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The truth about the HGTV dream home giveaways

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Don Cruz and his family were one of the six grand prize winners to attempt to live in their HGTV Dream Home, and you can’t really blame them when you consider they won a fabulous three-story, 6,000 square foot lakeside stunner (above), complete with its own elevator, outdoor fireplace, pool, spa, and separate dock house right on gleaming Lake Tyler in northeast Texas.

“I’ve fantasized most of my life about living in a big house, but my dreams never came close to this,” Cruz told CNN Money of the life-changing abode. Alas, the Cruz family only lasted three years on the lake after relocating from the Chicago suburbs. In this case, it wasn’t just taxes that turned the dream into a nightmare.

Cruz told CNN Money that on top of taking out a loan to float the taxes, he was also spending $2,900 a month in overhead costs, $7,000 a year in homeowners insurance, maintenance costs on seven family vehicles, and the $1,000 mortgage from the Illinois home his family kept. One time “splurges” also included “$5,000 on Christmas presents; $2,000 for scuba lessons; $1,800 on a go-kart,” as well as $11,000 to “fix up the family boat” and $6,000 for “a dog run for their three dogs.”

By January 2008, the Cruz family was $1.43 million in debt and its dream home was in foreclosure. Cruz told KTLA that paying for his father’s cancer treatments is what eventually wiped out the family’s finances. Amazingly, he also said, “But no regrets, whatsoever. I’d do it all over again.”