Ben and Erin Napier Gave PEOPLE a Sneak Peek Behind the Scenes of the Next “Home Town Takeover ”(Exclusive)

“We’re working harder than we’ve ever worked in our lives,” Erin shares of the upcoming 3rd season in Sebring, Fla.

<p>Courtesy of HGTV</p>

Courtesy of HGTV

Last February, HGTV announced the third location for Ben and Erin Napier’s Home Town Takeover series: the lakeside town of Sebring, Florida.

Since then, the couple, along with a large team, have been working around the clock to bring Sebring back to its former glory, and PEOPLE got an exclusive preview of their progress.

The Napiers call Sebring “the forgotten Florida” — an idyllic town that flourished in previous decades, but now gets passed over by tourists in favor of theme parks and beaches. “These are coincidentally our favorite parts of Florida,” says Ben.

“When we look back at our parents’ and grandparents’ vacation photos, its of places like this,” Erin adds.

As the couple and their two daughters — Helen, 6, and Mae, 3 — traveled between Sebring and their home in Laurel, Miss., they felt those old-school Florida vibes infiltrate their lives. “It’s a bit more relaxed here. We’ve had summer vacation feelings the whole time, even though we’re working harder than we’ve ever worked in our lives,” Erin says.

That work, like in past seasons in Wetumpka, Ala. and Fort Morgan, Colo., has taken the form of multiple home renovations, business makeovers, and a host of community projects, all inspired by the town's history and its setting. “I got to use pinks and corals and sage and orange — true orange. Those are fun colors we don’t get to pull out of the color box all the time,” Erin says.

While a boost in tourism to the area would be welcome, the Napiers say their ‘formula’ to give the towns they feature a leg up always begins with the locals. “You have to have the community buy-in. This community has to be excited,” Erin says.

“This is something we learned from our own experience in Laurel. You can’t restore a town expecting the dollars coming from tourists. You have to depend on the locals, and then anything that comes from outside is gravy, it’s extra,” Ben adds.

Thus, the business they choose to renovate is a very strategic decision. “We do months of research before we even come here,” Ben says “How do you get locals to rediscover the magic of downtown?We look at what businesses are going to have the best legs. What’s going to last?”

Erin says they also consider, “what might already be doing well, but would do so much better when it’s beautiful?” (They both point to a specific renovation, the details of which are still under wraps, but that they describe as a “fun and effervescent business...that looked like a law firm.”)

The approach to which homes they choose to renovate is more emotional. “We look to the people who are doing the most good in the town,” Ben says. “Because if you’re helping hundreds of people a day, but you go home at night and your crown moldings are falling, emotionally, you wear those things, they affect you. So, we come in and say, ‘We’re going to fix all this so you don’t have to think about it, and you can keep doing more of what you’re doing.’”

<p>Courtesy of HGTV</p>

Courtesy of HGTV

Erin adds, “You have to help the people who are here for their community. That’s the only way small town America survives.”

As their formula goes, when that enthusiasm widens, the town begins to transform. “Even the little changes, like painting the facades around [downtown's central] circle. It’s enough that locals see it and notice something is different…and that excitement spreads," says Erin. "People start fluffing [the town] up, filling the empty storefronts, even before the show hits TV!”

Once the show does air, that’s when things really explode. In the case of Wetumpka, Shellie Whitfield, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce said, "What we've found is that people are not only coming to visit, but they're coming back and have been here two or three times. They've fallen in love with the town since the show aired.”

The Napiers’ personal lives will be very different this season, too.

erin napier/instagram
erin napier/instagram

“Season 1 nearly killed us,” Erin jokes. “I was pregnant, and we had a toddler and it was Covid and we didn’t know anybody. Now our girls are 6 and 3 and we have a little more freedom to bring them, and they’ve been here with us every step of it.”

They even reunited with Jonathan Walters, their general contractor from the first three seasons of Home Town, who lives nearby in Ft. Meyers. “Being with Jonathan and his family was like a homecoming. Our kids were little babies at the same time. We shared diapers,” Ben says. “We all just came from one of the houses we’re working on, where we had our kids helping us paint garden signs,” Erin says.

As PEOPLE is chatting with the Napiers in Sebring, Jonathan’s family appears outside with Helen skipping behind. “Where is Helen going?” Erin whispers to Ben.  But Ben assures her, “It’s a small town, she’ll be fine.”

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.