Local homeowners accuse builders of deceptive trade

Bill and Connie Consentino thought they were getting a good deal on a Pulte home in the age-restricted Solera community in Anthem.

The incentive package for financing through the builder’s mortgage lender included free upgrades, new appliances, landscaping and payment of Local Improvement Districts, or money used to pay for neighborhood infrastructure.

“Every time we went to the office, the incentives got better and better,” Connie Consentino said Thursday at a press conference held by Alliance for Homebuyer Justice, a project of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

Now the Consentinos, both in their 70s, are stuck with a $230,000 home bought in January 2007 that’s worth about $140,000 today and a seven-year interest-only loan that will reset at more than 11 percent.

They’re among 18 Las Vegas homeowners who have filed complaints with the attorney general’s office alleging that builders engaged in deceptive trade practices, made false statements and concealed important information in violation of the state’s consumer-protection law.

The complaints call attention to sales and lending practices of some of the nation’s largest public homebuilders, including Pulte Homes, KB Home and Lennar Homes, and their affiliated mortgage companies, Alliance spokeswoman Denise Martin said.

It’s common practice among builders to threaten buyers with forfeiture of their deposits if they walked away from the mortgage company, she said.

Jacque Petroulakis, spokeswoman for Pulte, said she hasn’t seen a copy of the complaints.

“This is just another staged effort that’s part of a campaign orchestrated by unions trying to organize the homebuilding industry and specifically workers employed by several of our contractors,” she told the Review-Journal from Phoenix. “We believe this is part of a negative harassment campaign that seeks to target Pulte for publicity purposes and impact our good reputation.”

The Consentinos, who moved to Las Vegas from Florida to be near family, put 20 percent down on the home, nearly $50,000.

“The only way we could get the incentive package is if they handle everything, the deed, the title company, the mortgage,” Bill Consentino said. “We just followed what they told us to do.”

KB Home, Lennar and Pulte all ranked above the Las Vegas market average in both overall customer satisfaction and new-home quality, according to a recent study from J.D. Power and Associates, an independent survey company.

In customer satisfaction, KB scored 841 and Lennar and Pulte each scored 832, compared with the market average of 825. In new-home quality, KB scored 871, Pulte 853 and Lennar 850. The market average was 837.

Las Vegas-based SalesTraq reported 282 new-home sales for Pulte-Del Webb through the second quarter, No. 2 in Las Vegas, with a median price of $275,000. KB was No. 3 with 249 sales at a median of $203,386, and Lennar was No. 4 with 183 sales at a median of $221,567.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.

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