FIRST UNITED REALTY INC. (THE DEVELOPER)
Like any other couple - we had a goal to build a dream home for our retirement in Arizona. After a long search (we started looking for land in 1997) we purchased what we thought was the perfect piece of property 50 miles south of Tucson on Salero Ranch in Tubac.
We bought this land through First United Realty, Inc. of Phoenix Arizona; the largest seller of privately owned land in Arizona. They have developments all over the state and their principals contribute regular sums of money to the political machine in Arizona.
Our nightmare began in December of 1999, around the time that the pad of our home was being poured. First United sold Unit III of Salero Ranch, (a parcel about 2 miles away, that was visible through our living room windows) to ASARCO mines, a company sold to Grupo Mexico, a Mexican corporation, a month earlier in November of 1999.
First United told us that the land was to be traded to the forest service and would be protected from development. We trusted that First United Agent Marty Ryan was telling us the truth, however a year and a half later in 2001, we discovered that this trade never occurred. In fact during that time period a trade was never even attempted.
In fact First United sold this land to a Mexican owned mining company complete with mining rights! This means that ASARCO could choose to rip apart the hills and start strip mining. You can imagine how we felt, especially since the only access to Unit III was the road directly in front of our home. First United touted the views, the protective covenants, and the serenity of Salero Ranch. These things were all threatened by the very company that touted them and William Lucas, director and Anita Pennick, Investigator of the Arizona Department of Real Estate would do nothing about what we believed to be false advertising and statements on the part of First United Realty.
To top it off, the land in Unit III contained substantial toxic mine tailings that were polluting the water in the stream that passed through them. This stream fed directly into Bond Creek which is the main water source in Units I & II and from there on into the Santa Cruz River. After we notified the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) about the problem, ASARCO was ordered to clean up the tailings. To our knowledge no clean up has ever occurred, although we were told by ADEQ that ASARCO was to be fined for not cleaning the tailings up.
You should also be aware that the un-subdivided lands reports issued by the State of Arizona that developers are required to give you is not checked for accuracy or truth by the Arizona Department of Real Estate. The Department of Real Estate assumes that the information the developer writes in his/her own report is true. They only investigate the veracity if a complaint is lodged.
Besides the sale of land to ASARCO, First United also misrepresented the road maintenance and ownership in their un-subdivided lands report. When we filed a complaint with the Department of Real Estate - they only made First United change and correct the reports! There was no compensation or correction for the people who had already purchased land based on an incorrect un-subdivided lands report. In fact there are no penalties at all. It costs the developer nothing to misrepresent the truth!
Please check out First United's website at www.arizonaland.com (Clicking on this link will open a new window, just close the 1st United link when finished to return to our page).
After clicking on the link, scroll down to the circle with "How to Buy Land Without Getting a Lemon" inside and click through to a message from First United President Richard Schust.
Never before has the phrase "buyer beware" meant so much.
Please notice how they try to gain your confidence and trust. They tout truthfulness and openness and want to tell you how to avoid buying a lemon, and then they sold us property without proper access and then sold one of the units to a mining company. They sold us the very lemon they warn about! Then they stack the deck in the way the homeowner's association is run. When they are still actively selling parcels they get three votes for every parcel versus the one vote that owners get. They also hand pick a sympathetic land owner (at Salero Ranch it was Curtis Smith who is a real estate agent for Long Realty and who handles properties on Salero Ranch and the surrounding areas) to be the owner representative on the board.
John Hudson (one of the original owners of Salero Ranch) was so upset at the fact that ranch owners had started complaining about the tactics of First United Realty (Hudson was after all losing money because sales were stagnating over road difficulties and the mine issue) that he tried to intimidate us by buzzing our home with his rented helicopter. He flew within 100 feet (vertically and horizontally) of the house in high speed passes (over 100 miles per hour) not once but twice. We have video of this event. We also have video of the helicopter on the ground at the Hudson ranch. We contacted the nearest FAA facility ( Scottsdale Arizona ) and lodged a complaint with them about the safety aspects of what Mr. Hudson was doing. After a month had passed with no word from the FAA we re-contacted the facility and were told they could find no record of our complaint. We faxed the complaint letter to them again and this time they followed up. We were informed by the FAA that Mr. Hudson had received a warning!
Now mind you this wasn't the first time that Hudson had used his helicopter to intimidate others on the ranch. When Bob and Fredericka Green had lodged complaints about the lack of electrical service to their home site Hudson buzzed their home site with his helicopter. The FAA was informed of this prior event in our complaint.
Make up your own mind about them - but educate yourself- we wish we had. We've learned not to trust what agents say or what slick advertising represents. Remember, the un-subdivided lands report wasn't worth the paper it was written on. We don't know how you can fully investigate your purchase. The Arizona Department of Real Estate is no help what so ever. We never would have purchased our land or built our home if we had known that First United Realty was going to sell land to ASARCO mines.
The Arizona Department of Real Estate in fact is awash in regulations with no power to enforce them. In fact Mr. Lucas told us that the regulations enacted by the Republican controlled Arizona State Legislature (of which the developers and builders are the largest political campaign contributors) left them with no enforcement muscle. Regardless of the "muscle" afforded the Department of Real Estate, Investigator Anita Pennick never even talked to the ranch owners who filed complaints and never went out to the property. She only talked to the developer and then directed all of us to contact him directly for resolution of any future problems. Please! The very man who sold unit 3 to a mining company with mining rights is who she expects to be able to resolve this issue? This seems to be a whitewash to us. Once again the fox is watching the henhouse. This is an agency that is set up to register, regulate, and educate real estate agents and developers. Their loyalties seem to lie with the developers and real estate agents. You can see a copy of her response in the documents section of this website.
Four separate landowners then filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General's Office. They advised us to hire a lawyer and file a civil complaint. It's all a trap - you might get justice - if you have unlimited resources.
We thought the situation with First United Realty was bad enough - little did we know what lay ahead with McCreary Homes and our dream.
LJ MCCREARY OF MCCREARY HOMES (THE BUILDER)
We met LJ McCreary in 1997 through our real estate agent
Fran Epsen (another Long Realty Agent from Tucson - see her picture in the documents section under Hall of Shame).
She recommended McCreary as a superb custom home builder. Unbeknownst to us Fran Epsen was receiving a kickback from McCreary for bringing him business. Neither Ms. Epsen nor Mr. McCreary ever revealed that Epsen was being paid for referring customers. Epsen also represented herself as a novice real estate agent when in fact she had been involved in her husband's real estate company as an officer since 1978 and a licensed agent since 1991. We have recently filed a complaint with the Department of Real Estate against Fran Epsen. Ms. Epsen and Long Realty deny that she was ever paid by Mr. McCreary. During our lawsuit proceedings, Mr. McCreary turned over a photocopy of a $3446.00 check made out to Fran Epsen. Obviously someone is not telling the truth
Epsen's recommendation as well as our own interview with McCreary and a subsequent lawyer's financial investigation and a check of both the Better Business Bureau and the Arizona Registrar of Contractors convinced us to go forward. We thought we did everything we could to check out this builder. McCreary was a member of the National Home Builders Association and the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association (also known as SAHBA). These organizations advertise that they only allow "quality builders" to join. McCreary himself touted his Midwest roots and Christian values. We felt very comfortable that his values were in line with ours - but in retrospect we recognize that it was nothing more than a con job.
As we mentioned before, the system is set up to protect the builder. The Registrar of Contractors only makes complaints lodged within the previous two years available. Our court case went longer than two years and even before it ended, our complaints against McCreary had been erased from his licensing record at the Registrar's office. If a complaint went through a mediation system (as we know one did against McCreary) rather than the registrars office there is no record of it at all. You should check your builder out through the civil court system for your area as well. If any lawsuits have been filed - they at least will show up. Mediations however, remain dead and buried. Unfortunately, doing all the homework doesn't guarantee you a great build.
McCreary introduced us to Greg Simmons of Simmons Home Design, by walking us over to his office (which was located in the same complex as McCreary's office) and encouraged us to use him, as they had done many builds together. McCreary sat in on every single design meeting and went over every change in the design. McCreary touts himself as being very involved in every aspect of the build. Unfortunately that involvement for us, stopped at the time the contract was ultimately signed. Little did we know, we were doomed towards financial disaster at this point in time. McCreary visited our site only three times in the entire build. Simmons designed the house we asked for, however there were design flaws that later became quite apparent.
Fred Pace, owner/architect of Pace Engineering in a report filed for our court case, indicated that the construction design for the master suite porch contained no way to stop water from channeling through the walls. This negligent design and the fact that the builder did not recognize that there was no water barrier between the first and second floors caused some of the major problems in the house (something McCreary should have had enough experience to recognize).
McCreary cannot claim ignorance of any of the flaws. He was involved in every single design change. He did not however get the redlines done properly, nor did he file new blueprints with Santa Cruz County as he was legally required to do when we made site changes. When we asked about getting new plans done McCreary said no, we would just work off of the redlines. That may work if all the subs are given the correct set of blueprints. That didn't happen with us. In fact at one point supervisor Ray Quintero told us that there were three different sets of plans floating around the house. No wonder things were so screwed up.
In June of 1999 grading began on our site. Our contract with McCreary was signed in August and the building permit was pulled in November because McCreary couldn't get the septic approved. We got the approval in a single phone call and it was forwarded to McCreary the same day we called. The pad was poured shortly after the permit was received. Things were finally moving along - except the build was not being supervised like we thought it would be.
Despite telling us that he would personally supervise our build, McCreary hired an outside firm to check in on the house once a week as it was going up. Curt Miller of Arizona Building Consultants was who McCreary hired. When we questioned McCreary on why an outside company was being hired for supervision, McCreary said that he was going to concentrate more on the sales side of the business and thought Curt would be able to provide us with better supervision since he lived closer to where we were building.
We thought things were going okay until Curt went on vacation in February of 2000 and all building on the house ceased. When we contacted McCreary, he wasn't even aware that Miller was on vacation nor did he know that the framers hadn't been out to the house in 3 weeks. Things rapidly went downhill from here. Three different framing crews- all hired by Michael Clark owner of Terra Cotta Building and Development Inc. (also known as Terra Cotta LLC) - all with the wrong set of plans, kept tearing things out and redoing them. We started going out to the site (a 4 hour round trip from our house in Tucson ) daily to check on what was happening. Windows were put in where doors should have been, the master suite shower wall was framed when it was supposed to be all glass block, communication was terrible between the supervisor and McCreary and the crews working on the house. After the completion of the house and while legal proceedings were heating up, we found out from a witness that the framing crews were seen smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol on site. Did McCreary hire the cheapest subcontractor/framers to build our house? The lack of supervision caused substantial defects. We wound up withholding a draw and meeting in March with McCreary in order to get things on track.
After meeting with McCreary we released the draw to him. We thought communication was improving and in early April, when McCreary Homes suggested that a new supervisor who would be on the site most of the time was the way to improve the way the build was going - we readily agreed. Little did we know when Ray Quintero showed up on site that we should have run very fast in the opposite direction. Only after our home was substantially completed did we discover that our new supervisor had only 5 months of construction experience and his previous experience had been as a diesel mechanic in one of the mines northeast of Tucson. He had no idea if things were being done according to plan or if the correct materials were being used.
McCreary turned over most of the communicating to Quintero and it became clear that McCreary was increasingly uninvolved in his business. With Quintero on board, things were proceeding at a more rapid pace - but rapid didn't mean that things were being done right. In fact shortly after Quintero started working on the project our entire window package was delivered - all in the wrong color! This despite the fact that the color was clearly stated in our contract and that Eric Phillips (a McCreary Home Employee) had previously ordered another home's windows in the wrong color. We debated about keeping the windows (to get our color would have caused a substantial delay of 6 or more weeks) over a period of a couple weeks and finally negotiated concrete bancos on the north porch as an exchange for a window package that was not what we wanted. McCreary Homes' inattention to detail should have be a clue about what lay ahead of us.
We were originally scheduled to move into our home in June of 2000, however, when it became clear that it wasn't going to happen, we had another meeting with McCreary. McCreary admitted that things were running behind. He told us that he had become very involved in Amway and in Quixtar, an online division of Amway that involved several product lines including plumbing fixtures. This was all a profit making venture and McCreary tried on one occasion to get me to purchase items for the house through Quixtar. Of course I would have had to pay for the privilege of using the Quixtar service. McCreary said he was looking for that company to help him to an early retirement. We couldn't believe what we were hearing. In fact later on, Jim Groshiem of J&G tile (an excellent company to work with - we had no problems with them at all) told us that McCreary had asked him to go out with him one night without telling him it was an Amway meeting. Jim felt he had been lured there on false pretenses. It was clear to us that as McCreary had become increasingly involved in Amway his attention had been diverted from his custom home building business. He was giving over increasing responsibility to Eric Phillips, who was unreliable at best. We were very concerned but felt it was too late in the game to switch builders. In retrospect we realize we should have switched builders in March of 2000 when we first had problems.
On July 10th, 2000 when the mason was placing the rock front on the great room fireplace, he told us that there was a problem with the great room ceiling. The ceiling was sagging noticeably. The great room was a twenty-six foot octagon with a rough sawn pine tongue-in-groove ceiling attached to pine vigas in a wagon wheel look. The tongue-in-groove was supposed to be 2X6 in construction in order to accommodate the span of the ceiling (cccording to the contract). We immediately notified McCreary Homes (through Quintero) and were told that it would be checked out.
We moved into the house on August 19th over two months after our promised June move in date. Problems with the construction of the house immediately became clear. Even though McCreary knew we had to move by the end of August, the day the movers arrived there were only two working lights in the entire house. If that wasn't bad enough we kept finding things wrong with the house.
The kitchen island (a 12 foot island cabinet base with a granite top) rocked to and fro and was so dangerous that we banned our children from touching it. The island's granite and plywood top was not placed properly on the base and the brunt of the weight (approximately 400 lbs) was being held up by 6 screws along the northern side of the island base. The kitchen designer was Tamara Newell of Arizona Designs Kitchens and Baths, owned by Michael O'Brien. We would not recommend them. We were without cabinet fronts on some of the drawers for over 6 months, the island design was not resolved until we filed a registrar's complaint directly against Arizona Designs Kitchens and Baths and Michael O'Brien. The kitchen was a mess.
To top it off, after discovering the island problem, we realized the ceiling was sagging even more. After climbing a ladder to check it out (The ceiling was 22 foot high) we realized that the wood used in the ceiling was 1X6 rather than the contract required 2X6 (You can see pictures of the difference in thickness in the picture section of this website under the great room category). The last day of our construction loan was August 31st. On that day McCreary sent out Mike Clark, owner of Terra Cotta Framers, to look at the problem. We discovered the switch in materials before he arrived. Of course we were supposed to convert to a conventional mortgage when the construction loan expired. It must have just been a "coincidence" that McCreary would address this problem on the last day of our construction loan. (We doubt it). Clark and Quintero (McCreary Supervisor) tried to convince us that just bracing the current ceiling was the solution. We refused that solution and asked for the ceiling the contract called for.
After discovering the ceiling and the island however, we became concerned about what else was wrong. We refused to allow the last draw (only 9% of the total contract, the other 91% had already been paid to McCreary) until the house was fixed. We did not close on a permanent loan on the house until October, which cost us over an additional $10,000.00 in construction loan interest on the house. We converted the loan over in October, not because we were satisfied with the house, but because the costs of continuing to carry the construction loan were prohibitive.
McCreary hired another framing firm to tear the ceiling out (from the inside of the house) and rebuild it. That meant that for the 16 days it took to repair the ceiling, the five of us lived in the upstairs master bedroom where our kids slept on mattresses on the floor and we had to walk outside to get to the kitchen (As a side note the house was infested with mice, which we discovered when they ran over the top of our kids while they were sleeping. Needless to say an exterminator was called the next day). To top it off, when the ceiling was removed we discovered that the insulation was never installed correctly. We found out later that Quintero did the insulation of the great room himself. There were gaps of up to 18 inches in between the insulation bales. The overall quality of the insulation was atrocious. Photos of the way the insulation looked are on this website under the great room.
One would think that this would be as bad as it could get... Nope.
On August 26th a huge storm rolled through the ranch with hail, wind, and wild lightning. A bolt of lightning struck near the house. Because the house stands on a ridge we wanted to install a lightning rod system. McCreary Homes recommended Jon Ruez as an installer and we agreed to the system he recommended. We wanted to run the costs of the lightning rod system through our mortgage loan because it assured us of proper construction and billing. Only after the house was completed did we find out that Jon Ruez, the lightning rod installer, was an unlicensed contractor. We found out when McCreary came to us and asked us to pay the contractor directly from our own funds. He said it would save us the 26% surcharge to run it through his office. This astounded us on many fronts. First we never agreed to and our contract does not allow any surcharge. Second when we said no we wanted to run it through our home loan - McCreary finally confessed that he couldn't find a license number for this contractor and he couldn't run it through his license. So, he recommended a contractor to us, set up the appointment and never checked to see if this guy was licensed! Such attention to detail! Then suddenly after he files the lawsuit, he says we hired this contractor outside of our contract with McCreary. McCreary refused to accept responsibility for hiring an unlicensed contractor and instead tried to pawn the responsibility off on us. Now let's get this straight - McCreary recommends the guy, sets up the appointment for us to talk to him at our home site, runs the bill through his company and then says we hired him. Please!
One of the heat pumps on the roof had been severely damaged by the hail because louver doors had not been placed over the coils. The smaller unit had doors installed but the larger unit did not. Quintero lied to us and told us that they were on the truck but not installed by Andros Refrigeration. We found out later from Andros that this was not true. The doors had never been ordered because they were a $50 option! We also discovered that the heat pump was installed damaged (it had vertical compression damage that affected the coils). Andros employees admitted to the Registrar of Contractors inspector during the complaint investigation that Quintero/McCreary had told them to go ahead and install the damaged unit. They also said it was damaged in the crate. In order to settle the complaint, Andros installed a new unit, changed some defective ducting (the intake and outtake grills in the master suite were within 12" of each other) and upgraded our thermostats.
At this same time we discovered that our custom made $2500 front door was defective (we think it was $2500 - McCreary charged us both nearly $2900 on October 10, 2000, then after filing his lawsuit in January 2001, he increased the price to nearly $3500 on March 20, 2001 - look under documents on this website at the Butler/Southwest Doors documents). The door, made by Butler Door/Southwest Doors had spaces between the panels so large that wind, rain, and dirt blew through the door. In fact under pictures on this website in the great room section, you will see how the camera can focus on distant images of the outdoors through the cracks. The product was defective. Quintero accepted the door, Butler/Southwest Door refused to fix it. McCreary refused to stand behind it. In fact a Registrar of Contractors inspector called the door a "piece of junk." Pretty expensive junk!
McCreary continuously refused to give us accurate billings. We had asked for lumber receipts for over a year. We now know why he didn't want to provide them - he was overcharging us by more than $9500.00! No wonder he didn't want to show us anything. You can go to jail for stealing a candy bar but commit white-collar crime and everyone walks. We finally received the documentation two and a half years after we first requested them. We had to subpoena the lumber company and the framers as part of this lawsuit. You can see the actual bills and receipts in the document section of this website.
McCreary also tried to overcharge for changes. We changed the color of a ceiling in a single bedroom and asked to have it repainted. McCreary charged us close to $850 for the repainting. We spoke to the painters after receiving this bill and discovered that it took two painters 1.5 hours to paint this ceiling. The painters said the bill should not exceed $200 or so. We complained to McCreary about the outrageous charge and received a new bill for less than $200. He originally overcharged us more than 4 TIMES the actual amount owed. Imagine what happens in a build with McCreary Homes if you don't pay attention to what he sends you. McCreary specializes in builds for out of town clients. "Just pick up the keys!" one of his ads says. God help them! You can see the different bills on this website under documentation.
This still wasn't the worst of it though. Thank God for the October 2000 rains. Had it not been an unusually rainy fall - we may have never discovered that water ran freely through the south wall of the master porch on the upper level through to the garage on the lower level. The water started showing up at the stem walls and eventually bubbling through the walls and flowing under the paint (See pictures under the garage section). We also had water leaking under doors in the great room through windows in both the great room and the upper level stairwell. We also discovered that the driveway and garage floor (poured incorrectly by Mike McNary of McNary Company, a Tucson Concrete Company) had a negative slope and allowed water to come in the garage instead of draining away. One discovery continually led to another in this house. At the end - we discovered that termites had infiltrated the house because the second treatment had never been applied, due to the lack of final grading. McCreary left our house in terrible shape. Look at the pictures and you'll see what we mean.
For instance, after we discovered the ceiling wood was the wrong size we realized that the plywood floor in the master suite was the wrong thickness (3/4" rather than the 1&1/8" required by the contract) helping us to understand why the carpet was so much lower than the tile. To the best of our knowledge we were charged the cost of the 1& 1/8" plywood and the 2X6 tongue and groove ceiling. McCreary regularly violated his own contract with us. McCreary cut corners wherever he could. We were amazed that despite all of the defects (over 200), HE HAD THE NERVE TO SUE US FOR THE LAST DRAW. The cost to cure was going to be more than the money we withheld! That brings us to the next step - lawsuits and the death of our American dream!
LAWYERS, INSURANCE CO'S & THE DEATH OF OUR DREAM
When we first discovered that the house had so many defects we thought we would be able to solve the problem by withholding the last draw, hiring Real Estate Attorney Jeff Neff, and filing complaints with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. We filed seven separate complaints with the Registrars office - three against McCreary and four against subcontractors (Arizona Kitchen Designs, Andros Refrigeration, McNary Concrete, and Terra Cotta Framing). Several of the subs told us that they had been told by McCreary not to respond to our requests for warranty service and repairs. McCreary Homes was ordered to repair hundreds of items. He fixed some of the more minor problems (only on the days of a Registrar's inspection) but after almost two years of waiting the list of repairs that still needed to be finished stood at more than 120 items.
When McCreary filed his lawsuit in January 2001 (in between Registrar's inspections 2 & 3) he left us no choice but to file a countersuit. We switched lawyers just prior to McCreary's filing, to a supposedly aggressive real estate lawyer in Tucson - The Law Firm of Dennis Rosen. All we wanted was the house we contracted for.
Just prior to meeting with Rosen, we discovered that the Van dan Elzens had filed a Registrar of Contractors complaint against McCreary as well. The Van dan Elzens also complained about faulty accounting and manufactured billings. In fact, McCreary overdrew their construction loan by more than $18,000 and Compass bank was threatening legal action against McCreary. This was all happening in October of 2000. We suspect that McCreary was counting on our final draw to pay off Compass bank. What was he using the Van dan Elzens money for? Who knows? He didn't use it on the Van dan Elzen's residence. You can read their filing in the documents section of this website.
McCreary stooped to incredibly low levels during this stage. Without our knowledge, or that of the Registrar of Contractor's, McCreary wore a wire and taped conversations during the second registrar's meeting and he also taped all of our phone calls. During this very stressful time, tempers sometimes flared, but our objective was always to have the defects in our home corrected and to determine what the fair price for our home was. McCreary acted dishonorably in many ways, but his surreptitiously tape recording the inspector and us shows how low he was willing to stoop. McCreary started tape recording after we learned that LJ stood for "Little John." We don't think Mr. McCreary appreciated our having that knowledge. He certainly didn't like being called "Little John." Perhaps we should have taken to calling him LC - for "Little Character."
As we dug deeper into the lawsuit, we realized that not only did we get a house with a ton of defects - but that we were vastly overcharged for what did get. In her deposition, Bookkeeper Karen Phillips testified that McCreary charged whatever profit margin he felt like. The accounting firm we hired (Peto & Peachin) found profit margins ranging from 8% to an unbelievable 110%. Their creative bookkeeping charged us profits twice on allowances and didn't debit our accounts correctly. The case continued to get more complicated, but we were looking forward to our day in court.
Judge Christopher Browning ordered us to a settlement hearing in front of Judge ProTem Skip Whitley in May of 2002 that wound up costing us $6000 in attorney's fees. Our bill for that month was more than $11,000. The settlement was supposed to wind up with our house being fixed. Despite the agreement we had - that two construction experts - one chosen by us (Fred Pace), and one chosen by the other side (Phillip Rosenberg), would decide what the appropriate fix was for each of the defects in the house. If the two experts could not agree a third expert agreeable to both parties would decide the fix. From the time of that agreement until our world fell in (ten months later) - thanks to Elizabeth Claiborne, Lawyer for State Farm, NOT A SINGLE ITEM IN THE HOUSE WAS REPAIRED. Continuance after continuance was granted. We spent $11,000 on nothing and in the end we were ordered by Judge Christopher Browning to attend another settlement conference. Nothing was ever fixed - it didn't seem to matter to the court that McCreary did not meet his contractual obligations nor did he repair anything. For all the money we spent on our attorney Dennis Rosen, we basically achieved nothing. Never have we been so frustrated.
What is most galling to us is that we paid McCreary's insurance policy price as part of our home cost. State Farm and their attorney Elizabeth Claiborne of McNamara, Goldsmith, Jackson and Macdonald PC, then spent more money fighting us than it would have cost to fix their clients errors. Both Claiborne and William Poorten of Snell and Wilmer (McCreary's personal lawyer) filed motion after motion, they made calls and wrote letter after letter that all required responses. In the end more than $100,000 worth of attorney's fees were accumulated on both sides and nothing got fixed.
We were left with a house riddled with defects when September 11th happened and the economy soured. By January 2003, we were faced with a substantial salary reduction with all our money tied up in a defective house. We contacted several real estate agents and none of them would take on the house for sale until it was fixed. We talked to our mortgage company (Residential Funding Corp, a subsidiary of GMAC [the financing arm of General Motors] as is ditech.com) and they would not negotiate our mortgage with us. We could no longer afford to keep fighting. Backed into a corner we were forced to walk away from our dream. It was excruciatingly devastating. We let the mortgage company foreclose - ruined our credit in the process and packed up our lives.
Our dream dropped over 50% of its appraised value with all the defects and problems caused by McCreary Homes. We owed McCreary only $41,000 from the last draw and even that amount was in dispute because of the accounting discrepancies (For instance McCreary charged us over $9500 more for the lumber than he should have. See the documents section for the proof). He never got any money - we lost our house. During the second settlement meeting in April of 2003, Dennis Rosen advised us to settle for $15,000 from the insurance company which went directly to him. Rosen said at the time that he would accept the $15,000 as payment in full. It was what he advised us to do - we were so devastated by what was happening we blindly signed. Then Rosen sends us another bill for $4000 for services after the settlement. We could not pay him, we had already lost everything. After the settlement all the lawyers and McCreary got into their luxury cars and drove home. We didn't have a house to go home to. We have owned a home or property steadily since 1985 - for the first time since then we didn't have a place to call our own. It was horrible. It was devastating. We still feel the pain. I suspect we always will.
The judicial system does not look for justice, it looks for a settlement. Judge Browning told us many times he didn't want to see us back in his courtroom. The system pushes you to settlement even when trial may be in your best interests. Unfortunately they used up all our money in pretrial motions that in the end - we couldn't afford to have our day in court. We were so stretched to the max that we ran our credit cards up to the limit as well as borrowed money. The stresses caused more arguments in the last three years than in the previous twenty of our marriage.
The only winners are the attorneys who make money no matter what. If anyone out there sees a way for us to recoup our losses or to help prevent this from happening to someone else, please email us. We want justice but we also want to stop anyone else from experiencing what we went through. Too many people just fold up and go home. We will not - we will hold our heads high and continue to advocate for change and retribution. We feel so screwed. We lost it all and in reality we did nothing wrong. We just trusted all the wrong people and in the end found out the hard way - when it comes to money - don't trust anyone.
Why are builders and developers allowed to act with impunity? Did you know that you can not be awarded any money for pain and suffering in real estate contract law? Nothing is more painful than dealing with unscrupulous people. What will it take to protect the consumer? We came to Arizona in 1997 with a lot of hope and promise for the future and a year later began building our retirement dream.. We invested six years of our lives, and thousands of dollars in down payments, even borrowing from our retirement account, and we spent countless days and weekends planting over $4,000 worth of trees around our property.
Arizona is a Republican dominated legislature. Politicians are always citing "Family Values" yet it is special interest money that funds their campaigns and lines their coffers. Builders and Developers have found a legislative haven in Arizona. They can act with malice and there is little the average consumer can do. When did it become "we the corporation" instead of "we the people"? We had an above average income and couldn't fight. What happens to the average homeowner? Is this what the politicians stand for - protection for the corporations and no protection for the consumer? If family values are so important to politicians, why do they support builders and developers that tear apart a family like ours? Something is terribly wrong in this state. What happened to us is criminal - all we wanted was to build a retirement home for us and a special place for our children and grandchildren to visit. It cost us everything - it almost cost us each other.