the Nickless family, they are one of the unlucky families to have been affected by the show. As if losing a loving husband and doting father wasn’t enough, they had to also cope with losing a home.
Arlene is going to have to rebuild her life, along with finding somewhere to store a lifetime of memories. Throughout all of this, however, Arlene has wanted to reach out to other struggling families to tell them that they aren’t alone. She seems to be a pretty brave lady!
The end of an era
After years of living in that house, Arlene and her sons were expected to move out on May 29, 2017. The mother had tried everything she could think of to hold onto her property, but luck just wasn’t on her side.
So, she started packing up all she had with the help of her twin sister. Moving out of a home as big as Arlene’s was no easy task given all the stuff the family had accumulated over the years. However, the mom did what she had to do.
A minor delay
Although the Nickless family was supposed to be out of the house by the end of May, the eviction was allegedly put on hold by Ocwen. The bank who had been giving Arlene so many problems apparently wanted to do a walkthrough first and get a proper appraisal for the property.
It made no real difference to the family’s situation – they were still expected to leave – but it meant a minor delay to the plans. If there was ever a time for a miracle, this was most definitely it.
Asking for donations
Desperate to try and help Arlene out of her mess, J Ervin Bates set up a page on gofundme. The man figured that if people saw what she was going through, they’d donate to the cause and move her one step closer to reclaiming her home.
It was a big stretch, especially given that the ultimate goal was set at $150,000. However, Bates believed in the generosity of others, and he thought there was a chance this issue could still be resolved. Stranger things had happened before.
Not enough money
Unfortunately, despite Bates’ best efforts, the gofundme page never really got off the ground. Although the $2,715 raised at the time of writing was no meager amount, it wasn’t anywhere close to the $150,000 goal.
Considering the page was created back in 2017, it’s unlikely that this total will ever be reached now. There hasn’t even been an update on what’s happening with the Nickless family since June of that year. Obviously, the page is no longer a priority for Bates. However, at least he tried to help.
No word from the family
In one of the last updates on the gofundme page, Bates revealed that Arlene had essentially lost all hope of keeping her house. Apparently, after speaking with her attorney, the fate of her home was sealed. However, what happened after that we don’t know.
Nothing has been heard of the Nickless family since 2017, so we’ve no idea where they ended up. We can only assume that they left their house as planned, although where they moved to afterward remains a mystery. Hopefully, they found somewhere to start afresh, though.
A lengthy application
It turns out that getting onto ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ was no easy feat in the first place. Contestants had to wait a long time before they head if they have made it onto the show. However, there might be a reason.
Rib Hills worked as a designer on the show. He told The Function Critic that the casting team received thousands of applicants every day. They had to go through a huge selection of applicants before they could decide which ones were genuine and which ones were fake.
The show has also been accused of giving families larger homes than they ever needed. Of course, the team was there to make people’s dreams come true and put personalized finishing touches on every aspect of the build.
So why do they have to be so large? Arlene wasn’t the only one to lose her home, but there are other reasons that the homes have been taken away. One family of four was handed a seven-bathroom and six-bedroom house before the expenses became too much.
Finding a loophole
While the taxes and bills often flew through the roof for families on ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,’ the company behind the show did try to find a way around the price rise for the family. Apparently, taxes don’t count for rental homes.
That is if they were rented out for 15 days or more a year. The company would, therefore, say that they were renting the house from the families for a little over two weeks. Sadly, even the alleged help wasn’t enough to save most families.
Taking legal action
Sadly, some people have even taken their time on the show to court. One family, the Higgins family, had been left as orphans. However, all five children were taken in by the Leomitis family. The show wanted to give them all a brand new house.
Although it was complete, the Higgins family claim they were then forced out of the home. They tried to sue ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ as they said the show never gave them the promised house, but they responded that the home was built for the Leiomitis instead.
Left with no choice
Arlene was lucky enough to have her friends and neighbors by her side throughout the build. They all helped to get the new house up and running, but not everyone’s experience has been the same. Some families have to sell their homes.
However, the neighbors don’t always approve of the new neighbors. In fact, many people have been hurt when their original neighbors have to move – even though they put in a lot of effort to help – only to find that some unfavorable characters are their new neighbors.
Disclaimer: Some photos may be stock images used for illustration purposes only. The people or places in these photos are not to be associated with the article.