Homeowner says 'Extreme' house too expensive

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PENNSAUKEN, N.J. (AP) - A struggling Camden father of five who was given a new house on national television last year says it's too expensive to maintain.

Victor Marrero tells WPVI-TV in Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Inquirer that's why he briefly listed it for sale.

Marrero says his continuing financial struggles made him feel like a lion was after him. His newfound celebrity also put old creditors on his trail, threatening to put a lien on the home.

The home came with a quarterly tax bill of more than $1,500. Marrero says he also found utility costs high in the bigger home.

A nonprofit group says it will help him find ways to stay.

The Pennsauken home built in less than a week for ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is off the market.

In Albuquerque, some three months after Gerald Martinez and his family's Trumbull neighborhood property was transformed, thanks to "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," it's all still sinking in.

"Let me tell you what I do every day when I get up," said Martinez, lead pastor at Joshua's Vineyard Mission Outpost. "I look around, and I'm shocked. Every time I walk into the house, I stop at the entryway and I look around, and I'm flabbergasted.

"We will never be the same."

The "Extreme Makeover" episode shot in January - attracting thousands of spectators and volunteers - was broadcast on television on April 27.

In a week's time, through a cold snap that dropped temperatures to the teens in late January, a team of a few thousand volunteer construction workers and hundreds of other volunteers took over the site, alongside the TV production crew and the show's cadre of designer stars led by Ty Pennington.

Producers of the show, the theme of which is to take a deserving family and revamp a usually run-down house, said the Martinezes were targeted because of their efforts in the community, where they moved several years ago.

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"Instead of moving into a safe neighborhood with his wife, Liesa, and kids, Gerald moved his family into a run-down duplex that was just minutes from the church," promoters told the media.

"In a neighborhood of crime, drug deals and prostitution, Gerald began transforming the church into a refuge for the needy .

"Gerald purchased two other duplexes that would be used to create the Mission Outpost."

A big reason the new home was built for the family was because their home had become almost like a community center.

"At any given time, we always had 10 people in our house sitting in our living room, that kind of thing," said Martinez, 57. "I had lost all sense of family with my own kids."

A snazzy two-story, five-bedroom home for the Martinezes was erected, finished and furnished through the "Extreme Makeover" process. Also built was a duplex for the outreach work, and the exteriors of two existing structures were fixed up.

"We would have never dreamed it, and we don't feel like we deserve it, but God chose to do it, so we're OK with that," Martinez said.

The "flabbergasted" feeling Martinez talked about comes from looking at such things as the 22-foot-tall ceilings and huge beams, the bedroom decks, new bathroom and kitchen fixtures. Pennington designed the master bedroom.

"And just the care that was put into it, the pictures that he took and the way he laid them out on the walls, will just blow your mind," Martinez said.

The pastor said the project has made their lives more comfortable, certainly, but they remain a "simple" family.

"Our mission remains the same," Martinez said. "We love broken people. We love people that struggle. People that are hungry. People that don't have homes. Our mission hasn't changed at all."

Martinez said that, usually, 16 or so people plus his family live on the "campus." Some are students of the church's Master's Commission school.

The curious continue to drive by the new home slowly, taking photos, and express happiness for Martinez and his family.

"What has happened in my neighborhood is not just because of us, it's because the neighborhood got together," Martinez said. "And it's because the police department, the mayor, the neighborhood association, the other churches, everybody is working really, really hard at trying to turn it into a nice neighborhood."

The neighborhood has never been healthier because of the work done by a number of different people, said Joanne Landry of the Trumbull neighborhood association.

"Our crime rate has been down for the last five years and more so three years," she said. "We have stats to prove it."

The days "Extreme Makeover" focused on the Trumbull site was "just a fun week," she said.

"The people of Albuquerque, businesses giving of their time to make something beautiful happen in a community," Landry said. "It's wonderful. It's great. He's been given a beautiful empire, and we're just entrusting him to do the best with it as he can."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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