s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 5 of 15 free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 10 of 15 free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

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.

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.

It was Jim who woke up one morning after much thought and rumination and suggested donating the contents of the house, valued at $187,000, according to receipts from the company that did the furnishing for HGTV, to a children's charity.

The Ledson family's Harmony Foundation provides scholarships, funding for school athletics and field trips, and helps individuals in need with things such as medical bills.

That is something dear to the Smiths' hearts. With their earnings from the sale of the house they have done a little philanthropy themselves, including paying for surgery for someone in need. They also bought a few gifts for their grandchildren and are weighing the possibility of buying property in Tennessee.

Smith said they kept a few souvenirs for themselves, mainly sentimental items. They kept a quilt, a framed painting of the Dream House, some wine from the cellar, several books and some recipes left by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who cooked a dinner at the home.

Of the 13 Dream Homes HGTV has given away, only two winners managed to keep their homes for any length of time. A Thousand Oaks family held on to their home for eight years before selling, but another couple had to auction off their Dream Home in Texas last year after running through their savings and taking out a loan to pay the taxes.

Ledson said he has not decided what he will do with the house or the contents. If he puts the house on the market, he figures he'll allow the buyer to decide if they want to buy the contents from the Harmony Foundation. If not, he could hold a big estate sale or auction.

But he said given how depressed the market is, he may hold on to it for a while or raffle off the house again. If he sold more than 2,000 tickets at $100 apiece, he said he could raise more than $2 million, enough to pay for the house and raise additional money for his foundation or other charities.

"I think it was a great experience," he said. "I met a lot of different people, and it brought tons of people to Sonoma. You can imagine there wasn't much financial gain. But it was a huge success and a fun thing to do, a real once-in-a-lifetime experience."