A HEARTBROKEN homeowner spent £25k on her dream newbuild house after she started saving at 16 – but two years later it has no roof or walls and even the foundations have faults.
Rebecca Cook, who is now 26, signed onto a home and land package in May 2020 and was told she’d be able to move in by March the following year.
More than two years on and Rebecca has nothing more than a slab of concrete and a faulty wooden frame on her plot of land just outside Melbourne, Australia.
When she started looking for explanations for the delays, she was told by her developer to speak to their contracted builder, Snowdon Developments Ltd Pty.
“In January, I had had enough and I just put my foot down and started requesting more information and was on their back a little bit more,” she told The Sun Online.
Some were waiting months for a tiler to finish their roof while others were still waiting to break soil on their plot of land years after purchasing it.
One woman, a 40-year-old primary school teacher named Mira Vose had been waiting months for Snowdon to complete the roof to her cosy bungalow on the outskirts of Geelong.
She and her husband Anthony had bought the land in 2018 and forked out £17k on “progress payments” on their half-built home.
“The site supervisors, they said they can’t book the roof because every time they book the roof, the suppliers say go and check with your accounts department. When I asked if it’s got to do with outstanding balances, they said yes,” she told us.
Mira claims she can’t cancel her contract with Snowdon and move on to a new builder because it would leave her out of pocket.
“No builder is going to do the project because it’s halfway done, which means they have to take over the insurance, they then become responsible for the frame, which has been out in the weather for three months,” she said.
“They have to take responsibility for the slab and no one wants that.”
Now Mira – who is paying off her mortgage on the property while paying rent – has the only unfinished home on her street, despite it being commissioned at the same time as the rest of her neighbours.
“It’s very frustrating. In the neighbourhood, they already celebrated two Christmases…” she said.
“We have houses being built near where I’m renting right now and whenever you drive around, there is progress… and I’m wondering why do I have such bad luck.
“We have to keep on moving to different areas because rent is also increasing so we’re trying to cope with all these things.
“I just cry at night. I talk to my colleagues about it. My boss was telling me I look so down and I told him that it’s just really hard for me to try and be happy when I have this over my head.”
Meanwhile, 29-year-old warehouse manager Josh Curmi has been waiting since February 2021 for Snowdon to start construction on his plot of land on the outskirts of Melbourne.
He’s been waiting four months for a building permit which “shouldn’t really take more than six weeks”, according to his builder pals.
“We’re also still waiting for our energy rating which is part of our building permit,” he explained.
“I think we’re into the seventh week now and I’ve called people who do these and they said it takes three to four days max on a newbuild home.”
Josh and his wife could lose £14.5k if they pull out.
“Even now they still can’t give us a date to start. And now they’re hiding behind all these court cases and Covid as excuses to palm it off but all the responses you get are all robotic responses from their customer services team.”
Mira, Josh and Rebecca were told by Snowdon that delays were being caused by a lack of waffle pods for their concrete slabs and that foundations weren’t going up because of a national timber shortage.
For Rebecca, who had to wait 10 months for a wooden frame to be installed, it made no sense because “houses were going up everywhere”.
‘I STARTED REQUESTING INFORMATION’
Fed up with the slow pace of construction, Rebecca and a number of other owners decided to doorstep Snowdon’s chief executive Chris Sandner at his office in Melbourne.
“We all stood outside his office and said we wanted to meet with him and he said it would have been nice to have had a meeting arranged and that’s when we just said it would be nice if we had houses,” the 26-year-old high school science teacher said.
“He told us that he had put his faith into a lot of construction managers and he wasn’t aware of any of the issues we had been facing, which was quite appalling to be an owner and director of a company and not know how your customers are feeling.
“He just kept saying that if he knew that was the case then he could have solved our problem earlier. But most of us were requesting to speak to someone higher up in the company for months.”
Rebecca was eventually told Snowdon didn’t know when they’d be able to complete her home and that the only way to guarantee it’s speedy conclusion is to pull out of her contract and fork out thousands more for a new builder.
“The prices are skyrocketing, I don’t have the funds to fork out another $50,000 for a build,” she said.
Rebecca later discovered that Snowdon was on the brink of financial collapse.
According to news.com.au, Snowdon has 15 creditors chasing them down for debts totalling £1.4m.
One of the creditors is the Victoria’s Office of State Revenue for £150k and the largest amount owed is for a roofing company waiting on a £530k payment.
We have houses being built near where I’m renting right now and whenever you drive around, there is progress… and I’m wondering why do I have such bad luck
It’s understood some of the money Snowdon owes creditors has been paid off after they were taken to court and were forced to sell off some of their assets.
For Rebecca, who has had to live with her parents, the news has come too late and now she has no other choice but to wait it out and hope insurance firms will appoint a new builder to finish her property.
The grafting Aussie said she had been working to save for a home “ever since I could, from the age of 16”.
“I’ve put all of my money into a deposit for the house and land,” she told us.
“I had [the property] inspected by an independent housing inspector and there are 16 defects that require rectification before it can move to the next stage [of construction].
“One of the really quite bad ones is that the slab was poured wrong and I’ve got some parts of my frame that are unsupported.”
When she contacted Snowdon about the faults, they failed to return her calls and emails.
“It’s really stressful because I just want to start my life and settle down properly, not have to worry about when my house is going to be built because I should have moved in March this year, based on the start date I was given last year.”
Australia’s building industry has been hit hard and dozens of companies have had to shut up shop amid rising costs for construction materials and the ongoing supply chain crisis.
According to news.com.au, Snowdon allegedly can’t pay staff pensions and faces a mass walk-out of its workers.
It’s believed the embattled firm is on the brink of collapse and hasn’t paid its employees properly since October, leading to more than half of staff quitting in that period.
According to the outlet, there are more than 200 residential homes in the pipeline to be built.
The Sun Online has contacted Snowdon and Hamilton for comment.