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By Katherine Grandstrand, Published December 06 2013

‘Buyer Beware’: Dickinson couple, developer face ‘nightmare’ with new construction

Andrea Thernes and her fiance, Joe Couillard, knew their home was the one for them when they saw it earlier this year. The six-bedroom, three-bathroom new construction in The Highlands development on Dickinson’s south side seemed like the perfect fit for their newly created family.

“I absolutely love my house,” Thernes said. “It was home. They always say when you walk into the right house, you’re going to know.”

But the right home has been a bit of a headache for the couple as problems keep arising with the house, leading them to put up two big green signs — one out front and one hanging off their deck — saying “buyer beware.”

Issues range from the minor and aesthetically displeasing — chipped trim, the need for caulk, seams in the trimboard — to the major problems, such as heating issues, leaking windows and uneven floors that could be symptomatic of an uneven house, Thernes said.

“If we didn’t have the issues, I would be the happiest girl in the world,” Thernes said.

This autumn, Dickinson was soaked with about 4 inches of rain in the span of a few days. The rain caused water to leak through the large picture window in Thernes’ living room.

The replacement window that was ordered arrived last week, but it was too small to be installed and had to be reordered, causing Thernes to break down because she was hosting Thanksgiving later that week.

“A new house ... is going to have your typical nail pops and stuff just because of settling and what not,” Thernes said, “but this has been a nightmare.”

The signs, which the couple had put up once before, were put up again this weekend.

The property is under a one-year warranty and crews from Northbrook, Ill.-based B-Dev LLC have been diligently trying to fix any issues that Thernes has requested, said William Henry, president of B-Dev.

“They are upset with some of the problems that they have had,” Henry said. “The items that they have are really not material defects. They were punch-list items and warranty items.”

In an effort to help ease some of the tension between the development company and the new homeowners, Henry had wine and beer sent over for the Thernes-Couillard Thanksgiving party.

“Not that that makes up for not having their window, but we’re trying to make this work and trying to appease them,” Henry said.

Some of the issues — like the wrong replacement shower door coming or the window being the wrong size — were unfortunate ordering errors, Henry said.

“I’m not saying that everything that we’ve done has been correct, but we’re working hard to go through and get through this situation,” Henry said. “I understand their frustration, but we’re working hard to make amends.”

Before selling new construction, whether it was commissioned by a developer or the owner, the seller, real estate agent and contractor will walk through and create a punch list of items that need to be corrected as part of closing, said Tammie Braun, one of the real estate agents from The Real Estate Co. selling properties in The Highlands.

“When you buy an existing home, what you see is what you get, basically,” Braun said. “You don’t get that seller that’s going to come back for a whole year and fix the nick in the countertop or fix the trim if it needs to be fixed.”

There is generally a one-year warranty on all new construction for issues that come up after the owner has moved in, Braun said.

Thernes felt that her requests were being marginalized before current project manager Ryan Rudolph moved into the neighborhood a month ago.

“The tiles in the bathroom downstairs are all cut really crooked and some of them are sticking up and what not, and my daughter had cut herself on them,” Thernes said. “When they were here one day and we were going over stuff, and he’s like, ‘Just buy a carpet and put it over it.’

“I’m not happy with this and I’m supposed to tell the next people who buy this house, ‘Oh, by the way, you need a carpet in the downstairs bathroom because the tile’s going to cut your kid’s feet if they’re in there.’”

The addition of Rudolph being on site will help make sure all concerns are addressed in a timely manner, Henry said.

“I think it will help immensely; I think it was the right thing for us to do,” Henry said.

Thernes has felt better since Rudolph has been in the neighborhood, but she is worried that all of their issues will not be resolved before the warranty expires.

“I will give Ryan a little bit of credit,” Thernes said, adding he has been very good to work with compared to some of the others in the four months they’ve been living in their home.

The Highlands is a 50-plus home development that is set to include a park and trail system connecting to Jaycees Park on Dickinson’s south side, Henry said. Newly constructed homes are listed for $236,900 with a customizable basement.

The type of issues that have come up with the house were not the type of things Thernes expected to happen with a new house.

“We just want other people to be aware and do their homework,” Thernes said.