Back Where We Started

bannerFour months have passed and not surprisingly we have come full circle and are back where we started with #dontbuydenova in March, after we closed escrow. Since Doublespeak, Lies & Banging posted in July quite a lot has transpired in our (not) custom home in the new Emerson Ranch development of Oakley. Our main point of contention,before we closed escrow was a very poorly constructed and finished bathtub surround. It’s unacceptable and deplorable that craftsmanship of this kind get past quality assurance. Then again, experiencing the demeanor of the Warranty Manager and Director of Operations it’s rather evident, they don’t see the home through the eyes of a homeowner. Continue to boast about “commitment to quality and integrity…attention to detail…values” in your mission statement we haven’t had that experience.

August 3, we surprisingly got a visit from Lori Sanson, Vice President of DeNova Homes, along with her Warranty Manger, Kevin Maloney. My wife was unaware of the identity of Ms. Sanson, until after she left, I thought the introduction had been made, it never was. As we all walked the house we pointed out issues that had been on our punch list since before we moved in not, “searching for every possible cosmetic blemish” Ongoing issues that had not been satisfied included poor finishing work, carpet pulling up from corners and transition areas, cabinets not aligned, hollow sounding tiles, e-stone that it stained, paint on the carpet and the master bathroom tub. These issues had been on our list since March, so nothing we were pointing out were new issues.

As we walked back to the kitchen, discussion between myself and Ms. Sanson ensued. In a followup e-mail  she wrote, “As mentioned, we want nothing more than for you to be happy in your home. Unfortunately, it has become apparent that this may not be possible.” I agreed that could possibly be the outcome, even if our punch list was fulfilled. This led to our options to resolve the ongoing situation. The first option would be DeNova Homes buying back the home for the purchase price (plus moving expenses). Honestly, this was never an option, but wanted to see what sort of figure they presented up. If it were not for the kennel we already purchased and installed, we might have considered selling.

The second option remove and replace the master tub and vanity with tile of our choice, selected from DeNova’s design center with a predetermined material budget. It took the vice president to FINALLY provide us with a feasible solution to the problem. August 5, we were presented with a settlement agreement from DeNova Homes. Now maybe it was their intention we wouldn’t read the actual agreement and blindly sign it. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, as the verbal agreement between myself and Ms. Sanson wasn’t close to how the settlement agreement read. We were suddenly liable for any amount in excess of the material budget that was agreed upon.

Needless to say this one section of the settlement agreement raised all sorts of red flags, which required another e-mail to be sent to get clarification from Ms. Sanson when we finally received the settlement agreement on September 7.

Ms. Sanson,

It appears our response to you went missing, as I emailed it over 3 weeks ago with a list of what issues we feel still need to be addressed. Topping that list was the tub enclosure, which I will address in a bit. As for items still on our list:

  • Kitchen cabinets and hallway linen cabinets
  • -Cabinet hardware in kitchen broken
  • -Cabinet alignment in kitchen and laundry room
  • Remove and replace touch pad on microwave (we have the part).
  • Valance window treatments are short, not covering the entire shade/window
  • Hollow tiles installed in the kitchen
  • Cracked kitchen tile back splash and grout. Tile guy took measurement, but has never returned.
  • Carpet lifting in front of downstairs living room cabinets, up the stairs and at transition points between rooms.
  • Master bath and upstairs bath e-stone still has deep marks on them, look like water spots, but don’t come off.
  • Complementary carpet cleaning, which won’t resolve the paint/and frayed carpet, but were not going to push this issue any longer.

The kitchen and master bathroom counter tops. I stopped by the models to look at the install of both to compare them to what we have. If you look at the attached file, 216-countertop.jpg, you will notice the two pieces are set at a 90 degree angle to each other. I guess this is a “standard” install. Compare that to the model-countertop.jpg and it’s more of a “custom” install. Just curious as to why our counter tops were not installed like those in the models?

As for the PDF you sent, we can’t agree to it as written because of “Section 3. Payment”. We were under the impression from your earlier email dated August 5th that DeNova, “2) …will remove and replace your master tub and vanity splash with tile of your choice.  A material allowance of $[removed] will be provided at our design center.” Reading the Section 3 as written, “Owners shall be liable for any  and all costs in excess of the [predetermined] credit.” That is not what we understand in our face to face discuss and previous email with you. We heard DeNova was going to pay for all costs associated with correcting the bathtub surround. The $[removed] was to spend at the design center, anything over that $[removed] would be offset by Christal and I.

If we were mistaken, please let us know. Like you, we don’t want to continue to drag this out longer. Time permitting you can speak with my wife if not, then we will need to look for another resolution to the tub surround issue.
Thank you,
Stephen Toumi & Christal Davis

Within minutes we had a response, which listed (as seen above) our outstanding items and our concern with the payment clause in the settlement agreement. She agreed, “your understanding of the material allowance for the master tub/vanity splash is the same as mine.  I will review with our General Counsel to make sure the language is clear.” Twenty days later, we received an updated settlement agreement to reveiew, sign and return.

I’ll be honest, we took our time reading and discussion this updated settlement agreement. Initial thoughts were positive and we were excited to move forward and get the bathtub surround replaced. The more time that passed, the less inclined I was to sign the agreement. I began reading certain clauses to my wife, as well as ‘Exhibit 1’, which included our “open items list.” Each item appeared to have a corrective item associated and we were pleased. ‘Section 3. Payment’ was revised to include what Ms. Sanson and I had verbally agreed to nearly a month earlier.

The more I read it, the more I was confused and decided to enlist the services of a high school friend who was an attorney up in Chico.  We had talked previously via Facebook, on and off topic about the house, reminding me, “ Be sure to read your purchase contract very carefully. You don’t want to get into a legal quagmire...If you need a hand let me know.” I sent him a copy of the contact to go over on October 19 and received an email on October 30, “We should talk before you make a decision to sign or not.” That alone did not sound promising.

However after talking to the attorney, we had made our decision not to accept the terms of the settlement agreement, as it was written to protect the interests of DeNova Homes. Sure, we could of had the bathtub surround removed and replaced, but potentially tie our hands and release DeNova Homes responsibility if further problems were to arise. With all the issues we had reported in a new home, we did not want to give away any potential opportunity to get something repaired while the home was still under warranty.

Now nearly 8 months since the close of escrow and we are still waiting to get issues resolved. I did receive an interesting comment from a reader on my #dontbuydenova: The Saga Continues post:

Hi Steve,

Thank you for posting your Denova home issues and lack of service by this company. We moved into our new home (Gilroy, Ladera Vista) in May 2015. On walk-thru, we found countless issues with the home. Many as you described. I asked the service manger (Chuck) if anybody from Denova walked through the home prior to our inspection to make certain issues were addressed BEFORE our walk through and he said that was his job! So, as far as quality control, nobody seems to be making sure the service managers are doing their job properly. A year and a half later, we are STILL trying to have issues addressed. I usually give people more chances than they deserve, but once I’m done, I’m done.

So, did you ever contact a lawyer to help the process along? I have sent messages to two firms, but have not heard back. I also read that some Denova home owners received letters from a firm in LA representing homeowners for faulty construction and lack of action to correct, but some people responded that there are law firms that send these letters to all new home owners.

Here is someone I do not know in the DeNova Homes’ Ladera Vista development in Gilroy, CA. Her comments echo many of the ongoing complaints we have had with DeNova since moving in. Tuesday will open another chapter, as the warranty manager, along with contractors will be visiting our house again “to inspect several of the outstanding items. The goal being that all subs can see what repairs we intend on having them make while at the same time allow them a chance to determine what material they will need to have ordered prior to starting  repairs.” Hmm, this was already done months ago! The floor tile guy, the carpet guy, the cabinet company, the tiled backsplash guy! They have all been here and took measurements in order to get materials together to repair. Not why we are doing this again! So, the saga continues…but I might get to fly my banner!

Doublespeak, Lies & Banging

All appears well and fine from the outside of Aspen-216.DeNova Homes excels in the art of doublespeak, when it comes to the ongoing problems at Aspen-216, Emerson Ranch in Oakley evidenced by a visit from their Warranty Manager and Director of Operations last Thursday. This appointment, followed a condescending email response from their Executive Vice President, Lori Sanson, in which I voiced my disappointment, frustration and anger with this home since we closed escrow on March 17. This meeting was to revisit a list of open items on our punch list, the most notorious being a bathtub surround and new issues DeNova Homes continues to deny are problems and up to their standard of “quality and integrity.”

There was no formal introduction of who this “boss” was, not that it made any difference appearing annoyed to even be at our house, deal these problems. We started in the kitchen, with cabinets having misaligned corners, dings, damage and trim pieces colored with a black felt pen instead of replaced. After a visit from Barbosa Cabinets, we have a pile of cabinet pieces in our kitchen, but nothing had been fixed with the exception of a cabinet door and alignment problems. Barbosa did make mention of the “lack of quality” and “poor installation” to my wife during their initial visit.

IMG_1525A bigger concern for us was the upgraded tile back splash, which appears to have been installed too fast, possibly incorrectly with some slippage occurring during the setting of the tile. Grout lines vary in size with no real consistency giving a wavy effect around the kitchen walls. There are lines of grout discolored in and around the sink, as well as cracked tiles. DeNova Homes and no issue with either the tile or grout. Some doublespeak by the Warranty Manager guaranteed to get the tile people to examine the tile and grout. Honestly, I expect no fix to occur on this $5200 upgraded back splash.

Discussion transitioned to the granite counter top; the seams, sharp edges and overall a poor finishing. This was an item that had been mentioned previously, as it had sliced my wife’s forearm open when we first moved in. The edges of granite are rough and poorly cut with two noticeable seams. In our previous house, we paid for new counter tops during our kitchen remodel and had a single seam that could barely be seen, cut at a 45 degree angle on our U-shaped counter, as well as a single piece around the sink basin. Not with DeNova Homes, possibly due to time and cost, our corner seam is set at a 90 degree angle with an unsightly seam directly in line with the faucet. Again, this from a company who has “a commitment to quality and integrity” and boasts “attention to detail.” This could not be further from the truth.

From the kitchen my wife discussed about the unfinished work that previously occurred, in which wall and baseboard trim or doors were sanded, but never repainted. This stemming from a very poor quality paint job through out the entire house; doors to trim, walls to ceilings. Coats of paint so thin, you could see through the paint and even areas that weren’t painted at all. I had never seen so many runs in paint, I guess that’s “quality and integrity” at it’s finest. No effort made at the time of painting to fix the initial problem, my 10 year old could have painted the trim more professionally!

outdoor_outletOutside it was a dirty, chipped concrete patio that was NEVER cleaned prior to moving in, with stucco and overspray, an unsightly mess. The outdoor kitchen ledge, which houses the gas grill isn’t level and the cutout and finish on the granite are poor, worse than the kitchen. In an attempt to cite DeNova Homes on a code violation I involved the City of Oakley in an electrical issue, which saw the use of a 3 outlet adapter used in a two outlet receptacle because of the BBQ, warmer and mini fridge. Three electrical items, only two outlets. Shocked to see their “standard” I felt it was a hazard and showed the city inspector. They said they would contact DeNova Homes. No idea if ours will be corrected or if they continue with the same “quality” practice in the houses now under construction.

Upstairs to the main event, the master bathroom tub surround. I stand by my comment, the master bathroom exemplifies the entire home. Even though their Executive Vice President, Lori Sanson disagrees, “hope you understand that does not speak to the overall quality of the home.” Yes, it does! You resolve this problem when it was initially reported, which was BEFORE escrow closed and I am not “banging DeNova on social media” as Brock Rose, Director of Operations implied. Since this problem continues to exist appearing DeNova Homes believes there is nothing wrong with the “standard” install I have very few avenues to warn other potential buyers of the lack of quality in DeNova Homes. May even require the services of Michael Finney of 7 On Your Side.

bathtub_03Everyone who has seen this tub surround agrees. The quality and craftsmanship is unacceptable, no one has sided with DeNova Homes on the bathtub surround. The install is poor. The quality is poor. The craftsmanship is non-existant! You can talk about “all homes are constructed with thousands of natural and manufactured materials by human hands,” but we am not looking for perfect. Never have been. We are after acceptable and the bathtub surround is NOT acceptable and doesn’t meet expectations. Place the blame on me, since I should have stopped the sale or not closed escrow until this problem was addressed. Yet we were assured time and time again through the construction process the problem would be take care of before we moved in, by the salesperson and construction superintendent. Surprisingly, it wasn’t.

bathtub_04The discussion with the Warranty Manager and Brock Rose, Director of Operations ended in the master bathroom. His demeanor, like that of Lori Sanson in her email response was arrogant and condescending. As my wife continued to call the quality of the master bathroom “shit” time after time, Mr. Rose spoke up, which included comments about how she was “banging DeNova on social media.” I quickly corrected him that going to social media was solely my responsibility. This followed by the insinuation I was “lying” as other new DeNova homeowners at Emerson Ranch were happy with their DeNova built home, except us. That could not be further from the truth. I’ve spoke to four homeowners next door and across the street who aren’t pleased with DeNova Homes.  This includes a family I met last Saturday, just moving in and the exterior paint scheme was not what they were sold. Continue to boast about “commitment to quality and integrity…attention to detail…values” in your mission statement. We have not experienced it, neither have some of our neighbors.

google_dontbuydenovaAfter these comments were made, I was done wasting time with these DeNova Homes representatives. As per our warrant agreement I will continue to file service requests for items requiring attention for the first (hopefully our last) year of ownership. However I will not deal with the unprofessional, arrogant, condescending people of DeNova Homes. I will leave my wife to schedule and confirm the appointments. It’s unfortunate, but many of these continuing issues could have been avoided, along with the #dontbuydenova and stance I have taken against this developer. There needs to be some level of quality expected when you purchase a new home. We were never looking for perfect, but we didn’t even get acceptable. For the rest of the story you can search The 6th Floor for ‘DeNova Homes‘ as the story begins on August 1, 2016. There are 76 images that have been made public on my Facebook page to warn potential buyers.

Complementary Carpet Cleaning

On June 17 I made the decision to email Dave Sanson, President of DeNova Homes, the developer behind the “lemon” we purchased in the new Emerson Ranch site, out in Oakley. To this point, we have been unhappy with the lack of attention to the DeNova Homes problems that have plagued ous since BEFORE we closed escrow. We kept hearing, “we will take care of it” or “the house isn’t done yet” or the best one, “it’s just aesthetics.” Funny, but nearly 120 days later, the house STILL isn’t fixed to an acceptable level, makes me wish we would have delayed the purchase if we knew we were going to experience so many post-purchase problems.. Consider it a hard lesson, learned.

While at the car wash last week I pulled up my email and was surprised to see a response from Lori Sanson, Executive Vice President of DeNova Homes. The letter read:

Dear Mr. Toumi and Ms. Davis,

Your email below was forwarded to me yesterday and I do wish to apologize for the delay in response as Dave had been out of town.

First, I want you to know how much we appreciate you taking the time to send your email.  You are absolutely correct that our mission includes a commitment to quality and integrity, and customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to us.  We work very hard to insure that our homeowners receive all pertinent information, that questions are answered and realistic expectations set before they go into contract and throughout the escrow period.

I have reviewed your file and do know that at the time of your purchase there were two different temporary sales people assisting Kelly; they would not and should not have answered detailed questions but certainly should have referred your questions to Kelly rather than just saying “I don’t know”.   Our brochure clearly states window coverings are an optional feature and the fact that sealing of grout is something a homeowner would do after move in is discussed in design center paperwork so these certainly are questions with readily available answers.  We apologize if you did not get these answers quickly from our staff.

I had a meeting today with our operations and warranty team and understand that your initial requests have been completed, but we have not been able to confirm scheduling with you to address your most recent concerns.  Please do understand, all homes are constructed with thousands of natural and manufactured materials by human hands, and therefore it is impossible for any home to be “perfect”, but I assure you we are here to take care of warranted items that may come up within your home.  Our team will be reaching out again and looks forward to scheduling with you as soon as you are available so that the items on your most current warranty request can be reviewed.

Finally, I would like to apologize if anyone on our team actually made the statement about not buying a custom home as that is not messaging we would ever endorse.  We treat every home we build, custom, production or otherwise, with the same attention and quality control.  I understand you are not pleased with some of the manufactured materials selected in your home, such as the master bath surround, but hope you understand that does not speak to the overall quality of the home.  We sincerely regret that your experience to date has not been positive and hope we can work together to find you happy and enjoying your home. I understand you are still in the process of getting settled, but once you are, we would be pleased to provide you with a complimentary carpet cleaning which Kevin stated you inquired about.  Again, thank you for taking the time to reach out.

Lori Sanson
Executive Vice President
DeNova Homes, Inc.

My wife didn’t want to hear the response, as it was further upset and disappoint her further. If DeNova believe a “complementary carpet cleaning” is going to suffice, in an attempt to remedy the situation, they are strongly mistaken. We don’t need or require a carpet cleaning, as that won’t fix discolored carpet from a DeNova employee attempting to remove paint. It’s been like that since the first service request in May! That was just one of some 63 issues we have recorded and reported in less than 120 days.

While we weren’t looking for “perfect” in a new home, we had expectations that were not met by DeNova Homes during the sale. I believe many homeowners in our position would feel the same and expect many of the problems to be resolved. Yet it doesn’t appear DeNova is really committed to the customer the way we continue to circle back on existing issue.

bathtub_02I continue to point to our master bathtub as a representation of the entire house, to which she I am told, “I understand you are not pleased with some of the manufactured materials selected in your home, such as the master bath surround, but hope you understand that does not speak to the overall quality of the home.” Since it was our decision not to upgrade the engineered stone, we must accept the fact DeNova wont’ replace it, but what I am not happy with it the lack of quality and workmanship, which even to the untrained eye looks like shit! I don’t believe she has seen images of just how poor the bathtub walls look. This image was taken on February 6, a month before we were to close on Aspen-216. We were told it would be addressed before the sale was final.

bathtub_03My initial complaint was not seeing a model with “standard” options. Now I know why, people wouldn’t buy if they didn’t see a home with $200,000 in upgrades. The bathroom is a prime example, if I would have seen just how bad the master bathroom looked with engineered stone, I would have overpaid for tile. That didn’t happen. To repair the chip in the bathtub wall, it appears the chip was cut and sanded but based on the image, its still very poor work. Not sure, but I don’t think I would be the only one complaining about the quality of the work. The repair is unacceptable! The cuts aren’t even straight, not to mention an unsightly seam! I understand, “it is impossible for any home to be perfect” but this doesn’t come close to meeting our expectations.

bathtub_04To make matters worse the walls no longer match up, as the side wall with the chip is now shorter than and this was an acceptable fix? My point has been unchanged since before the close of escrow, there is no quality in the workmanship for the bathtub. I am not looking for “perfect” but something that resembles the quality she speaks of in her email. As for integrity, I believe her response is based on my emails, not the images I have sent in the past, but it’s hard to believe anyone; homeowner or developer would consider this acceptable work.

At this point nothing has been resolved, the last service request date we had was June 29, but DeNova Homes was a no-show. Yet it’s probably my responsibility to get back to them. At this point, I am sure they will continue to drag this dog and pony show out, I will get bored and forget about the problems in our new home. Not happening, next up a You Tube video showing all the problems in our home, which will be sent with an email to 7 On Your Side.