MARICOPA, Ariz. — With lush green grass, lakes and palm tree-lined streets, it's easy to see what draws residents to Province, a new 55-plus housing community in Maricopa.
“When you first drive into Province, it’s breathtaking," said Julie Schwarberg.
Schwarberg and her husband signed a contract and drove to a design center in Scottsdale to customize her brand-new home. She couldn't have predicted the headaches that also came with the community.
“We expected it to be like the model homes," Schwarberg said.
But it was far from it. The problems began before they stepped foot in their home.
“Our new construction fixer-upper," she said.
Schwarberg said they showed up to their brand-new home for a walk-through a week before they were supposed to move in. There, they were told to create a "punch list" of all of the items that needed to be fixed before moving in.
"A lot more issues than we thought we were going to have with a brand-new house," Schwarberg said.
She was confident the construction supervisor would ensure all of the items were addressed within the next week. That did not happen. Instead, she said a sales employee told her the home was not ready.
“They told us 'we’re not quite ready, give us a few days, we want to make it move-in ready,'" Schwarberg recalled.
Days later, she said the house was a mess. And that mess remains months later.
“I mean there’s blue tape everywhere," Schwarberg said.
Schwarberg's home is a sea of blue tape. Each piece marks a different problem. From doors that don't latch, to unfinished paint, and gaps in door frames, the number of problems has become overwhelming.
Outside, she points out bubbled and chipped paint, a concrete barrier that was never sealed and a doorbell that hangs off the wall.
"They keep saying, 'We'll get to it,'" Schwarberg said.
Schwarberg has reported all of the problems to Meritage, the community's builder, for months. She said Meritage employees have no-showed at several appointments, chalked some issues up to the house "settling." and told her they are experiencing supply chain issues.
Meritage declined 12News' request for an on-camera interview. Instead, Jeff Grobstein, division president for Meritage Homes in Tucson, emailed the following statement.
"Meritage is proud of its long history of customer service and quality construction, and stands by the quality of the homes that it builds. With that said, because homes are largely hand-built on-site using a large amount of natural materials, no home is “perfect,” which is why Meritage provides industry-leading warranty coverage and never hesitates to perform repairs required by law or our warranty. We have already spent time and money fixing issues at the Province community and as part of our commitment to our customers, we are addressing outstanding and ongoing warranty issues in an appropriate manner.
Current market conditions, including labor and material constraints and shortages, are impacting warranty response times and efforts. Meritage recognizes these delays have occurred at the Province community and can result in frustration and inconvenience to our customers. As a result, over the past several weeks Meritage has undertaken a number of steps to improve warranty responses, including replacing subcontractors where necessary and supplementing our warranty response team by hiring additional subcontractors specifically to address concerns in the Province community. As always, we encourage any of our customers with warranty issues to raise those concerns through Meritage’s warranty portal system, and look forward to working with our customers to fulfill all of our warranty obligations as expeditiously as possible."
Schwarberg is frustrated as she watches Meritage continue to build in Maricopa.
“Stop building and finish what you started," Schwarberg said. “They know that they have put houses together that are unacceptable and I want them to fix it.”
Craig and Julie Williams
Down the street live Craig and Julie Williams. They moved into their home in January 2021. After two years, they have yet to see all of their problems addressed.
“You don’t move into a house and in one year it looks like you’ve been there for five," said Julie Williams. “I don’t see any of their models looking that way.”
The Williams decided to buy a brand-new home hoping to avoid the hassle of renovations.
“Two days after we moved in, we experienced a crack in our driveway and it was about six inches. Now, you can see it’s about five feet," Julie Williams said.
Their home also has discolored stripes down the side of it. They said they are the marks of cracks that have been repaired.
"Current market conditions, including labor and material constraints and shortages, are impacting warranty response times and efforts. Meritage recognizes these delays have occurred at the Province community and can result in frustration and inconvenience to our customers," Grobstein said in his statement.
“I’m so sick of hearing it’s Covid, supplies and contractors. If it’s so difficult then how is it they continue to build?” Julie Williams said.
Mike Kasmin moved into the Province community in April 2022. He has been scheduling fixes with Meritage for over a year. He said oftentimes, staff would not show up to appointments.
“Good thing I’m retired because it’s a full-time job," Kasmin said.
His home still has blue tape marking issues that have not been addressed.
“You don’t know what you’re getting into until they hand you the keys," Kasmin said.
Manny and Dani Navarro
Manny and Dani Navarro moved to Arizona from Washington. They, too, were attracted to the beautiful features of Province. They moved in September 2021 after Meritage shifted their move-in schedule up from December.
They said their air conditioning unit was mistakenly put in their backyard and had to be moved to their side yard.
When they were given the keys, they said due to being on the water, the interior of their brand-new home was filled with midge flies.
In addition, they had bumpy drywall, gaps surrounding their outlets, nail pops, and had to have their crown molding replaced.
“I just gave up," Dani Navarro said.
It wasn't until Jeff Leach, another neighbor, hosted a community meetup that everyone realized they are not alone.
“It’s your new home fixer-upper," Leach said.
Leach moved into Province in July 2021. He and his wife sold a home they loved in the Seattle area for what they were hoping would be their dream retirement home.
"My wife cried the day we closed on our house. Not out of joy, but out of frustration," Leach said.
He said he experienced similar issues to his neighbors and also has dealt with missed appointments.
"The buck stops with the CEO of Meritage because that’s the person that sets the culture and there’s a culture problem," Leach said. "They don’t believe in quality."
New home inspector says builders put responsibility on the buyers
Cy Porter of CyFy Home Inspections specializes in inspecting new homes.
His company has skyrocketed in popularity after he started sharing new build horror stories he saw on social media, primarily on his TikTok account.
Porter said although new homes should be close to perfect upon move-in, they never are. He estimates it takes about two years after moving in for residents to get their homes up to par and they have to constantly make requests to the builder to address issues.
He believes there should be more transparency from builders that homes will not be perfect or completely ready on day one.
“That would solve all the issues if it was more informed," Porter said. "Then, all the homebuyers would be super happy, they would understand it but no, they think, 'Oh, the home closed. It's perfect.' No, it's not.”
Porter said builders put the onus on the buyer to find the problems with their construction and then report the problems and wait for them to get fixed.
“They're more focused on closing the home than walking through slowly and making everything perfect," Porter said.
Porter said it's also not uncommon for builders to discourage residents from getting their own inspections. Leach said he was told by Meritage that his warranty could be voided if an inspector crawled into the attic or went on the roof.
“I get texts and emails almost every day, 'Hey, our builder told us not to hire you,'" Porter said.
Still, he recommends all buyers get their new homes inspected within 10 days of moving in and again at the one-year mark.
He adds if issues are not addressed, file a complaint with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.
ROC records reveal complaints against Meritage
12News found there have been 265 Arizona Registrar of Contractors complaints filed against Meritage and 81% of those complaints were for poor workmanship.
The number of complaints against Meritage has increased over time with the most ever, 44, getting filed in 2022. There have been 25 so far this year.
Of the 265 complaints, 120 were withdrawn by the person who filed it or resolved with Meritage. The ROC dismissed 85 of them for a variety of reasons, ranging from a lack of evidence to the complaint being filed outside of the required window.
Forty-five of the complaints resulted in corrective action, meaning the ROC ordered Meritage to rectify the situation.
Today, there are still 15 complaints against Meritage that remain open.
How did we report this story?
This story started as a tip from one of our viewers. If you have information you'd like the 12News I-Team to investigate, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org