Rob Hixenbaugh has always been at home on the Internet; he only wishes he felt the same way in his new home.
The Montville Township mortgage broker had been waging a one-man campaign against his home builder, Drees Homes of Fort Mitchell, Ky., on the Internet since early this year.
He criticized the builder's workmanship in the Ridgewood Falls subdivision and Drees' follow-up on complaints. After two years of dealing with Drees, he decided to make his complaints public with the Web site www.DontDoDrees.com.
The Web site revealed a sponsored link www.OurDreesExperience.com with the text, "Considering Drees Homes? Read one family's story first."
The message helped Hixenbaugh reach a settlement with Drees Homes. He said he planned to take his Web site down this week.
However, Hixenbaugh, 36, had joined a growing chorus of aggrieved homebuyers who have chosen to deal with conflicts with their various homebuilders by creating "gripe sites," Web sites whose sole aim is to draw attention to and correct a company's mistakes.
"It's a shame that Mr. Hixenbaugh has taken this as his crusade," said Drees spokeswoman Anne Mitchell. "They have an absolute right to give their opinion on the Web; it's just unfortunate . . . because we have made an honest and sincere attempt to satisfy them."
Mitchell said the Hixenbaughs had already signed off on all the warranty issues they raised, except for the backyard drainage problems, which apparently were resolved Monday. Drees plans to install a French drain.
Hixenbaugh said he developed the Web site as a last resort, because he couldn't get satisfaction any other way. He said he was overwhelmed with the public's response to it.
Scott Santora of Strongsville began his battle with Pulte Homes of Ohio in 1993, before the Internet was popular. Today, he has his own Web site documenting his decade-long legal struggle, in addition to being national vice president and webmaster for Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings (www.HADD.com).
Dr. Ruth S. Martin, a Cleveland psychiatrist, wishes the Internet was around when she fought a builder in the 1980s. She told her story in two self-published books, "And They Built a Crooked House" (1991) and "Crumbling Dreams" (1993).
Martin's books may be read online at www.lakesidepress.com.