Jeff Yanes of Kyle, TX was one-in-136 million when he was chosen as the winner of HGTV's Dream Home. The catch? The house is in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
Yanes won the fully-furnished home, a $250,000 cash prize and a 2021 motorhome from Camping World after entering in the sweepstakes multiple times over the course of five years. HGTV's ambush crew underwent a virtual interview with Jeff and his girlfriend, Jody, who thought they would be on a show about HGTV fans. The two were shocked to learn they had actually won.
"I didn't think it was true. I thought someone was messing with me," Yanes told HGTV.
Jeff Yanes and girlfriend Jody couldn't believe that they had won the HGTV Sweepstakes. (HGTV.com)
As it turns out, Yanes isn't ready to leave to leave the Hill Country behind. He instead decided to take the $750,000 cash prize given to winners who do not want possession of the winning home.
That leaves the Cape-Cod style home now on the market for a cool $2.39 million. The home's price includes all of its appliances, nautical decor and red-white-and-blue furnishings, pushing its value up to 2.8 million. The home's nautical design reflects its location on the bank of the Sakonnet River.
Yanes, an independent contractor who owns a bread delivery route to Austin-area grocery stores and restaurants, helped deliver food as an essential worker during the pandemic. He and Jody may not be packing their bags for the Northeast, but they do admire the nearly 3,500-square foot home, especially its rooftop deck.
"It's everything you could want in a house, (so) it's hard to pinpoint one room," Yanes said. " (But) the rooftop deck overlooking the river (is a great place to) have a cold beverage or cup of coffee."
Take a look at the aptly-named dream home here:
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Stephanie Ashworth lived in a neighborhood north of Tarrytown, near W. 35th St. and Balcones Drive the summer of 2013. One of her neighbors wanted to move to a different school district and decided to rent out their home on Airbnb upon leaving.
“We’re like—’ok’—we didn’t know any better,” Ashworth said. “And it was awful.”
Ashworth said guests played loud music, used the pool naked and would return from trips at the lake stumbling drunk out of party buses.
“It ruins your peace of mind where you should be able to have it. Where you should be able to feel safe, where the kids should be able to go out front,” Ashworth said. “And we shouldn't find used condoms, empty beer bottles, the trash, the parking, it's so disturbing.”
Ashworth is now head of the Austin chapter of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition, a statewide group that assists people looking to restrict and regulate short-term rentals in their residential neighborhoods. She talked to Austonia following Airbnb’s announcement this week that it will deploy new anti-party technology in the US and Canada.
The initiative aims to prevent potentially high-risk reservations by being a more robust version of the “under 25” system, which reviews guests under the age of 25 without positive reviews who are booking locally. A similar variation of this system has been piloted in Australia since October 2021 and has resulted in a 35% drop in incidents of unauthorized parties in pilot areas.
Airbnb is hoping for similar success in other regions but noted that there could still be some hiccups once the system is in effect.
“While we are optimistic that this technology will have a positive impact for the safety of our community and our goal to reduce unauthorized parties—we want to be clear that no system is perfect,” Airbnb wrote in a statement announcing the new tech. “We work hard to deter bad actors from using our platform, but ultimately Airbnb is an online platform that facilitates real world connections.”
For Ashworth, this system falls short of what she’d like to see from the company and she’d like for them to be clearer about what constitutes a party in the company’s eyes.
“So I have no doubt that this technology they're touting for the party houses is nonsense,” Ashworth said. “They are not a company that's run with integrity, they're not a good corporate citizen.”
But people will continue to flock to Airbnb as Austin continues to be a major tourist destination with festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest drawing in thousands. Even on a regular weekend pandemic recovery has been in full swing with downtown entertainment districts seeing visits close to 2019 levels.
Ultimately, Ashworth sees room to accommodate tourists while ensuring neighborhoods remain homey for Austinites.
“My personal opinion is the home team comes first,” Ashworth said. “The whole city doesn't need to be turned over to the tourist industry and areas that are zoned residentially should remain for residents. I do understand that we are a tourist destination. But you can have a short-term rental pretty much anywhere in the city except in residential zones.”
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