WJTV News Channel 12 - Couple learns hard lesson about home buying

Couple learns hard lesson about home buying

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

For one New York couple who tried to retire in Wake Forest, their dream home has become a headache after the contractor terminated their contract – and put the house up for sale.

David and Carrietta Ford spent a year on the custom-built house, with a radio system, Jacuzzi and hardwood floors throughout the first floor.

But now, they can't even enter what they thought would be their home.

"This house started out like our baby and at completion they just took my baby away from us … so much pain and so much hurt," David Ford said. "We've been looking forward to this. We are both retirees coming down to the state of North Carolina to be embraced gracefully - not to be slapped around."

The Ford's got their money back, but they'll have to start building again from scratch.

"Now we have nothing," said Carrietta Ford.

They signed a contract to buy the land and build the house with an Atlanta-based general contractor named Peachtree Communities, LLC. Once it was built, the Fords hired Stonewall Structural Engineering to inspect the home.

The company found more than a dozen code violations.

"That would've cost us a lot of money," Carrietta Ford said.

Peachtree Communities fixed those code violations. But days before closing on the house, the Fords returned to Wake Forest and say they found about half a dozen upgrades they'd paid the company for had not been installed.

But an even bigger surprise came when the Fords saw their house for sale online. "I looked on the Internet and there was my house for sale for $314,000," said Carrietta.  She found it online for sale in March of this year.

Peachtree Communities listed the Ford's house for sale for about $35,000 more than the Fords had agreed to pay.

"They were selling the house and we didn't know anything," said Carrietta.  

The Fords say that's when they learned Peachtree Communities terminated their contract without cause.

The Fords did not sign the standard contract provided by the state, but instead signed a version provided by the company. That contract allows the company to terminate the contract.

The Fords' attorney, Nichole Hatcher, believes the contract was unfair and deceptive.

"In the event that a seller wants to terminate a contract at the very last minute and basically kick a buyer out of this property so that they can sell it at a higher price without any law being involved at all, it's just bad business," Hatcher said.

Independent real estate attorney Dan Milam, a member of the Durham Regional Association of Realtors, reviewed the Ford's contract and said the company didn't breach the contract, but there are a number of red flags that the Fords didn't catch.

The Fords are not alone.

James Call, another prospective home buyer from Peachtree, said, "We just don't want people to have to be in the same boat and wait four or five months to find out that the house they want to build is not happening for them. It's just not."

"Checking the builder out would've been the main line of defense in this case," Milam said.

Peachtree Communities, which is building homes across North Carolina, did not respond to voice mails, emails and letters from WNCN.

But it turns out the same owner of this Atlanta-based company owned Atlanta-based Legacy Communities. About the time Legacy Communities closed, Peachtree Communities opened.

WNCN found more than 100 online comments from homebuyers upset with the two companies, saying things like, "don't buy from them"… "never again" … "they couldn't build me a dog house" … "buyer beware."

Peachtree Communities is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau here, which gives the company a C+ rating as a result of more than a dozen complaints. The majority of them arise from problems with the product.

The North Carolina Attorney General's office and the State Licensing Board for General Contractors did not have complaints on file about the company.

But the Georgia State Office of Consumer Protection had more than a dozen on file against Legacy Communities. They said they have forwarded those complaints to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.

"I would say the reputation of the builder is the first thing you want to verify and then making sure that the contract is not totally slanted in favor of one side versus the other," said Milam.

This warning comes too late for some.

David Ford said, "I'm not looking for vengeance, I'm looking for somebody to treat me fair. That's all I'm looking for is to be treated fair, and I've not been treated fair by this company."

Resources for home buyers

* N.C. Attorney General's Office: (919) 716-6400

* N.C. Licensing Board for General Contractors: 919 571-4183

* Eastern N.C. Better Business Bureau (919) 277.4222

* You can watch our extended interview with the attorney for the Durham Regional Association of Realtors. Hear the red flags to look for, and the tips he has for potential buyers on our website.

Charlotte Huffman

An award-winning journalist with an investigative edge, Charlotte has driven legislative change with reports on workplace safety concerns and contaminated groundwater. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

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    Dan Milam, Milam & Idol PLLC is the consulting attorney for the Durham Regional Association of Realtors. Milam gives tips to home buyers and discusses the red flags to watch out for.
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