Two years after Victor Marrero was chosen by ABC's
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
to receive a brand-new five-bedroom home in Pennsauken, he's moving out.
In early 2007, after Diane Sawyer profiled Marrero and his son Billy Joe inside their roach-infested Camden rowhouse during a 20/20 program about the impoverished city, hundreds wrote in to nominate the family for Extreme Makeover.
That August, series producers handed the father of five sons the keys to a home on property donated by Urban Promise, an East Camden youth program.
This week, Urban Promise agreed to buy the house back from Marrero for $275,000.
Property taxes and utility bills had piled up for Marrero, who was living on a $939 monthly pension. A $59,000 donation from the community collected by New Jersey homebuilder J.S. Hovnanian & Sons, which constructed the house in a week, had gone to pay off longstanding debts.
"I felt like there was a lion coming after me," the 56-year-old former office manager said last year.
Marrero, who was struggling with utility bills he said ran to $10,000 a year and monthly property tax payments of $1,500, first tried to sell the house in May 2008.
"I think originally he just panicked," said Bruce Main, president of Urban Promise.
The home's asking price of $499,900 would have been a tough sell for the area, according to a listing agency, and Urban Promise refused to let Marrero put it on the market.
The hope was that money earned by his sons, two of whom still lived with their father, would supplement Marrero's pension and allow him to keep the home.
By this year, it was obvious that the family needed to downsize.
"It's not the way [Marrero] wanted the story to end, but I think he would see himself in a much better position than he was two years ago," Main said.
Main said he was unsure where Marrero planned to relocate. Urban Promise will use the building to house some of its volunteer interns, he said.
Last year, a producer for Extreme Makeover refused to comment on the Marreros' situation.
"They haven't been involved at all," Main said of the show's executives.
But even with the Marreros saying goodbye to their dream home, Garo Hovnanian, marketing director for the homebuilder, said the sense of community the family's story inspired was unlike anything he had ever seen.
"The experience was one that we would never regret," he said.