Construction delays leave homebuyers homeless

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The construction of a housing project that sold quickly to grateful locals has dragged on for what some of the people who have contracts to buy the units say is way too long.

Mountain Vista townhomes, a project available only to locals for the first 120 days it was on the market, was promised to some buyers more than a year ago. Now due to what the real estate broker involved says were unavoidable construction delays, some of the buyers are camping out in hotels or living in friends' apartments while the contractor puts on the finishing touches.

"This project was supposed to provide affordable housing for locals and yet two years later, locals still aren't living there," said Eric Griepentrog, who bought into the project two years ago and now has to move into a friend's house while he continues to wait. "Our moving date was supposed to be spring of 2000. True, it is a good deal, yet it's no better a deal than we would have had if we put our money into another housing project two years ago. Now we're homeless and there's been no accountability whatsoever."

The 54 townhomes off Tamarack Drive were sold primarily to locals, who have bought all but four of the 43 that have already sold. The four other homes were reserved by members of the development group, Auerbach Southwest.

The homes sold for around $170,000 to the first people who bought them up, with $110 association fees a steal, according to Karen Beauvais, the Coldwell Banker realtor who worked with the residents to get them into homes.

Beauvais said she is extremely surprised and even hurt that people are complaining after getting good deals on stick-built "luxury" homes with tile floors and gas heat.

"As much time as I've put into this, as much blood, sweat and tears that I've put into this, if they're complaining, that's awful," Beauvais said.

The delays, caused in part by the excavators quitting the project, were unavoidable and are simply a part of the often unpredictable construction process, she said.

Beauvais added that only the first 20 units were delayed, while the others were not. The people who bought those first 20 homes will be moving in starting in May.

Griepentrog said Beauvais has diligently attempted to help the buyers out as the delays have continued, acting as the one bright spot in an otherwise bleak situation.

Beauvais said the homes have increased in value while people waited to move in so that their equity has already risen even though they will still pay the prices for which they originally signed. The residents are also making interest on their down payment money, Beauvais said.

Residents countered with the fact that they are still having to pay rent even as their empty homes go up in value. Meanwhile their money is tied up, interest rates may have risen, and they have nowhere to live after selling their homes or breaking leases.

"We don't care about the equity. We just want to move into our houses," Griepentrog said.

Derick Duckels, who is shacked up at the Nite's Rest Motel for the time being, said he thought the delays were a bad way of doing business and could betray an ulterior motive on the part of the developer.

"I feel like people that got preconstruction prices are being made to wait so they'll drop out and they can sell those units at higher prices," Duckels said.

Members of the development group were unavailable for comment.

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