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Lemon Homes Take Center Stage at Open House
Monday, 06 February 2012

Homeowners hold open house to air complaints
A group of frustrated homeowners in the Fairhaven neighborhood opened their doors Saturday, leading several public officials on a tour of shifting foundations, cracked drywall and broken tile. Seventeen homeowners planted “Open House” signs in their front yards in hopes of bringing attention to their ongoing dispute with builder Pulte Homes.  Common complaints included sticking doors and foundation cracks that slice through the center of homes. Homeowners estimate that of 210 homes in Phases II and III of the neighborhood, 70 have reported problems.“We bought new construction because we thought we would not have all of these problems,” said Heather Camelio.

Homeowners hold open house to air complaints

By Jennifer Hiller 
A steady flow of water runs down Storm Ridge Street as residents in the Fairhaven subdivision
hold an “open house” to show structural problems in their homes on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.
Photo:Tom Reel, San Antonio Express-News / San Antonio Express-News    
See comments and  more photos below  

          SCHERTZ — A group of frustrated homeowners in the Fairhaven neighborhood opened their doors Saturday, leading several public officials on a tour of shifting foundations, cracked drywall and broken tile.

Seventeen homeowners planted “Open House” signs in their front yards in hopes of bringing attention to their ongoing dispute with builder Pulte Homes.

Common complaints included sticking doors and foundation cracks that slice through the center of homes. Homeowners estimate that of 210 homes in Phases II and III of the neighborhood, 70 have reported problems.

“We bought new construction because we thought we would not have all of these problems,” said Heather Camelio, whose home has had foundation cracks, cabinets and counters separating from the walls, and a broken water line. Her driveway was replaced once but appears to be separating from the house again.

Officials who went on the tour included state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, Guadalupe County Judge Mike Wiggins, Guadalupe County Commissioner Jim Wolverton, Schertz City Councilman David Scagliola, Guadalupe County first assistant county attorney Robert Etlinger and Rosa Rosales, the former national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

The invited guests asked questions, but mostly let homeowners do the talking.

Or in Ken Russell's case, he let a glass jar do the talking. He set a jar on the floor in his living room, where it rolled swiftly across the tiled floor, then back toward him, eventually rocking back and forth over the site of a foundation crack.

“A crack like that can't be fixed,” he said.

Valerie Dolenga, a spokeswoman for Pulte, said the builder will work to repair homes. She said a third-party engineer is “near the end of his analysis for the homes,” and that work will be peer-reviewed.

“We're still working on it. I know it's frustrating,” Dolenga said. “I think they're nearing a solution.”

By the end of February, she said the builder will have identified the cause of the problems and repair protocols.

“Each home is different,” she said. “Some of the repairs could be the same, but the cause and the issues are all different.”

Brian and Peggy Benavides have one of the more arduous tales. The couple spent two months in a hotel in late 2010 while Pulte had a foundation company install 46 piers at a depth of 48 feet. They said it took Pulte six months to reimburse them for their $4,000 hotel bill.

Now their home is showing signs of foundation problems in the same spots as before. And mold — which has been dealt with once — is back.

“Now I'm pregnant and we have mold again,” Peggy Benavides said. “Please explain to me how that is healthy.”

They have a U.S. Housing and Urban Development form that the builder filled out in 2008 stating that the home site does not have expansive soil.

But a 2010 letter from the builder to the couple states that the problems were because of “expansive soils (clay) your home is built on.”

Several people said they were concerned about fill dirt. Ryan Travis said he believes his property is the site of an old spring-fed tank, visible in aerial photos from 2004. He's concerned that cracks and stuck doors are the start of larger problems.

“It's just a matter of time,” he said.

About 45 owners have asked the builder to repurchase homes. Dolenga said buybacks are not on the table, and that fewer than 60 homes have reported a problem to the builder.

The builder also will start doing “some small group homeowner meetings in mid- to late-February,” she said.

Pulte is the parent company of Centex Homes, which in early 2010 saw a rock-clad retaining wall fail dramatically between the Rivermist and Hills of Rivermist neighborhoods on the Northwest Side. The builder eventually repurchased 22 homes.

 Participants walk by a damaged foundation as residents in Fairhaven subdivision hold an “open house” to show structural problems in their homes on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.

Charlie Sanchez (center) holds a protest sign as residents of the Fairhaven subdivision hold an “open house” to show structural problems in their homes on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012

Homes in Fairhaven subdivison in Schertz are displaying foundation issues 

Pedro Frecheu used notes to mark foundation cracks throughout his Fairhaven home during an “open house” to show structural problems in the subdivision's homes
Janet Ahmad (center) meets with Guadalupe County Judge Mike Wiggins (center left) as residents in Fairhaven subdivision “open house” to show structural problems in their homes on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.       

A long crack show in the garage floor of a home in the Fairhaven subdivison in Schertz

The concrete foundation of a a home in 5400 block of Storm King shows issues as homes in Fairhaven subdivison in Schertz are examined 

Faye Touve tests the depth of a void in a retaining wall behind homes in the Fairhaven subdivison in Schertz where foundations are showing cracks

   Photos: Tom Reel, San Antonio Express-News / San Antonio Express-News



Name withheld


2:31 PM on February 8, 2012

Free Market? How is it a free market when the mega homebuilders drive smaller reputable builders out of business? These Wall Street Goliaths of the industry are not driven by ethics but by the dollar, rather than the welfare of the consumer. Deception, HUD’s deregulation, lack of state and local oversight, assures success for greater profits and substandard construction without responsibility.

Using skillful marketing schemes to entice naïve new homebuyers unregulated builders have no incentive to construct homes right the first time or even the foundation to withstand unsuitable expansive clay soil they hauled in initially. Then when foundations fail builders blame the owner for not watering the foundation or God for too little or too much rainfall, triggering destructive ground movement.

Homeowners are doomed by builder friendly mandatory binding arbitration, a practice of a privatized judicial system imposed in lieu of homebuyers’ 7th amendment right to their day in court.

When there is no competition the free market of shoddy homebuilding becomes THE STANDARD of shoddy vs. shoddy amongst giants. This is the legacy of Fairhaven. Moral of this story is homebuyers do not get what they pay for.

Name withheld


7:44 AM on February 6, 2012

This should do wonders for their home values, but I guess at this point, they don't really care. Good luck to them.


Name withheld


9:03 PM on February 5, 2012

My friend who was a licensed engineer built homes in the South Texas area. He gave up since the buyers would tell him that the cost per square foot was higher than his competitor. Well his houses still stand today without the numerous problems other neighbors are having.
Moral of this story is you get what you pay for. Pay the man now or pay the repairman double later. Your choice.


10:21 AM on February 6, 2012

If you go with the lowest bidder, you get what you pay for.


Name withheld


8:11 PM on February 5, 2012

To retiredinlavernia who thinks these are "normal" ocurrences. Please re-read paragraph 13 of the article...Those people had their home pier and beamed - 46 piers to a depth of 48 feet - and they are still experience foundation problems. How do you explain that? Is that "normal"?? These people are having real problems with their homes! I think it is despicable that Pulte homes isnt standing behind their product to fix it; and if the fix doesnt work then they do need to buy these homes back!! If you bought a product from target that was defective would you not go and return it?!?!?!?


Name withheld


9:55 AM on February 5, 2012

Good for the residents to make their tragic situation known.
Schertz town council needs to be aware of many residents dissatisfaction as it relates to their megalomaniacal rush to build at all costs.
Just look at the traffic nightmare this town has created in just a few years with a subsequent decrease in our quality of life and a corresponding increase in crime and pollution.
Fairheaven residents, I am sorry to tell you, but you will not receive support from the Schertz council members, they are not concerned about those issues, just expanding as fast as they can.
Of course the developers play right into the hands of the council members, as is demonstrated in this case.
All the best to all of you. This town needs to be on the receiving end of bad publicity that it deserves, as it should have been when this thoughtless expansion boom started a decade ago.


Name withheld


9:48 AM on February 5, 2012

In addition to my lengthy screed, I plead that at least 10 will read, understand and pass along to just one other who will do the same.

I made the silly/assanine assumption the realtor/salesperson was concerned with MY best interests.

READ the disclosure statement! I didn't and guess what is says? Yep, the realtor is representing the SELLER and has no legal responsibility to the buyer.

Most certainly I ignored reality...but I could not ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

Again, look at the Sunday paper and each weekday edition...would anyone reading this believe this paper or any government organization would skew the advantage towards the educating the consumer?

You are on your own...CAVEATE EMPTOR!!!


Name withheld


9:23 AM on February 5, 2012

To the person who thinks the photos show normal foundation movement -- horizontal cracks are NEVER normal. What are you smoking? There will always be those who want to blame the homeowners - until it is THEIR house with the problems. We need lemon laws that protect the consumer and we need to get rid of binding arbitration. Builders will continue to construct and market a shoddy product as long as they can get away with it. When the city of Schertz allows this poor construction to continue under their noses you can expect more of the same in months and years to come.


Name withheld


8:30 AM on February 5, 2012

Builders should do soil analysis before starting a new neighborhood. What civil engineer designed and approved these foundations? Pulte used to build good houses in the 1980s. Now they are just like KB and DR Horton.


Name withheld


8:25 AM on February 5, 2012

I am amazed anyone was actually able to view any of the homes over the obnoxious enormous pachuca hat Miss Rosa Rosales was probably sporting.


Name withheld


7:06 AM on February 5, 2012

All the photos appear to be VERY NORMAL foundation movement for buildings built on expansive clays. They should have invited GOD so they could discuss with him (or her to be PC) why he/she made a material that creates so much movement with variation in moisture content. If you want a house that does not move buy one in North SA or Austin where the soil is solid limestone or spend 15 times more for the foundation and build a suspended system supported on 35 to 40 foot deep piers.


Name withheld


6:09 AM on February 5, 2012

Apparently I am more of a free market kinda guy...

There is adequate history for one to logically conclude the home building industry -- at least in Texas -- is doing a spectacular job of building inferior junk at best.

What this newspaper is omitting is the #1 important fact; the homeowners agreed to never sue the builder in a court of law. EVER!

Nevertheless these people remain responsible for making their mortgage payments, cracking/falling apart house or not.

Can we who invest in a new home in Texas truly afford to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement? Do we actually realize we are giving up OUR constitutional right (7th Amendment) to seek redress in a court of law?

Come on folks, can we even sue them for fraud?

Let a fee market principle function...STOP giving away our constitutional right just to buy on a new home -- get up and walk away!

Parading these corrupted politicians around faulty construction will not get you anywhere -- check political contribution websites and see the flow of $$$ these people receive from home builders.

When home builders can no longer sell their products with a mandatory arbitration agreement, they will be forced to take it out and build a reasonable product.

NOBODY -- government or even this newspaper or TV news, who in fact will warn you of email and other scams -- WILL NOT warn you about signing your rights away.

Just imagine how long any home builder would stay in business when they build cra...junk like this!


Name withheld


10:38 PM on February 4, 2012

And who signed off on the inspections that your homes should have had? Here they do the job and 6 weeks later the approval comes in if anyone has protested.

Name withheld


9:42 PM on February 4, 2012

GO HOMEOWNERS!! Too many laws protect the builders... and it's not just Pulte that builds junk. It was all the tract home builders around here and especially what they were building during the boom years. We have friends in Armadilllo, Lennar, DR Horton, Highland and all have some sort of problems. They threw them up in weeks without any sort of inspections along the way and I still see in happening in Alamo Ranch. I hope every single one of these homeowners gets their home bought back.


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