Bob Vila is an American television presenter, author and entrepreneur, most popular for hosting the home improvement shows “This Old House”, “Bob Vila’s Home Again”, and “Bob Vila”. He’s been dubbed the first reality television host, a legendary handyman and an inspiration for television host hopefuls. Decades after his time on the show, he’s still widely remembered as the host from “This Old House”. A burning question on fans minds’ is what happened to Bob Vila, and what is he doing now. Follow along to know more about his life since leaving the show.

Who is Bob Vila?

Bob —the legendary handy man — Vila is widely known by fans as the man in plaid shirts and soothing voice who patiently and passionately educated home owners for decades. Where did he learn his skills? How did his fame come about? Read on to learn Bob Vila’s background.

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His early life and family background

Robert Joseph Vila was born on the 20th June 1946, in Miami, Florida, USA. Not much is known of his family background, except for the fact that he’s of Cuban ancestry and American nationality. At a young age, Bob witnessed and helped his father build their family home from scratch, an experience that he later cited as the event that piqued his interest in home building and improvement. He attended Miami Jackson High School from where he matriculated, before enrolling at the University of Florida. He studied journalism, eventually graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, after which he enlisted in the Peace Corps and served in Panama from 1971 to 1973. During hhis time, Bob volunteered to build homes for Panamanians in need; it’s there that he worked on his passion, and gained more experience in building homes.

Beginnings in home improvement

Shortly after returning from the Peace Corps, Bob began restoring homes in the community in his spare time, using the first-hand experience he gained in Panama and at home in the part time hobby. A while later, he attended architecture school, but soon dropped out to start his company – named R.J. Vila Designer/ Builder, after himself—based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He realized how little architects earn and soon opted for his first passion: home remodeling, design and improvement. His company mainly focused on restoring antique homes in the area and remodeling them.

A few years into the business, he restored a very old Victorian Italianate house located in Newton, Massachusetts, attracting a lot of attention for the restoration, making it into local magazines. In 1978, he was awarded the “Heritage House of 1978” by Better Homes and Gardens in recognition of the excellent job. This garnered the interest of a television show producer, who approached Bob with the offer of hosting a home improvement show. Since there was nothing of that type at the time, Bob wasn’t very keen on the offer at first, but eventually saw the invitation as a way to promote his services and gain more clients, hence he accepted. Little did he know that this offer would lead to a lifetime of success and recognition amongst millions of Americans.

Careers

Television Host

This Old House

Once he agreed to do the show, the team began shooting a couple of pilot episodes. However, Bob heard nothing from the producers for months, then a whole year before they finally reached out to him. They had received funding for the series, and planned to buy an old house and begin renovations on it. Bob spent four months filming the whole process of home improvement— something quite complicated for him since it would usually take about a year to renovate a house. Nonetheless, shooting wrapped up soon, and on the 20th of February 1979, premiered on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Network, Boston. The first of its kind, the show was nominated for and won an Emmy award after just 13 weeks of airing. Vila recalls, ‘… It was a little thing because it was the regional Emmy’s, but that eventually snowballed into a media career that I could never have foreseen’.

In the show, Bob guided viewers through the lengthy process of remodeling and designing homes. As host, he invited skilled workers to talk about their craft and help explain to the viewers how a house was built, and all the efforts they put into renovating it. The unprecedented overnight success of the series surprised even the producers – they had eleven million viewers weekly at its peak. At the very beginning, Bob earned $200 a week which then turned into $1200 a week, owing to the success of the show.

Leaving “The Old House”

After becoming a household name, he was approached by many to make commercials endorsing their products. This led to a disagreement with the show’s producer Russel Morash, when Bob commercially endorsed products by Rickel Home Centers, a huge competitor for Home Depot. At the time, Home Depot was the show’s underwriter, and so decided to stop sponsorship for the show, and their lumber supply partner, Weyerhaeuser, also pulled their funding to the show in retaliation to Bob’s commercials. In an effort to return their sponsors, the show’s producers fired Bob from the show, ending his largely successful 10 year run.

Fans of the show were disappointed by the change while Bob was unregretful; he was soon replaced by Steve Thomas and the show went on for 44 more seasons to date. His frequent partner, master carpenter Norm Abram, stayed on until his retirement in early 2022. Luckily for Bob, he was able to use the experience he gained on the show to create his own series and pursue his passion.

“Bob Vila’s Home Again”

Shortly after his departure from his first television show, Bob produced and hosted “Bob Vila’s Home Again” in 1990. The show was a weekly home improvement program by CBS Television Distribution, and lasted a total of 17 seasons over 16 years. In 2005, it was renamed to “Bob Vila”, enough of an explanation to his decade long viewers. Unfortunately, CBS cancelled the show in March of 2007, due to the decline in ratings, but good news for fans though, is that the show is available on streaming site PlutoTV.

Author

Owing to his vast experience as an architect, home renovator and designer, Bob use this knowledge to pen some books – he’s now written an impressive two dozen books and counting! His titles include “This Old House: Restoring, Rehabilitating and Renovating an Older House”, “Bob Vila’s Guide to Buying Your Dream House”, and “Bob Vila’s Guide to Historic Homes of America”, a five part series focusing on the areas of New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the west, the South and the Midwest and Great Plains.

Entrepreneur

Even before leaving the show, Bob had been involved in several endorsement deals. Starting from 1989, Bob became a spokesman for Sears department stores, and promoted Craftsman tools in commercials. The partnership lasted years until 2006, when a dispute broke out between him and Sears, ending the partnership. He also appeared on Home Shopping Network, on which he sold a wide range of products from his own brand.

Actor

The multi-talented Bob Vila also became an actor, appearing in the comedy show “Home Improvement — a parody of “This Old House”— starring comedian Tim Allen as cable host Tim Taylor. The show included a segment called “Tool Time”, in which Tim paired up with   —once again a parody on Bob and Norm Abram’s partnership— where they’d have live home improvements for the audience. Bob became a guest star on “Home Improvement” between 1992 and 1993, as well as in the “Tool Time” segment. He starred as himself as a rival to the host Tim Taylor with an hilarious competition between the two. He then starred in the comedy parody “Hot Shots! Part Deux” in 1993.

What happened to him?

Bob is considered a successful contractor-turned-host, who won the hearts of millions of viewers who tuned in to watch him work on his craft. Fans want to know what has happened to the legend; as explained above, he has been keeping busy over the years.

Although he is most recognizable for the three productions he appeared in, Bob has created many more productions that are not very well known. These include “Guide to Historic Homes of America”, in which he featured homes across four regions of the US. Some of the prominent homes included Ellwood House, the Hammond-Harwood House, the Dana-Thomas House and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. He then produced “In Search of Palladio”, a study of the works of Andrea Palladio, a famed 16th century architect. Another notable production was “Restore America”, a 50 episode series broadcast from 1999 to 2000 on HGTV, which explored the historic preservation and restoration of buildings in each of the 50 US states.

Bob’s Achievements

Bob Vila has no doubt achieved a lot in his lengthy career. During his time on “This Old House”, an average of 11 million viewers tuned in to watch the show, which also won five Emmy awards with him; individually, he was nominated for a total of seven Daytime Emmy awards. He’s an inspiration for television hosts and entrepreneurs alike, who hope to achieve similar success as he’s had. Jonathon Scott, half of the duo starring in HGTV’s popular show “Property Brothers”, cites Bob as his inspiration; their family almost always tuned in to Bob’s show. He revealed, ‘… That guy was like the soundtrack of our lives, the voice coming from our TV room. I’d recognize his voice anywhere’.

Despite it being decades since he left the show, most people still associate Bob with “This Old House”. At the recent Habitat for Humanity awards which he attended with his wife, he noticed his name under “This Old House” in the brochures; his wife wondered when people would finally realize that he’s no longer involved with the show. In reply he said, ‘They don’t have to get it straight. I own part of the franchise’. On 18 June at the 49th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, he was rewarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, honoring Bob Vila alongside the cast of “This Old House”. The long-time show has joined the record of being just the third television show to be gain this prestigious award, after “60 Minutes” and “Sesame Street”.

Proud to announce that This Old House will be recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 49th Annual Daytime…

Posted by This Old House on Tuesday, April 26, 2022

More about Bob’s family

His wife— Diana Barrett

Details on how the pair met and their subsequent marriage have not been revealed to the public, hence not much is known about the couple, except that the pair tied the knot in a private ceremony in 1975, surrounded by their friends and family. The pair are blessed with three children, a son and two daughters; the family have been kept out of the limelight as well.

Who is Diana Barrett?

According to her Wikipedia page, Diana Barrett is a philanthropist, professor and journalist. She taught at the Harvard School of Public Health and at the Harvard University Business School. She is part of the board of directors of the Peabody Awards— an award presented by University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. As a philanthropist, she serves as president of the Fledgling Fund, an organization she founded.

What is Bob Vila up to now?

It’s sad to inform his fans that Bob is no longer reviewing, remodeling and designing homes on television. Nonetheless, he still works in home improvement, but has since handed control of the business to his son, Chris (a real estate developer). According to some sources, the pair buy the home to be remodeled and (usually) successfully flip it for a higher price. The father and son duo regularly work in Palm Beach, Florida; as per Bob’s tradition, they prioritize older homes from the 1900s. The latest project the pair worked on was a home in Brooklyn, New York.

Bob, similar to his wife, is also a philanthropist and is actively involved in the Habitat for Humanity organization. He is also involved with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Hispanic Society Museum & Library as well as Finca Vigia Foundation, the latter focused on preserving Ernest Hemingway’s Cuba home.

In 2016, he released his line of retail tools named Bob Vila. He then set up his website, before writing a dozen books on various topics including renovation, architecture and do-it-yourself tips. Bob has proved to be one to stay on top of the latest trends, regularly updating his website himself. In an interview he stated, ‘… I just took over as CEO again, because I want to be more involved. I need to update the publishing end. Toward the internet. That’s the way publishing is going. I never thought of becoming a web publisher, but now suddenly I’m a web publisher…’. Among his new content, Bob has included the older shows in a library on the site.

Where can you find Bob Vila?

The living legend can be found on all social media under Bob Vila. He owns a Twitter account that has a huge following of 847,000, his Instagram account has 43,000 followers and his TikTok page has over 9,000 followers. He has a presence on other sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Reddit, on which his do-it-yourself tips have circulated for years.

How much is Bob Vila worth?

Bob Vila has had an extensive career as a television host and entrepreneur that’s spanned decades. His main sources of income include his shows, books he’s authored and the various endorsements he’s done over the years. Additionally, he makes money from the houses he flips with his real estate agent son, and product endorsements on his channel.

Bob and his family currently live in a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, conservatively worth $30 million. When not in Palm Beach, they live in a home on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, New York City. Bob and Diana also own a number of other properties around the country, including a waterfront mansion in Chilmark, Massachusetts, worth a huge $20 million— impressive since they acquired the property in 2001 for around $4.6 million! It’s safe to say that he’s amassed a fairly huge net worth over the years. According to authoritative sources, Bob Vila is worth a whopping $70 million, as of late 2022.

At 73 years young, Bob is living a quiet life with his family, and regularly keeps up his social media presence. One lesson he’s learned from his ‘accidental success’ is his endless dedication and passion to his job. Although he admits his journalism and architectural background helped him, he attributes his success to being constantly driven and focused on his craft. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors!

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