The complaint has been investigated and
resolved to the customer's satisfactionResolved Ashton Woods Homes — unethical
resolved to the customer's satisfaction
"America's #1 Most Trusted Builder" is Ashton Woods' corporate motto and used extensively on their advertising. The builder's sales representative went on and on about their reputation and integrity during our initial meeting. Unfortunately for my family, this could not have been further from the truth.
Our experience started with the builder’s representative pressuring us to act quickly as she had “other interested” parties looking at the lot we were looking at purchasing. I suspect this could have been true and after a lengthy and arduous house hunt process that spanned years of research and planning, we decided to go ahead and sign the contract in good faith.
1st red flag: The builder’s representative had informed me and my agent that Ashton Woods would pay $5K plus ½% of purchase price toward closing costs if we went with their preferred mortgage vendor. During the contract signing, I noticed that the amount had been reduced to $3K plus ½% toward closing costs. Considering that the property we were looking to purchase was almost $700K and despite the fact that both my agent and I heard the $5K amount from the builder’s agent, we decided to over look this and proceed with the contract and make a $10K earnest money payment.
2nd red flag: We felt a sense of urgency in contracting for this property partially because the build was already underway and the planned upgrades and options were not up to my wife and my specifications. We met with the builder’s agent at their design center several times and in at least 2 instances, we asked the builder’s agent to confirm that the hardwood option we wanted was considered a level 2 option. Unfortunately, the hardwood flooring options were not labeled, however; both the builder’s agent and her colleagues confirmed several times that the option we wanted was indeed a level 2 option. When we were formalizing our options with a different design consultant a few days later, the design consultant informed us that the hardwood option we wanted/selected/confirmed was not level 2, but an option that was significantly more expensive. Considering that we wanted hardwood throughout the entire house (including finished basement and stairs to all 3 levels), I was flabbergasted. Having already made my earnest money deposit and considering that there was a level 2 option that was “similar” to what we wanted, we decided not to press this point further although we were extremely disappointed.
3rd red flag: Also at the design center, we noticed that each option we chose entailed paperwork that needed our signatures to proceed. We noticed that the paper work was existing documentation for a previous buyer that was interested in this property. Their names and signatures were still on the documents we reviewed. Their names were scribbled off with pen and our names were manually written in for us to “re-sign”. I didn’t think too much of this assuming that it might make sense from an environmental perspective to re-use paper in this way. Had I known what was in store for us next, I would have stopped the process immediately. In any event, following our upgrade/options selections, we made an additional down payment on these options (30% of price).
4th red flag: A few weeks following our design center experience, the builder’s agent emailed to me and my agent a copy of our final sales contract. Upon opening up the contract, I noticed that the price for our house was significantly different. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that this was not our contract, but the contract for the previous buyer. I’m not sure why the decided not to purchase this house but I became immediately alarmed because the contract documents included a lot of personal and confidential information including: Customer Name, phone number, address, email address, demographic information (including income level, employment status, age, etc), and copies of their earnest money check (which included the bank name, bank address, routing and account numbers).
At this point, I was thunderstruck. How does “America’s #1 Most Trusted Builder” allow this type of sensitive and private customer information to be so easily distributed to 3rd parties who have no right to have access to this information? I immediately became fearful of what could happen to my personal/private information with this builder. In an industry that deals with the most significant financial investment of most peoples’ lives, I questioned whether this builder had any policies or controls in place to protect sensitive personal and private information of their customers.
I relayed my fears to my agent and we both reached out to the builder but their reply was that by the letter of the contract, they did nothing wrong and apparantly don’t have any obligation to protect any private/personal information.
As you can imagine, I questioned whether I could conduct business with a company that in every step of the way was misleading or simply inapt in their jobs. Unfortunately, I had a significant amount of money tied up in the contract already and would lose my earnest money and upgrade deposits. Even more concerning was that home prices have been rising significantly and mortgage rates were increasing rapidly as well. If we cancelled the contract, we would not only lose out on our down payments but we would have to start our house search all over again. We had foregone several other properties we were considering to focus on this house (many of which have already been sold or prices increased). For us to find and purchase a home in this category would set us back hundreds of thousands of dollars in price and mortgage rate increases!
Unfortunately in our situation, Ashton Woods stone walled in each step of the way as we tried to gain some answers and resolutions. They made no effort to ease our concerns regarding these missteps on their part and their answer was more or less: take it or leave it.
How can a builder that represents itself as “America’s #1 Most Trusted Builder” do so little/nothing to address these concerns? I was willing to move forward but the breach of private/personal information was the last straw and I have completely lost all faith in this company in attempting to find a mutually satisfactory resolution to our concerns.