Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Harpers Are Idiots

It is rare that I go after someone who is not really in the public eye. It is even more rare that I go after a family that is not well off, but there is a first time for everything. You probably have no idea who the Harpers are. Well, they are one of the first families who got a house in ABC's show Extreme Makeover. As much as I dislike Ty Pennington, I at least think the show is well done and uplifting and does seem to unite communities.

There have been controversies associated with the show before like the foster family that screwed over the kids for whom a home was built, but this one beats them all.

Here is a description of the home built for the Harpers by the neighbors in their community.

The finished product was a four-bedroom house with decorative rock walls and a three-car garage that towered over ranch and split-level homes in their Clayton County neighbourhood. The home's door opened into a lobby that featured four fireplaces, a solarium, a music room and a plush new office.

Materials and labour were donated for the home, which would have cost about $450,000 to build. Beazer Homes' employees and company partners also raised $250,000 in contributions for the family, including scholarships for the couple's three children and a home maintenance fund.

So, what did the Harpers do with their full paid for, best in the neighborhood home? They used it for collateral on a construction business. When the business went under, so did their house. It is being sold at a foreclosure auction on August 5th.

At the time the house was built it was by far the largest, most expensive home the show had done. 1,800 people helped to get it completed in six days. Needless to say the people who helped build it and donate everything are pissed.

"It's aggravating. It just makes you mad. You do that much work, and they just squander it," Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt, who helped vault a massive beam into place in the Harper's living room, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

And that is a mayor who is probably being nice because the Harpers might still vote for him. All this family had to do was find any job and they were set. No mortgage, no college tuition, no home maintenance costs. Ever. I understand the dream of wanting your own business, but you don't risk what other people gave you and donated and did out of love. It just isn't right.

It is so freaking aggravating and I feel sorry for the Harper kids and the 1,800 people who contributed. I feel sorry for all the people that spent two hours watching the damn show and getting invested in the family's misfortune. I feel sorry for everyone except the parents who are the biggest idiots in the world. Well, wherever they are living now, they better get used to it because I don't think anyone will ever volunteer to help them ever again. Idiots, idiots, idiots.


sheetrock said...

I say it all the time, "No good deed ever goes unpunished" and this story makes that statement ssoooo true.

jax said...

not that i'm religous but there is a reason greed is a sin.

captivagrl said...

i hope the scholarships are being guarded by a third party.

shazzzba said...


Barbara said...

I know Extreme Makeover has it's detractors, but I think it has done a lot of good for a lot of people over the years. Unfortunately, all it takes is one idiot like this to muck things up. All they've succeeded in doing is to make the rest of us think twice before opening our wallets the next time, and in turning their generous neighbors into a bunch of people who now feel used. Dumbasses.

CynCamden said...

Oh, yeah. No good deed goes unpunished. One of my favorite quotes, 'cause it applies to a lot of things these days.

What pisses me off is that all the parents had to do was take a job a freaking McDonalds and they still would have come out smelling like a rose. While this type of this pisses me off, I really hope the family learn from this and can overcome it.

I agree with captiva. I hope those scholarships are out of the hands of the parents. But I bet the parents tried to get the hands on the scholarships when they realized the business was in trouble. I hope I'm proved wrong.

Spicey said...

"Hard luck" is usually stupid choices.

JJ said...

I remember this episode and I've probably only watched 7 in my whole life. I believe they built a special office in the house so the dad could start his own business.

I agree...idiots, idiots, idiots!

silenttype said...

Maybe now you see why these losers were in this position in the first place. Stupid decisions in life led them to this point. Sorry, I am not a bleeding liberal who believes in handouts.

Moosefan said...

These people are the reason that people either think twice before they donate or do not donate at all. I volunteer at a food bank and the thing that we have noticed lately is that a couple of clients have actually come in and complained about what was in their donation bag. Now, I am not talking about the veggies in the cans with dust on them that no one likes, I am talking about good quality food. One woman actually asked me if we had decaf coffee because "that was what she always drinks". Another said "you only have oreos? my babies had oreos last time we was here, yall got nothing better?". Sad to think that children are having to be punished for the mistakes of greed of the parents. There is no shame in wanting a better life for yourself, but to get a 450k loan--please. That man could have gotten on with any construction firm in Atlanta and trust when I say-there are many.

CarolMR said...

shazzzba said it perfectly.

A Pimp Named DaveR said...

I'm not so down on the Harpers as Enty is, although I understand the sentiment.

First, the kids' scholarships are presumably in trust or in educational savings plans, so they're likely untouched and still available to pay for the kids' college educations.

Second, what about property tax? Just because the Harpers are poor folk doesn't mean they aren't going to have to pay the prop tax on a $450,000 house. Plus, the house is HUGE, and even if the $250,000 was entirely devoted to its maintenance (and we know it wasn't, because a large part of it is probably the scholarships), that really isn't going to last a hell of a long time on a house that size -- maybe 10-15 years.

Third, the business angle is a Catch-22 for the Harpers. As Enty says, one can understand the dream of wanting your own business. But functionally -- in real life -- NOBODY WILL EVER loan you money for the business WITHOUT taking a mortgage on your house as security for it WHEN THE HOUSE IS YOUR ONLY ASSET. You will literally never, ever, ever get a loan -- no bank would ignore a half a million dollar asset that represents your only available collateral and loan you nonrecourse money. Period. Ever. End of story. So to pursue the business, they had to secure whatever loans they needed with the house.

Now I can understand some hostility if the business the father wanted to pursue was some ridiculous flight of fancy with no real prospect for success, like a cat washing business or something, but it doesn't sound like that's the case. It looks like he had a reasonable business that just didn't succeed, as many businesses do through no fault of their owners. Here, he was doing construction, a field that has been devastated by the mortgage industry collapse and the resulting lack of demand for new housing. Should Mr. Harper have foreseen this? Was it wrong for him to pursue a construction business in a time where the economy was doing well?

I'm just not upset by this. The family tried to raise themselves out of their poor situation, helped by the kindness of strangers, and their well-intentioned and non-frivolous plans just failed, causing them to lose the house. I feel bad for them. But I'm not going to be angry for them because they suffered MORE misfortune.

Cash said...

If his business would have thrived, no one would say it was a dumb decision, but a smart risk. DYI - 50% of all lotto winners go bankrupt. There's a reason.

Dave said...

I have to agree with the other Dave. It's too bad this happened, but it happened for a reason. It's not like they sold it for crack or gambled it away at the local Indian Casino. They tried to do something, and unfortunately got burned.

jax said...

oh fuck that my dad created his own construction business from collateral on a $100 000 home, this guy was trying to build a fuckin corporation from nothing.
half a million to start your bidness is insane for a first timer.

sorry but when the mayor is basically calling you a fuck wad,it speaks volumes.

notachance said...

Why were they recipients of Extreme Makeover to begin with?

And why did EM feel the need to build them a $450k house? For 4 people? See, that's what's wrong with this picture - for me anyway. Just build them a regular house that is reasonable and supplies whatever need it is that was missing for them. Seems to me that EM "overdoes" these makeovers when it's not necessary.

adrian said...

Someone is going to end up getting a REALLY good deal on this house!
I think that extreme makeover should have a clause in their contracts to prevent the donated homes from being sold or used for collateral.
Why was this family recipients of a home?? I didn't see the episode.

A Pimp Named DaveR said...

@jax: If you have a mortgage for even only $1 on your property and you can't pay that dollar, the mortgage holder has the legal right to foreclose and sell the property. If the house is worth and sells for $500k, the mortgage holder would get $1 to extinguish the note, and the former owner would get the $499,999 balance.

In other words, we don't know how much he borrowed using the house as security. If he borrowed $10k and couldn't pay it, the lender's remedy is to foreclose, sell, and keep what they're owed from the proceeds. That's just how mortgages legally work.

Grace said...

I agree with Adrian that there should be a clause that the home cannot be used for collateral.

I find it interesting that someone here said that Atlanta is full of construction companies and that the dad couldn't make a go of it.

I feel bad for the children who are now homeless. If I am correct, only families who currently own a home can be on this show -- now this family has nothing; they're worse off.

I also agree with Shazzzba that people don't value what they don't earn. And the greed angle.

This is a truth shown in its worst way.

Grace said...

I found this on Extreme Home Makeover; these people obviously did not have their home inspected before they purchased it, nor did they access their homeowner or even car insurance to help with their problems; they just seemed completed helpless:

Several years ago, Patricia and Milton Harper lost their two-year-old son when he choked on his food. At the time, the family was living in the projects in Brooklyn, New York. Sadly, the paramedics couldn't get to the child in time to save his life.

Life for them in the projects was tough enough, but the tragedy of their son's death prompted the couple to work even harder and get their family out of there. After putting in long hours and saving up every penny they had, the Harpers packed up their kids and bought their first home, a 1400 square-foot, four-bedroom ranch house just outside Atlanta.

What these first-time homeowners didn't know was they had just bought a big dump -- literally. Unaware of any problems when they purchased the home, the Harpers soon found themselves knee-high in raw sewage! Every time it rained hard -- which was often -- their septic tank would back up and human waste actually flooded their suburban home. The Harpers have been living in and out of their minivan because of bacteria in the house, not to mention the horrible stench that has damaged their possessions. Their furniture, clothes and even their dreams have all been ruined.

Recently their minivan was in an accident, so even that shelter was taken from them. They tried to fix up a couple of the rooms in their house to live in, but were dealt yet another blow when another rainstorm produced a gaping hole in the ceiling of one of those rooms.

CynCamden said...

Well, if they worked that hard to get out of their past situation, I'm sure they'll make it. I hope they don't expect handouts this time around.

CynCamden said...

Grace posted information about the Harpers in the KFed thread. Apparently the Harpers were given enough money to pay the property taxes for the next 25 years. I retract my earliers comments to say 'dumbasses'.

jax said...

@ Pimp, it is reported everywhere he took out a $450 000 loan using the house as collateral.

sorry selfish and greedy to risk your family's future and home for a pipe dream....just get a damn job.

Ayesha said...

I really hate this show. The producers go overboard to manipulate the viewer and yank like crazy on the old heartstrings. With all they spend on one renovation, they could really help a dozen families. I know, it's EXTREME Makeover, but...

This is going to sound bad, but lots of times, people who receive charity resent it and resent the people who give it. I went to private schools on scholarship all my life. While I received a great education, and I truly appreciate that, there was a little part of me that hated it. There's an implicit contract between donor and recipient; the donor gets to feel good about doing a good deed, and the recipient must make the donor feel that way. Both parties must act graciously in order for it to work. Sometimes it's hard to take charity. And it makes something you've earned MUCH sweeter.

Sara said...

Thank you, a pimp named DaveR. It sucks that they lost their house and their business. They picked a crappy time to get into the construction business.

George Bush has driven how many businesses into the ground? But he had mommy and daddy et al backing his ass up. And a thousand more examples like that one.

Grace said...

Do you think that the people who donated their time, resources, and money feel the same way as some of you do that "the business angle is a Catch-22" and that Mr. Harper "had a reasonable business that just didn't succeed, as many businesses do through no fault of their owners"??

The Harper's had a responsibility to their children AND all of those who make it happen to keep that house -- they were living in it free and clear.

They clearly were not responsible people, as even one of their friends said -- that he did not trust their "business acumen."

Their first priority should have been to safeguard that house and to NEVER make it vulnerable to what ultimately happened to them -- foreclosure.

Jim said...

"There's an implicit contract between donor and recipient; the donor gets to feel good about doing a good deed, and the recipient must make the donor feel that way. Both parties must act graciously in order for it to work."

Yeah- that's the deal. I want to feel good about giving things to people. Maybe I'm really selfish, but I'm not alone.

A Pimp Named DaveR said...

@Grace -- Did the donors intend to make it so these people never had to lift a finger again in their lives? Or were they motivated to give in order to give a family who had really been pooped on by life a "leg up" in advancing to the middle classes through working like most people do? If it's the latter, then they can't complain.

To draw a parallel -- say I give $50 to a homeless guy. He uses the $50 to buy a suit for a job interview, which he doesn't get, because people generally don't hire homeless people. Do I have the right to complain that the homeless guy didn't use the money for food or for a pneumonia vaccine, and that he's an "idiot" for trying to get a job and reach the point where he doesn't need my handout?

Sara said...

As a matter of fact, Grace, I work for an organization that helps families in need. Every day, I make an effort for people. And I do it without expecting them to do every damn thing the way *I* think they should.

No one can live up to the expectations of the person who "rescued" them.

And that's why trying to rescue people is a bad idea.

Lynne said...

Grace quoted: "What these first-time homeowners didn't know was they had just bought a big dump."

They sunk all they had into their first house, and they didn't pay, what, $250 to get a home inspection? And we're supposed to feel sorry for them? I can't feel sorry for people who make such phenomenally stupid choices.

I have no sympathy for the Harpers. They are handed (handed!) a house more expensive than the one my husband and I have to work full time to afford. And $250K besides. And they get their property tax paid for for the next 25 years! We are going to pay at lease $75,000 in property taxes over the next 25 years. Where's my fucking handout?

CynCamden said...

That's kind of weird. I thought home inspection was required before closing a loan?

But of course due to the state of the mortgage industry now, I really shouldn't be surprised.

Carrie said...

We started our own business with absolutely NO money in the bank and no income. My husband started his own HVAC company. We didn't mortgage our home (why would I want to lose the roof over my head, just in case...?), we didn't borrow from anyone. We sucked it up and did it on our home and lots of prayer. They borrowed $450,000 to ENJOY their life, NOT to finance a business. They got greedy. PERIOD. You give people something for nothing and they do NOT appreciate it nor do they learn anything. I hate these 'give me' shows and I know too many people who know how to play the system. Sure, there are truly poor people, but most times they are way under the radar. But too many people plead 'poor', get all the free help in the world and it is never enough for them and if you go to their homes they drive better cars, their kids have all the toys and games mine do not and they get free insurance while we live uninsured. I feel no sympathy for people who blew their chance and shamed themselves and everyone.

Grace said...

ABC said in a statement that it advises each family to consult a financial planner after they get their new home.

I think the idea here was to safeguard their new home and get a job to support living in it, if they didn't have one already.

I too believe that you can't rescue people.

In this case, the tv show gave the Harper's this house and ultimately left it up to them as to what to do with it.

I'm with Carrie -- you don't risk the roof over your head to start a business -- that old adage, don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Wil said...

Damn .. stupid business decisions and greed at a m*therf*cker, to be sure. Construction isn't a business you want to get into with no knowledge in the best of times. These days?? Well sadly, this was pretty much the predictable outcome. Feel terrible for the kids .. : /

Here's hoping those funds for the scholarships are in trusts for the kids with a trustee who is not in the family.

Jasmine said...

Hi, never posted before now, just wanted to say i applaud ent for saying what was on all our minds when this happened. No one came right out and said, you people are morons,but him, so thanks for having the cajones to say it.

bionic bunny! said...

i don't watch the show, but mr. bunny and daughter bunny are huge fans.
so, why doesn't the show help these folks to walk into a job at the local mickey d's, or if they have construction experience, a job with a contracting company?
you know, catch a man a fish/teach a man to fish sort of thing.
it makes more sense than a solid no refinance clause, because down the road, someone may need a little cash, maybe for graduate school or a wedding or who knows??
just my POV.