So what happens after the cameras go away?
"Monster House" veterans who live in places now known as Outback House or the '70s House report that the over-the-top "builds," as they call them, are generally sturdy and withstanding day-to-day wear better than expected. They e-mail and gather to swap stories and check out each other's remodels as members of the Monster House Homeowners Assn., an informal club. They have even visited future members on the night they first see their "Monster" redos.
When homeowners tweak a "Monster" remodel, it's often to embellish. "We have not changed a single thing in our home, except to add more to the race-car theme," said Kara Lopez, owner of the first "Monster" project, Race-Car House, in Simi Valley.
At Ancient Rome House in Las Vegas, Tyrus Mulkey added several Roman items to the yard, including a dining room set and a Roman gazebo to go with the chariot bar.
The revolving bookcase motor started randomly turning itself on at the '70s House in Northridge. Wear-and-tear has been minor, says homeowner Christopher Aedo, and "the build is holding up very well."
The TLC show "For Better or For Worse" filmed part of an episode at the '70s House. "There's no way they would have wanted to use my place as it existed before 'Monster House,' " he says. The "shagadelic" redo also never fails to impress girlfriends.
Some paint has peeled and stucco cracked at the Under the Sea House in Malibu, "but nothing serious" has gone wrong, says Pam Harrer, who had trouble getting used to maintaining a 250-gallon aquarium, "by far our favorite part of the build."
They were thankful when the production company absorbed the income tax burden of the build. "I know that some shows are advising their participants to claim exemption from taxes under weird loopholes that may or may not be allowed.
"Original Productions really took care of us, keeping everything strictly on the up and up, by legally reporting the 'prizes' to the IRS, and then cutting us a check to pay for it," she says.
But would they do it again?
"In a heartbeat," says Annie Soles of Camarillo's Outback House, who could be speaking for many of the "Monster House" alums. "It's one of those things you put on your 'best time in my life' list."
-- Melissa Stephan