Residents of a new community said their decision to buy a home in a North Fort Worth development hinged on it having a pool and an amenity center. But now they’re angry because the future amenity center they thought would be built in their development faces a less-than-certain future.
Blake Mathies, his wife and young daughter relocated to North Texas from Colorado, where they lived in a neighborhood with a pool and an amenity center. They wanted the same set-up in Texas.
Mathies said he told their realtor to narrow their home search to only communities that would be similar. It would be an important place for them to meet friends and neighbors as they got acquainted in their new surroundings.
“When we hired a buyer’s agent we asked him specifically to look for a neighborhood that had that because that was something that we wanted,” Mathies said. “It really allows a chance for people in the community, a place to get together.”
The homes built by Beazer in the Parks at Willow Ridge seemed to fit the bill.
The sales center showed a sign with a clearly marked future amenity center. The Beazer sales material also showed one in the map, and an archived page of Beazer’s website, obtained by NBC 5's Consumer Unit, shows an amenity center clearly listed.
The amenity center was also a key selling point for Celisa Alston and her family. Alston’s family of four moved from Atlanta a few months ago because of a job opportunity for her husband.
"When we came to the Beazer community, I was like, ‘Oh, but they don't have a pool.’ The Beazer sales representative said, ‘Don't worry. We're building one in phase two. Here it is on the map. This is where it is in the community and it should be built by summer of 2014,’" Alston said.
So both the Alston family and the Mathies family decided to buy a house in the Parks at Willow Ridge, built by Beazer, one of the top 10 homebuilders in the country.
Corey and Amy Kellam were first-time home buyers who also bought property in the development.
“So we shook hands and we signed papers, and we handed over a lot [of] money,” said Corey Kellam. “We delivered on our end and we expected Beazer to deliver on its end.”
But that’s not what these families say happened. One by one they found out that the future amenity center may not have a future in their community.
Alston said her husband got the news from Beazer while their home was under construction.
“The Beazer representative said, ‘Oh, by the way, we will not have a pool or amenity center. That is no longer in the plans,’ ” Alston explained. “We had to break the news to my children who love swimming that, oh by the way kids, there won’t be a pool. They were very disappointed.”
Mathies found out at a homeowners association meeting where he said he and other residents were upset by the news.
“At the homeowner's association meeting in June the developer was there and said that was never in the plans,” he said.
NBC 5 Consumer Unit Calls Beazer
A Beazer representative said any mention of an amenity center was “conceptual in nature.” Indeed, in the corner of the Beazer map of the development provided to potential buyers, there is tiny print in the bottom left corner stating that “all items are subject to change.”
A spokeswoman for Beazer’s corporate office told NBC 5 that this concept map came from the developer.
Ben Luedtke, executive vice president of development for the developer, Hanover Properties, told NBC 5’s Consumer Unit that to his knowledge there were no plans for an amenity center and he would not say how one got into the Beazer sales material.
There are other builders in the Parks at Willow Ridge, and the homeowners NBC 5’s Consumer Unit spoke with said that an amenity center was not mentioned by their builder.
“I was angry and upset because I felt that Beazer had misrepresented themselves,” said Alston.
In Texas, there are potential recourses. The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act may protect consumers or home buyers who feel they have been misled.
“If someone feels like they had purchased a home based on a misrepresentation then there are avenues for people to take,” said SMU Dedman School of Law, Interim Dean, Julie Forrester. “Homeowners in that situation might want to consult an attorney to see if they do have a good cause of action.”
But pursuing legal options is expensive, so Forrester cautioned that it’s best for home buyers to protect themselves on the front end.
“Get your expectations in writing from the builder, from the developer, from the seller,” Forrester said.
NBC 5’s Consumer Unit has a copy of one of the homeowner’s contracts with Beazer and the amenity center is not included.
Beazer said it regrets any confusion and referred NBC 5’s Consumer Unit to a letter written to residents of the Parks at Willow Ridge by Ben Luedtke, of Hanover Properties.
Right now, Luedtke is serving as president of the homeowners association until there are enough residents in the community to take it over and run it.
It stated, Hanover, along with the builders and management company, were working to “identify the timing, the location, the programming and the costs associated with a future amenity center.”
Luedtke, however, would not say who would pay to build it.
“I think a community of this size needs one, but that’s not my obligation or responsibility,” Luedtke said.
Residents hope to resolve the matter out of court, but haven’t taken the option of a lawsuit off the table.
For Corey Kellam, it’s been a difficult introduction into the world of home ownership.
“We had scrimped and saved,” said Kellam. “We dreamed about our first house for three and half years of our marriage. To have this happen, to come to the table with as much money as we did, to have sacrificed much as we did during the early part of our marriage, to have this moment and to see someone, in my opinion, just rip it away, is terribly painful.”