Eleven thousand people dreamed of winning the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's half million dollar home in a raffle to benefit the institution, and the winner was rightfully ecstatic, at first, before she realized how life-changing such a prize could be.
Yadira Estrada didn't plan on winning the 3,173-square-foot, modern-farmhouse-style home that boasts five bedrooms, four and a half baths, a carriage house above a three-car garage, an outdoor living area and a wraparound porch.
"The purpose was to help the kids. I never thought that I would win,"
said Estrada, who was among the first to purchase a $100 raffle ticket two months ago and ended up purchasing four tickets total.
Estrada said she feels really lucky to have won the home, but now she is faced with the many predicaments that come with winning such a grand prize. She will have to decide whether she is going to keep or sell the new home, how to cover the tax bill due upon signing, and there's always the stress that comes with moving and transferring kids' schools. The only definite decision that Estrada has made is that she would like to spend the holidays in the new home.
"My kids are excited," she said. "Because now there won't be any more fights waiting for the bathroom!"
Estrada's new home is valued at $518,000. According to the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway website, property taxes are the responsibility of the winner, and the IRS requires that taxes are collected before the transfer of the property. When compared with properties of similar value also in The Meadows at Castle Rock, Douglas County's self-tax assessor estimated taxes on Estrada's dream home at a little over $4,000, an amount that for many is a lot to come up with at Christmas time.
Photos: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Dream Home
Certified financial planner Al Woodward said there are huge implications that a winner of such a large prize has to overcome, with the socio-economic scale of the winner as the foremost issue.
"It's the inappropriateness of who might be logical to win the house," he said.
Woodward has been in the financial planning business for 35 years and said he has seen charities get contractors to build ridiculously expensive homes that are given away to folks that can't afford them.
"And then there's a half a million dollar home sitting there empty because it's not affordable," he said, suggesting that rather than give away a home, it might be better for the houses to be put on the market and sold, and split the proceeds between the charity and the winner.
Woodward said if winners of such a costly home can first afford to pay the property taxes and move into the house, the second hurdle is being able to maintain the home, which was built by Joyce Homes and designed by Mike Woodley of Woodley Architectural Groups.
"Are they going to be able to pay the utilities or have time to mow the lawn?" he said. "Or are they going to have to work three jobs just to keep the home?"
Charities need to recognize the situations that people are put in when they win such a large prize, Woodward said, adding that charities should help prize winners get into the homes they win by raising money or giving away a home that is of lesser value.
The first decision Estrada needs to concentrate on is whether she will keep or sell her dream home. Actually living in the new house will mean moving from Lakewood, where 31-year-old Estrada has spent the better part of life, to the town of Castle Rock. Almost all her friends and family are in Lakewood, she said, adding that she fears the cost of living in Castle Rock will be considerably more expensive than it is in Lakewood. Additionally, Estrada is taking the commute to and from work into consideration.
Estrada and her husband run a small construction company that does drywall work for new and remodeled homes.
"God will follow me with whatever I decide to do," she said.
Estrada's family immigrated to the United States when she was 12 from Chihuahua, Mexico. Currently residing with her parents, husband and two sons in her brother's home, winning the dream home makes Estrada a first-time homeowner.
The St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway has raffled off more than 250 homes to raise funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which researches and treats catastrophic pediatric diseases. The raffles have raised more than $155 million.
The campaign is now active in 22 states, but this is the first year the Dream Home Giveaway took place in Denver. Locally, eleven thousand tickets were sold for the raffle, raising $1.1 million for the hospital.
Estrada, who received the news on Nov. 11, her elder son's birthday, said she feels really blessed to be the winner.
"It's a big, big gift," she said.