Integrity Use to Be a Valuable Commodity in New Home Building

Our first new home purchase. I knew we were to have issues and would be working through them. It was new and something we had not had before.

Arizona’s Registrar of Contractors says they are seeing an uptick in complaints against new home builders. Residents in Maricopa City is south of Phoenix where state highway 347 leads into the center of town. State Highway 347 is a coarse gravel highway with a speed limit of 65 except nobody obeys the limit or even 5 mph over. Minor point right now compared to the issues with a builder in the Lakes subdivision.

It is not just this builder either. There is Meritage, Horton, Hovnanian, and Gehan (Brightland). So far the later bunch has not been as bad as Richmond as detailed in the article. They all have their issues. A buyer must be on their toes 100% of the time and keep track of everything. Interesting story of how one builder has taken advantage of some new homeowners and balks at fixing the issues.

Occupants of new Maricopa homes frustrated with ongoing issues,”, Bianca Buono.

‘There are mice in your couch’: Occupants of new Maricopa homes frustrated with ongoing issues.

MARICOPA, Ariz. — Lisa and Michael Murphy were moving into their dream home. Moving from Oregon to Arizona in July 2022, they were eyeing a brand new community. “The Lakes” and a home being built by Richmond American.

It was exciting when Richmond American called and said one of their model homes was available. For an additional few thousand dollars, they could pay for the house to come fully furnished. They closed on the home in January.

“We assumed we were getting the best of the best,” said Lisa Murphy. “You figure, this has got to be perfect.”

But they say when they moved in, it was far from perfect. It was a mess.

‘There are mice in your couch’

“The house was filthy. There was urine on the toilet seat,” Murphy said. “Dirty decorator towels, the shower wasn’t cleaned. They said, ‘Oh, we hire a construction cleaning crew. So it’s never clean.'”

The Murphys hired a housekeeper who quickly made a disturbing discovery in their brand new home. Murphy said.

“She called me an hour after she got here and said there are mice in your couch. The mice had gotten in the dryer and defecated it all inside of it. Behind the fridge was a dead mouse. They were living in the box springs, they had eaten through the curtains, the comforters, the pillows.”

The Murphys moved out of their infested home while Richmond American came back and cleaned. Their problems did not end there.

“The irrigation system just blew up,” Murphy said.

Emails between the Murphys and Richmond American employees, including the senior area construction manager, document their frustrations. They made the company aware of plumbing problems. One plumbing company who examined the issues wrote the builder needs to “remove all plumbing from all sinks, replace all sinks, and reconnect all plumbing.”

The company did not address the problem or others on their 93-page inspection report for months. Most items are still needing to be fixed today.

“They treated you like kings and queens, but then once you sign and get your money, that’s it. It’s like they don’t care,” Murphy said.

The Murphys are not alone.

‘There has to be some accountability somewhere’

“We still haven’t had a housewarming because we’re too embarrassed,” said Renault Carrington.

Renault Carrington and Desiree Brown were excited to purchase their first home together as a couple. They live two doors down from the Murphys.

“The first couple of times when we came, we had somebody that showed us all the models,” Brown said.  “They made it seem like it was a very easy process, they would be there through every step, a quick process. So we really felt comfortable about making the jump to build here.”

Their excitement quickly faded.

“Where I noticed the red flags were right after the contract was signed, things that I wanted or paid for, all of a sudden, oh, they weren’t available,” Carrington said.

They moved into the home in March 2022. Their master bedroom shower did not have glass. Some faucets didn’t work. There were broken tiles. Their biggest issue at the time, though, was the flooring.

“Our top floor was extremely squeaky as we walked in,” Brown described. “It was very, very bad. And so we were just basically told to write it down, put it on the list and that it will be taken care of within the first 30 days.”

That didn’t happen. They say they then discovered water damage. They grew frustrated waiting for answers from Richmond American and contacted the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.

They say that’s when they got a response from Richmond American.

In the meantime, they had paid for an inspection which revealed more problems, including an “unacceptable” heating and ventilation system. The vent coming off their furnace goes down before it goes up, which according to the writer of the report, can prevent carbon monoxide from venting out of the home.

“We’ve had Richmond come in with their their AC people in the attic multiple times, never addressed it, never seen it. And the inspection caught that,” Carrington said.

Brown and Carrington said Richmond American eventually came in and tore out their flooring and the second story of their home. They had to live on the first floor throughout the construction process.

They were engaged at the time and had planned to have their wedding in their backyard with the lake as a backdrop. That wasn’t possible.

“There has to be some accountability somewhere,” Carrington said.

Keith Anacleto lives on the same street. He retired out of the Army in July 2022 and moved to Arizona from Texas to be closer to family. 

The red flags began for him and his wife when they handed over the keys — keys that he did not need because his front door didn’t lock.

“So they were like, well, we’ll just take your garage door lock and put it on your front door. Now the door needs to be painted because it’s like a white strip. And that’s when like the red flags came after that. Because it was like, ‘Why are we doing that? Why don’t we just fix it?’” Anacleto said.

12News outlined the concerns of all of these residents and more in an email to Richmond American. We made multiple requests for an on-camera interview. Instead, a spokesperson with the company sent the following two-sentence response.

“Richmond American Homes does not comment publicly on individual customer situations, but we do take them very seriously. For any customer who would like to reach out to us with concerns, we will address their situation with them.”

One resident in the Lakes community has grown so frustrated that they have posted signs in their front window showing a weekly report of how many items Richmond American has yet to fix in their home.

This summer, a year and a half after moving in, the Granthams moved out of their home while Richmond American fixed the problem.

“I think people from corporate Richmond in their home office should come down here and talk to people,” Grantham said. “How did it get missed by every other trades person and tradecraft that came through?”

In addition to Richmond American, the Granthams have questions for the City of Maricopa.

Residents question city’s inspection process

Maricopa has a population of 64,000 people, a 42% increase since 2010.

According to city data, the city is growing rapidly. There are about 26,000 housing units with people currently living in them and nearly double that is in the works. There are about 47,000 units in some stage of development in Maricopa.

City inspectors inspect all new homes throughout the building process.

“Shame on the City of Maricopa inspection office. I have grave concerns of what the rest of the quality of my house is on the inside that I can’t see,” Grantham said.

City of Maricopa spokesperson Quinn Konold told 12News city staff conducts or reviews eight inspections at various stages of construction for all single-family homes to ensure the homes are habitable. Konold declined 12News’ repeated requests for an interview to discuss the inspection process and residents’ quality concerns.

Konold said it is not the role of the city to inspect the quality of the home or to punish contractors when homes fail a specific inspection and complaints regarding home builds are directed to the state.

In a recent investor meeting, Richmond American boasted about improvement in it’s average construction cycle time, meaning they are building faster.

“Nobody takes responsibility and accountability for anything that’s happened. It’s always someone else’s fault,” Brown said.

Several homeowners in the Richmond American community have filed complaints with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors and in some cases, it has led to them seeing results or getting responses from the company.

But these neighbors believe it shouldn’t have to get to that point. 

They are calling on Richmond American to come talk to residents and see the community for themselves.

“I think people from corporate Richmond in their home office should come down here and talk to people. I think they should talk with residents and the City Council of Maricopa and see if they can earn back their right to continue to build,” Grantham said.

The state is seeing an ‘uptick’ in complaints

In a monumental ruling, the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that buyers of new homes have eight years to sue builders for any defects with their home, even if that is not explicitly written in their contract.

Experts say paying for your own inspection during the home buying process can help flag issues with your home.  

If you have concerns with the quality of your home, or if problems are not being addressed, the best course of action is to file a complaint with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. You can file a complaint here.

“While the Registrar does not track issues specifically related to New Home/Construction issues, we do know that the trend has been and continues to be that upon move-in, several items are left over from punch lists or not installed,” said an ROC spokesperson. “Although these types of issues have existed for years within the new home construction industry, the agency has seen an uptick in complaints in the last few years concerning items not completed prior to move-in.”