HGTV Dream House Chattanooga To Be Sold

Monday, April 23, 2007 - by John Shearer

The numerous Chattanoogans and others who have been watching the Home & Garden Television show, Dream House Chattanooga, may have been surprised with the ending during the final episode Sunday night.

At the conclusion of the eight-episode reality series – which had been running nearly every Sunday night since Feb. 11 – owners James Ladd and Kelli Smith said they had decided that the home on Walsh Road on Stringer’s Ridge was too large and expensive for their current lifestyle.

As a result, the engaged couple announced that they had decided to put the house on the market.

Kelli’s father, general contractor B.R. Smith – whose no-nonsense and sometimes confrontational personality made him one of the popular characters of the show – said Monday that the final decision to sell the home by his daughter and future son-in-law was actually made just a couple of weeks ago.

“The idea was that it was too large,” said Mr. Smith. “If they were older with family, they probably would not sell it.”

He added that they certainly were not doing the TV show simply to increase their profit opportunities, as they were planning on making it their home all during construction.

“I can’t believe people would believe that,” he said “We planned to build that house all along. It’s too difficult and too expensive to build a spec house on that lot.”

He also said that the show was not being done to give his business some exposure, as he has been in the business for 35 years and does not need any exposure. Besides, he is getting ready to retire, he said.

The asking price for the home, which is being sold by the family, is around $1.2 million, Mr. Smith said, adding that his business did receive some inquiries about it today after the show ran last night.

“That’s a very unique home,” said Mr. Smith of the residential TV star, which is five stories tall, has 6,500 square feet and is visible from the Olgiati Bridge. “It was really scrutinized by the city (inspectors).”

Although the couple had looked at living in it for a couple of years, they have decided that going ahead and selling it now as a new house might be better and help its marketability.

They still own two lots by the home and can always build there again in the future, Mr. Smith added.

The fact that that Miss Smith and Mr. Ladd had borrowed $500,000 from the bank was highlighted several times on the show, but Mr. Smith pointed out that the total construction cost was actually more than that.

They had already bought the lot and put some of their own money into the initial construction, he said. Also, the engineering work had already been done, and Mr. Smith provided the excavation work for free.

Mr. Smith also pointed out that the amount of money HGTV contributed to the project was very minimal.

The couple had actually bought the lot from Pierre Andrae, who lives across Walsh Road and had purchased the land himself about 1960. Miss Smith and Mr. Ladd had already drawn the plans for the home before learning that HGTV was looking to film a TV reality series highlighting the construction of an unusual dream home.

After auditioning, they were selected. Filming began about a year ago.

Mr. Smith said that the amount of film the crew shot could have made about 850 30-minute episodes, but that HGTV condensed it to eight. The producers were originally going to make the series 13 episodes, but the cable channel cut back all its series to eight.

Mr. Smith said that he had fun doing the show. He enjoyed working with the film crew, he said, and if its members had not been there, the work would likely have just been another hard construction project.

He added that the show gave the impression that everyone was arguing with each other a lot while trying to come to agreements about various aspects of the construction, but that was actually not the case.

“It did seem like we argued a lot, but that is TV, what do you expect?” he said with a laugh. “That was a drama point they wanted to hit on.”

The personalities of the characters, including Mr. Smith’s son, Chad, became quite familiar. As a result, viewers felt as if they knew the family quite well.

Mr. Smith said people recognize him now in public.

“I have to be nice now,” he said with a snicker. “I can’t be the jerk I really am.”

In fact, he said he has been a little surprised by all the attention from the show, which was well received and increased HGTV’s male viewership by 55 percent during that time period.

Although the home will be sold without his daughter and future son-in-law ever living in it, Mr. Smith believes they will always feel a connection to the home.

“We all put our heart and soul into it, and in the end it will always be their home,” he said.

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