We’ve been struggling with one very incompetent or a better word would be “toxic” builder to simply complete our new house in Bronte Village, a rather sleepy bedroom community on the lake in Oakville (about 3/4 hour west of Toronto).
With almost four decades in the condo business I really had thought that I’d seen it all having for decades dealt with developers of high density condos in downtown Toronto and Florida.
I’m sorry to say that as incompetent and unethical as these guys have proven to be in the two years since we came across their small collection of reconstruction “luxury homes” being built right at the lake (a very rare find), is not representative of the worst developer I’ve known, but I can tell you for sure they rank right up their in the top escelon of classless, penny pinching short-change artists who make a living from promising “world class” workmanship when they have absolutely no intention of doing so.
They are simply after the money.
And these guys haven’t even proven good at that.
I’ve been fighting with them for over four months to simply finish off the house and they have proven simply incapable of doing the work.
I’m not emotionally upset with their constant deceptive tactics and outright lies as I’ve spent my entire career involved with this type of person, but I feel bad for the average consumer who is simply out there trying to do what they know they should do and buy a home.
The entire real estate industry has abandoned the consumer.
It tells you that there are all sorts of consumer protection in Ontario yet there are virtually none. The Condo Act protects developers and property managers and leaves the owners literally “sucking wind”!
The Tarion Warranty Program offers a sliver of protection but consumers are required to be diligent in meeting deadlines or those few beneficial services terminate.
As I said, I’m not even upset with the way I’ve been treated as I committed before even finding and buying the place to use this experience “as a consumer”, and from discovery to closing I’ve been keeping a clear timeline to share with my global readers that will show everyone what they should expect when buying real estate in Ontario.
Like any other consumer, we started our search on the Internet (90% of consumer today) and found a reconstruction detached home in a comfortable price range in an exceptional “Location” (I’m sure you’ve heard that the three most important things in real estate are Location, Location and Location).
I’m known for changing that to Developer, Location and Location”, as a home in an excellent location by a bad developer delivers your dream home nightmare”!
This case would definitively ended up a disaster home as this builder really has shown a total inability to do anything right!
I was sold on the location and my track record at negotiating real estate transactions within the body of existing contracts is what stands me above any other real estate investor that I know.
To quote my lawyer Myles Waxman (one of if not the top real estate lawyer in Toronto) recently “at a time when everyone else is paying top dollar and being slammed into tough contracts, . . . . Charles is slashing the purchase price“!
Buying real estate is not a retail discipline.
I have always taken great pride in my ability to negotiate beneficial terms and conditions for my buyer clients.
So, when we Googled the developer/builder’s name, we came across this extremely well written propaganda page (LINK) that has since proven just so outrageously disingenuous to say the least and a bucket of outright lies to state it more accurately.
Their conduct, (as you will read soon here in my upcoming Case Study at simplycharles.com) has proven so representative of “everything that is wrong in Ontario real estate,” that I really feel that it could be said that I owe them a sincere debt of gratitude on behalf of my 1.6 Million readers.
We are talking about a company that the record shows lied from the very first contact misrepresenting that there was only one home remaining and the lot was a “premium lot” requiring an additional $50,000.
At that time they were giving up and selling off the remaining 10 or so lots as they had proven incapable of selling what I saw as “underpriced” homes in a triple A location. I still find my investment “underpriced” even after throwing in approximately $100,000+ worth of “upgrades”!
I really didn’t care how unethical and/or misrepresentative the builder was as I’ve done little else but cross swords with builders all of my career and I just don’t lose.
I have a very good “understanding of the law” (having been chased so frequently by high priced developer litigators trying to shut me up over the past couple decades blogging as simplycondos.com and now simplycharles.com) and only if and when you get a decent understanding of law should you every try to make a living as a real estate investor.
Marrying that understanding of law with a solid understanding of the Tarion Warranty Program gives you your only protection.
This is something that the majority of Ontario real estate investors just don’t seem to “get” and it costs them every time.
This market could never have gotten so dysfunctional if consumers understood the fundamentals of law and the Tarion Warranty Program.
In my instance in Bronte Village, the proven by then unskilled builder “stepped outside of the ‘Outside Occupancy Date’” set out in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale.
Buyer/consumers have only 30 days to deliver a Notice of Termination following the developer/builder doing so or the status quo continues for the developer.
I was born at night . . . . but it wasn’t last night and I stole the builder’s thunder by delivering my Notice of Intent to Cancel the deal.
He went into a tail spin trying to save the deal and took over, seeking compensation and control of the finishing of the house. Unfortunately he had turned the trades all against him by not paying them and had liens placed on various houses.
I knew that the builder was unskilled especially at selling as had I known about this small collection of stone and brick detached homes right at the Lake I would have sold them all within 60 days!
He ended up dumping the majority of the lots to a couple other builders and has just done a disgusting job of dealing with the five or six owners (myself included) that he did manage to sell.
I had budgeted an additional 10% or just over $125,000 to upgrade what I anticipated for his poor quality finishes to require me to elevate the quality of the property to what it should be.
What is said in brochures I always expect to be lies. What is not said in brochures speaks abundantly to me.
For example if they don’t specify “smooth ceilings” then you can be the ceilings will be stipple.
If they don’t say “stone counter tops” you can be you are getting laminate.
If they don’t say “wood floors” you will should expect “carpet”.
I grill on all ceiling heights, door heights and material, prior to submitting my offer or even expression of interest. I received “eight foot high solid core doors” when their package include “6 1/2 foot hollow core doors” (standard) because my first email to them asked my conventional questions and he arbitrarily responded “8 foot and/or 9 foot“. I said at the time that he didn’t mean to say that and I later appended all emails to the Agreement locking in my doors.
I bought sight unseen over the phone from my winter home in Florida and actually didn’t physically check out the site until my return in April as this site had all the right ingredients and components and the location is truly second to none (an entirely new street of stone and brick homes with ornate street lights with no wires)!
The lies didn’t bother me but then I guess, he discovered that the model that I had purchased couldn’t sit on the “premium lot” and instead of telling me he chose to go back to the architect and have them redraft and entirely new plan and not tell us!
My wife is a detail person and as quickly as they built the frame of our home she observed that a window was missing in what was to be her walk in closet.
The office manager, who has proven as untrustworthy as the builders that hired her, kept saying “on my plan and on your plan . . . . . . “.
It didn’t take rocket science to conclude that with only one house, a two plans process should be questioned.
Now, this clown had another house plan (actually in the brochure) that we actually liked more, but it was too wide for the lot that he told us was available.
Then he switched us to the “premier lot” (view of gas station sign!) keeping the plan that we had chosen and it was that plan that now did not fit on the new lot!
Instead of simply telling us the truth, this guy redrafted a whole new plan and pushed ahead without disclosing what he had done to us.
I was satisfied with his stupidity and renegotiated (I had already negotiated a price reduction) a further price reduction to stay in the deal (knowing how incompetent this guy is I knew he wouldn’t think of just reselling the house).
For over 15 months the house has been delayed repeatedly with him showing a rather bazaar lack of sound character and/or integrity.
He’s failed to deliver on six sequential Closing dates and the amateurish and unacceptable level workmanship would embarrass any novice builder, let alone someone who has the audacity to write such glowing propaganda as shown on their web site.
Consumers were materially let down by the Municipality in that there was a Subdivision Agreement between it and the original “developer” (Fernbrooke Homes) that stipulated that there were to be “NO CLOSINGS UNTIL ROADS, FENCES, GRADING, ETC. WERE COMPLETED“.
Granted such a clause is rare in this business but there it was, yet this builder was getting “Occupancy Permits” (as long as there is one toilet and sink you can get one of these) and “imposing occupancy/Closing“.
Have you every spent a million dollars and ended up living in a construction site for over a year?
Every other buyer from this builder can tell you that it is a living hell!
I blogged about all of this and the Municipality quickly called a meeting of all players involved (developer, builders, etc.) and did a respectable job of getting things moving but even getting things moving meant the continuation of living in a less drastic form of hell following my having gotten involved.
I later met with the Mayor who proved a very interesting and informed Mayor who showed a legitimate commitment to his community.
I have a sworn Affidavit of one of the buyers that sets out a truly horrifying experience that is so contradictory to the content of the builder’s home page that there should be laws in place to stop such scandalous behaviour!
When you bounce from the web site to the sales material you see a continuation of the magnificently written prose that in reality are more blather lacking content, meaning or integrity.
If it were just me one might say I am attacking this unfortunate builder, but a simple read of the Affidavit (to be made available here) sworn under oath in a court of law, by another buyer dealing with this builder tells you that this is the way this builder and most builders operate and are allowed to operate in a seriously flawed Ontario real estate culture.
Not once, in six failed Closing attempts were we given any Notice that the occupancy/closing date was not being honoured.
What if we were coming from another city or country?
What if we showed up with our moving van ready to move (we’ve seen this six time and not once Closed) and not once have we been given any forewarning !
This builder has been insisting on “Closing with deficiencies” so they can run away like they did in the law suit and affidavit.
We have been insisting that they remedy the deficiencies set out in the third amendment that I required them to enter into to get them here.
Their lawyers have acknowledged the legitimacy of the Amendments and their obligations to remedy the deficiencies.
After almost four months of fighting (their only credible construction foreman “Jason Smith“, an excellent and dependable contractor in the Oakville area was forced to “give up on them” due to their handling of their business and customers) we are still a short distance from having the deficiencies remedied.
We recommended bringing in an unbiased professional building inspector to do the PDI (“Pre Delivery Inspection“) and he set out 39 deficiencies 34 of which related to the simple deficiencies set out in our Amendment.
We were starting to think that they just might get it right this time but during our visit to the home again this weekend we discover much of the same old same old, slopping workmanship, filthy floors, and that damaged “upgraded” (paid for additionally by us) stair case.
Their lawyers stipulated in writing that the deficiencies were “all completed” prior to my calling in the inspector who identified the 39 deficiencies!
Their office manager made a complete fool of herself arguing with my wife that “all the deficiencies were completed“, against my wife telling her that we were just at the house and have photos showing otherwise!
Again, they want to Close this coming Wednesday yet the stairs have not been done!
It is like they just want to close and be sure that there are deficiencies remaining as its been months to do what a week’s work would have accomplished!
I’ve proposed a remedy (over the weekend and I know none of them will be reading before Monday) that allows up to Close and take Occupancy of the home on Wednesday that gives them the option of either:
- Close on Wednesday (3 days from now) with a $7,500 “Hold Back” with any balance after the work is done going to the builder;
- Delay Closing an additional 10 Days to once again allow them to do this simple work!
- Deduct $5,000 from the Purchase Price of the home and simply walk away!
As consumers, we really should not be left to sit at the mercy of this incompetent and untrustworthy builder who, observably cannot get this work done to any standard close to what he has represented.
I would prefer that he take #3 or #1 as we are literally living on boxes in another property we own and have been for months. We have movers on stand-by who have been canceled now 5 times already. We have to have the appliances rescheduled and the electricity turned on and off as well as the gas.
It is well beyond the time for something to be done.
We are sitting here with the money waiting delivery of a home that would not have stood up to the standard set out in their material which was a smoke and glasses type pitch anyway.
The Case Study is going to walk everyone through what to look for, taking apart the brochure and web site, going over the contract and Tarion addendum (the life saver for consumers but the only one unfortunately) through the conduct and behaviour of this builder and will close when we actually get to Close.