Steve Ledson buys the HGTV Dream Home back from the winning Smith family

Posted on July 17, 2009 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Steve Ledson is looking for ideas.  It’s not often the man is stumped or even undecided, but his recent buy-back of the HGTV Dream Home has him scratching his head.
“I bought the house back for $2.2 million — less than the cost of all that went into building it,” said Ledson.  “At this point, I’m just not sure whether I’m going to put it on the market or do something else entirely.”
Ledson, developer of Armstrong Estates where the Dream Home is located, announced on July 13, 2009 a deal was completed between Cheryl and Joe Smith, the Lakeland, Florida couple who recently won the home, and his company to purchase back the property he designed and had built for HGTV. In addition, Ledson announced the Smiths have donated all the home’s furnishings to his family’s Harmony Foundation for Children.
But Ledson, not usually at a loss for ideas, has been left wondering how best to utilize the property.  One of the ideas he is considering includes giving away the house by way of a high-end raffle that would, again, benefit the Harmony Foundation.
“I’m thinking about calling it something like, ‘The Dream Never Ends’,” said Ledson, who mentioned similar raffles he’s seen in Marin County which pull in a substantial amount of money for charitable organizations.
Someone also called Ledson and offered to rent the house, something he is not interested in doing given the custom-designed $187,000 worth of furnishings still standing in the home and now belonging to the Harmony Foundation after the Smith’s generous donation.
Of course, putting the house on the market is also an option.  “I’ve toyed with the idea of selling the house and giving the buyer an opportunity to purchase the furnishings and donating those proceeds to the Foundation as well,” said Ledson.
Local realtor Dan Casabonne said that the chances for selling the house, even in what is considered a down market, are quite high given its premium location and added “bells and whistles.”
“The Dream Home will appeal to a lot of people because of its notoriety.  It’s been on the cover of newspapers nationwide and it is a wonderful mix of old world charm combined with a young feel,” said Casabonne.  “It’s an exciting type of home that is sure to see a lot of activity.”
Casabonne went on to say that in terms of real estate activity, both the high and low ends of the market are moving at a fairly brisk pace.
“I think the house could easily be listed in the $2 million range or higher, in part because of the HGTV name recognition.  I think buyers are starting to feel positive about the market again and that level of confidence is beginning to show in terms of sales,” said Casabonne.
Ledson has also considered some interesting ideas for all the fabulous furniture – one being an upscale tag sale.  How it would work is still a question but he’s pretty sure many Valley residents would jump at the chance to own some of the furnishings.
“The Smith’s are an incredible couple,” explained Ledson.  “They had just retired to Florida when they won the house from over 40,000,000 entries. They really didn’t want to move from Florida away from their grandchildren even though they loved their winning visit to Sonoma. For my family and me, our favorite part is the donation to our Harmony Foundation.  The community could use this money right now due to all of the cuts to schools, activities and arts.”

The Harmony Foundation for Children works to enhance philanthropy and strengthen Sonoma’s sense of community by providing help to those underprivileged children whose own families cannot.  To date, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated by the Harmony Foundation to deserving individuals and organizations.  The foundation is funded through direct donations by the Ledson family, individual public donations and Ledson family sponsored fundraising events.

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