When the reality television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" builds a needy family a new home, it also leaves them with larger bills, but the Suggs family of Loris and Renee Wilson of Longs are keeping up with the payments.
The ABC show, which travels the country building houses in a week for needy families built a house in January for the Suggs family. The episode featuring the family aired Sunday on ABC.
"Extreme" chose the family -- Amanda; her husband, Derrick; their children, Mason, 1, and Walker, 5; and Amanda's siblings, Jordan, 10, and Jacob, 17 -- for the show because Amanda and Derrick Suggs were struggling after they took in her siblings when the Department of Social Services threatened to put them in foster care, and they didn't have enough space in their aging, roughly 1,000-square-foot house.
Their new house is about three times larger than the old house, and the utility bills have gone up. In addition to increased utility bills, there also will be higher taxes and insurance costs, but Derrick said that they'll be able to pay the bills.
"They were significantly higher …than what we're used to but we're bringing it down," he said.
The bigger house uses more electricity, but the family is cutting back and swapping out lightbulbs the show put in for ones that are more energy-efficient.
Derrick and Amanda are working now, Amanda only started working after the house was built so they can afford the bills, Derrick said. The couple also no longer has to worry about costly repairs to the house, which is an expense they had to contend with before receiving the new house.
"It was a little bit of a concern of how we would do it," he said, adding that with faith and hard work they'll be able to pay all the bills.
The insurance costs actually have been less than he expected because of the way the house is built and the safety features, Suggs said.
The Suggs family has a small mortgage on the property, which they will continue to pay off. They received $25,000 from World Wrestling Entertainment, which they have used to pay off some bills and set aside in a savings account as a safety net.
A handful of families who received houses from the show haven't been able to contend with the costs and are close to losing their homes to foreclosure and one already has, according to a report this week in the Wall Street Journal. Most of those families borrowed large sums of money against their homes that they are unable to repay. The show said that it has scaled back the size of some of the houses in the past few years.
In 2007, when Renee Wilson had a home built for her by the show, the builders set up a fund to pay the bills. She does not have a mortgage on the property. The account started with about $60,000 and is a trust used solely to pay for utilities, taxes and insurance, said Harry Dill a partner at Sterling Homes, the builder for both Wilson's house and the Suggs house. There is enough money in the account to cover those expenses until all of her grandchildren, whom she took in, have graduated from high school.
"We are in a different environment so it would be much harder in this environment to get people to participate in a fund like that," Dill said.
In addition, the families are in two different situations, and Amanda and Derrick are working, he said.
He has talked to the Suggs family about their finances and said he is confident that they will be able to pay the higher bills.
"We feel really comfortable that they're self-sustaining," he said. "If we sense there's a problem we're not going to leave them hanging out there either ... certainly if they were having issues if there's anything we can do we are going to do it."
The Suggs family was nervous to watch the show about them on TV, Derrick said.
"We're humble people," he said. "We're kind of nervous about seeing ourselves on TV, but that's one of those things you have to do."
Derrick continues to be grateful for all the community members who came together to built the house.
"It's still a blessing and we really appreciate everything everyone's done for us," he said.