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HGTV 'Dream Home' winners say they can't keep the house

A Florida couple who won the 2009 HGTV Dream Home has sold the property back to developer Steve Ledson after deciding it was too expensive to maintain and too far from their grandkids.

Ledson said he paid Jim and Cheryl Smith $2.2 million for the two-story faux farmhouse in Sonoma, which is about what the network paid him to build it and install mature landscaping.

HGTV actually had about $2.4 million in the prize package, he added, when some $200,000 worth of sponsors' products were thrown in.

HGTV Dream Home in Sonoma

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As part of the deal, the winning pair decided to donate all the contents and furnishings to the Ledson Family's Harmony Foundation, which supports needy children and schools in the Sonoma Valley.

"We really liked it there," Cheryl Smith said Monday. "But on the other side of that, 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.' "

The Smiths have two grown sons in Florida and Michigan and eight grandchildren.

Cheryl Smith said their taxes on the winnings would have been up to $500,000. Property taxes and assessment would have been an additional $25,000 a year. Smith said her husband, a retired engineer for Ford Motor Co., would have had to go back to work to support their Dream Home.

"It's a beautiful palace. We'd love it. But we'd be sitting there by ourselves. We didn't think we would be happy in the long run. . . . We do not want to work to pay bills," said Smith, stressing that she and her husband would rather spend their time doing volunteer and charity work.

The Smiths' name was picked in March from among more than 39,000 entries submitted in a national drawing for the Dream Home, which included a stocked wine cellar, a new vehicle in the garage and a matching doghouse. The couple flew to California -- their first trip to the Golden State -- in April to walk through the 3,700-square-foot house for the first time.

Smith said they returned one more time. But the complications and logistics proved too daunting. They determined that it also would be too difficult to take possession of all the contents, from state-of-the-art electronics to fine art to furnishings. Their own 1,000-square-foot vintage farmhouse in Lakeland is not big enough to contain or store all that stuff, she added. The prospect of paying for storage or auctioning it off also seemed overwhelming.


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