HGTV Contestants Who Had To Give Up Their Dream Homes

HGTV may be in the business of renovating and redecorating homes for the most part. But in some cases, it also grants several lucky viewers their dream homes, or at the very least, matches them up with the perfect property. 

Since the network got its start nearly three decades ago, some of its shows have focused on finding a dream home for a contestant eager to own it. Among its earliest shows is "House Hunters," which chronicles a contestant's search for a dream home, whether it's in the U.S. or abroad. Later on, the network also came up with the show "My Lottery Dream Home" where host David Bromstad helps lottery winners find and purchase the perfect home to match their closer-to-perfect lives. And of course, there's HGTV's "Dream Home," the show that gives away a lavish property to a very lucky (and usually, unsuspecting) winner. Since then, the network also launched the show "Smart Home," which offers one lucky winner the chance to win a sophisticated, high-tech house.

And while HGTV has been known to showcase and grant incredible homes, things don't always work out perfectly for these lucky HGTV contestants. In some cases, their dream homes can prove to be too much, so families decide to give them up in pursuit of other dreams. As "Dream Home" general manager Ron Feinbaum once told Country Living, "The outcome depends on the individual winner, but the overarching theme is that, if you win, it's life-changing."

John and Karen Groszkiewicz couldn't afford the taxes that came with the house they won from HGTV's Dream Home Giveaway

Back in 2003, Erie, Pennsylvania, resident John Groszkiewicz got the surprise of a lifetime. He won a home in Mexico Beach, Florida, from HGTV's "Dream Home" after sending an impressive 19 entries to its online sweepstakes. The stunning property was valued at around $1.2 million, and it even came with a boat dock, an outdoor kitchen, and a greenhouse. It seemed like the ideal place for Groszkiewicz and his wife, Karen, to possibly raise their four children. The prize also came with a brand-new GMC Envoy, and everything seemed perfect.

But then, reality struck. The dream house came with a tax bill of $450,000 and the Groszkiewiczes still had to figure out how to pay it. "I don't exactly have the money for the taxes in my checking account," John, a computer programmer, told the Tampa Bay Times. He and Karen even met with tax advisers to explore the feasibility of keeping the home but in the end, it made more financial sense to give it up. That said, they still got audited twice by the IRS because of the dream home. 

The couple eventually sold the home for a reported $800,000, a decision that may have been inspired by HGTV itself. "They told us the dream's not so much the house. The dream is what happens after you sell the house," John told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Don and Shelly Cruz gave up their HGTV Dream Home after realizing they couldn't pay for the upkeep and taxes

When Don and Shelly Cruz won a dream home from HGTV in 2005, they were determined to live large. The couple, who had been living in a modest home in Batavia, Illinois, up until then, couldn't believe their luck. Thanks to HGTV, they became owners of a 6,000-square-foot lakefront property in Tyler, Texas, that came with an elevator, a hot tub, a swimming pool, and even a private spa. The prize also came with $250,000 in cash and a GMC Denali SUV.

The Cruzes moved in soon after winning the property, and that's when they realized that it was going to be seriously pricey to keep living there. The dream home would cost an estimated $2,900 to maintain and the homeowner's insurance was around $7,000 a year. There were also taxes on the property, which were over $600,000. The couple took out a $1 million loan to help cover the costs, but it wasn't enough. In the end, the Cruzes decided to sell, first on their own and later on, through a broker.

Despite having to give up the house, the whole experience was still worth it. Don shared with LiveAbout, "Let me tell you, just the Winner's Weekend was an amazing experience." In case anyone is wondering, the Cruzes kept the Denali. "In fact, I have a license plate that has HGTV on it," Don added.

Jim and Cheryl Smith sold their HGTV Dream Home back to the developer because they didn't want to be away from family

It's safe to say that Jim and Cheryl Smith wouldn't have made their way from Florida to Sonoma if it wasn't for HGTV. In 2009, Cheryl won a fully furnished farmhouse in California's wine region, which also came with a GMC Acadia Crossover and a matching dog house. "This is the Smith's first trip to California and they're in awe of the natural beauty around them, particularly what they've seen of wine country so far," Super Fan Gail Fenton even told Sonoma Valley Sun.

Since making their way to Sonoma for the Winner's Weekend, however, the Smiths had only returned to their dream house once. The property may be incredible, but the costs that came with it were also quite overwhelming. According to the couple's estimates, the tax bill would have cost them as much as $500,000. In addition, they would also have to pay for property taxes and assessments, which would cost around $250,000 a year.

At the same time, the Smiths couldn't imagine living so far away from their family. The couple has eight grandchildren from their two sons who live in Florida and Michigan. "We looked at the possibility of all the kids moving there (to California) and then with the price of things and the economy playing a part in it too, we just decided, 'Let's be safe,'" Cheryl told The Press Democrat.

Kathi Nakao eventually put her HGTV Dream Home for sale after being billed for gift taxes

For Kathi Nakao, being able to own a dream home from HGTV had been a good experience while it lasted. Back in 2004, the Sacramento resident sent 11 entries to the HGTV Sweepstakes. Considering there were around 36 million entries though, the last thing she probably expected was to win. But then, Nakao did. In an instant, she became the owner of a magnificent 3,000-square-foot coastal property in St. Marys, Georgia that came with its own view tower and boat slip. As with other HGTV homes, this one also came with complete furnishings and a car.

Having served as a legislative assistant under seven governors, however, Nakao was well aware of the budgetary concerns that came with the property. Early on, she also knew she couldn't keep the home, especially with the $400,000 in gift taxes that she had to pay. That said, a representative from HGTV still advised her to enjoy the home for however long she could and that's exactly what Nakao did. She and her family enjoyed the home for 18 months before eventually selling it.

Following its sale, Nakao paid her hefty tax bill. She also used some of the money to renovate her home in Sacramento. After using some of the funds on her children and giving some to charity, Nakao also got herself something nice: a 1956 Chevrolet hot rod. "That's my prize," she told The Washington Post.

Isabel Villarreal enjoyed a winner's weekend in her HGTV smart home but eventually sold it

One fine day in 2015, Harlingen, Texas resident Isabel Villareal thought she was just going out to have dinner with some friends. But that wasn't exactly true. Instead, Villareal came face to face with HGTV host Tiffany Brooks who was there to give Villareal the keys to her brand-new smart home.

For Villareal, the moment had been a dream come true, having entered HGTV's sweepstakes twice every day since learning about the HGTV's giveaway home in Austin where she has family. Since then, the Texas educator also kept herself updated on the progress of the house, so she was well aware of what she won: a 2,300-square-foot modern farmhouse that comes with an open kitchen, an outdoor grill, and an outdoor dining space underneath a wooden pergola. And because it's a smart home, the property also features Wi-Fi-controlled window shades, ceilings with built-in speakers, and other electronic controls for the home's entertainment features and security system.

As much as Villareal loved the home, however, she couldn't keep it due to steep property taxes. Nonetheless, she is grateful to HGTV for the whole experience. "They've been unbelievable and amazing, guiding me through everything," she told San Antonio Express-News. It's also worth noting that Villareal didn't walk away from her HGTV prize empty-handed. As part of the prize package, she also received $100,000 in cash and a brand-new Mercedes Benz C-Class. Villareal got to keep those.

Laura Martin didn't move into her Lake Tahoe HGTV sweepstakes home because of Uncle Sam

For Laura Martin, winning a home from HGTV had been a dream come true. Except it didn't last long. Back in 2014, HGTV had another lavish property to give away, and out of the over 70 million entries submitted by viewers, the network ended up drawing Martin's name. The Boise, Idaho resident won a grand prize worth over $2 million, which includes a cash prize of $250,000 and brand-new 2015 GMC Yukon Denali. Meanwhile, the main prize was a 3,200 square-foot property near Lake Tahoe.

Despite the home being a stunner, however, Martin only retained the property long enough to film her HGTV episode. After that, she gave up the property, choosing to go with the available cash option instead. "Unfortunately, Uncle Sam was the reasoning," she later wrote in an email to The Newport Daily News. Martin further explained that the tax on the property was just too high, making it impossible to keep the dream home.

Meanwhile, after giving up the home and taking the cash, Martin and her family went on to buy another (more affordable) dream home for themselves in Boise. With the money, they got to on a dream vacation in stunning Belize too. Since then, Martin has also become quite an inspiration to friends. "Everyone has [a] new lease on life and a belief in infinite possibilities because they know someone it happened to," she told Country Living.

Emily Muniz kept the cash prize and gave up her HGTV Dream Home after consulting with a financial adviser

As an executive producer for FOX 17 News in Nashville, there probably isn't much that would surprise Emily Muniz, except perhaps, becoming the winner of an HGTV dream home. Muniz and her husband had known about HGTV's home giveaway for 2018 – a 3,500-square-foot mansion in picturesque Henderson Bay – since HGTV aired a special broadcast on New Year's Day. Since then, the couple committed to sending four entries every day, although Muniz still thought there was no way that the odds would be in her favor. But then, she went home one day and found none other than HGTV host Tiffany Brooks waiting for her. That's when Muniz knew that she won the HGTV dream home. Her prize package also came with a Honda Accord and a $250,000 cash prize.

Instead of keeping the home, however, Muniz and her husband ultimately decided to give it up and go with the available cash option after meeting with their financial advisor. For the couple, it wasn't just the cost of the home (including tax) that kept them from keeping it. It wasn't just the right time to move their family too. "While we would have loved to have moved in, it just wasn't the right time to uproot our daughter from school and change jobs while also trying to tackle the finances that come along with such an expensive property," Muniz later told People.

Rick Knudsen had to give up his My Lottery Dream Home estate for his son's health

Long before "My Lottery Dream Home" host David Bromstad went on to find his own lottery dream home, the HGTV hosts had been helping many lottery winners find the perfect new home to move into since experiencing a sudden financial windfall. And while several winners on the show had some rather peculiar requests, all Rick Knudsen wanted was a home that spoke to him. He also only wanted to spend $1.5 million to $2.5 million on a home despite winning $180 million in the California Mega Millions Lottery.

But then, Knudsen fell in love with the 16,000-square-foot Eagle Crest mansion even if the mountaintop property was listed at $5.8 million. Bromstad also knew it was perfect for the Knudsens. "It looked like a ski lodge — breathtaking. But as big as it was, it was very cozy, warm," the HGTV host even told the Los Angeles Times. Knudsen also later bought the operational buffalo ranch, saloon, and steakhouse around it.

Later on, however, he decided to give it up for the sake of his son, Ricky. Ricky had been suffering from a congenital heart defect, which made it harder for him to live on elevated land. In selling the property, Knudsen planned to move to a home at a lower elevation. "The difference of 2,000 feet will make a big difference in pressure and it should be an improvement for him," he told People.

Jeff Yanes put up his HGTV Dream Home for sale soon after winning it

In 2021, Jeff Yanes beat the odds and got selected as the winner of HGTV's dream home sweepstakes where he had to compete with over 136 million participant entries. The prize package also came with $250,000 in cash and a 2021 motorhome. Just like that, Yanes became the proud owner of a three-story Cape Cod style waterfront home that boasts of four bedrooms, three full bathrooms, and two additional half bathrooms. It also came with a chef's kitchen, a full outdoor kitchen, several impressive modern appliances, and lots of storage space. There was so much about the property to take in but ultimately, Yanes found his favorite spot. "The rooftop deck overlooking the river. [It's a great place to] have a cold beverage or a cup of coffee," he told HGTV.

As perfect as this property is, however, Yanes eventually opted not to keep it, although he never really discussed his reasons for giving up his HGTV dream home. Just a few months after winning the home, Yanes had the property listed with an asking price of $2.39 million. Not long after, the dream home sold for around $2.75 million.

Leah Nadorff put her HGTV Smart Home on the market almost soon after winning it

When HGTV first informs its winners, the network often stages an elaborate surprise to reveal to them that they've won the year's grand prize. In the case of Leah Nadorff, however, HGTV had to approach things a little differently. Since the eighth-grade teacher and her family lived close to the 2022 smart waterside home she had won, they thought of inviting her to tour the home. During the tour, Nadorff saw all its impressive features, including a wrap-around porch, fire pit, wet bar, and a cozy fireplace. Then, she learned that the home was, in fact, hers. 

"It was crazy and surreal, I was having an out of body experience. It didn't fully click until about 30 minutes later," she recalled during an interview with WWAY News. Nadorff's prize package, which was estimated to be worth over $1.2 million, also came with a $100,000 cash prize and a Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV.

Though it seemed that Nadorff had planned to move into the HGTV home with her family, she eventually decided to put it up for sale. The property later sold for $1.3 million and came with all the furnishings, appliances, and accessories that viewers saw on the show. That said, it does seem like she kept her new Mercedes SUV around. "I've never owned a luxury car before — and I'm going to look really good showing up to work!" the teacher even once told People.