Five years ago Chris and I closed on our first home. We were so proud of our jewel, our palace, our home. We were very detailed in the selection of our home… we thought. This blog is the good, the bad, and the ugly of our home building experience. I want everyone who reads this blog to understand this is from my point of view and my opinion of the situation. There are things that I am very pleased with and things I am bitterly disgusted with about my home. So read and take whatever you will from this tale of a first time home owner and a small creek which flows into the Flint River.
In May of 2004 Chris and I started looking for a house to buy. We had both lived in an apartment before getting married. We looked around at all the Huntsville area real estate. I didn’t want to live in Madison and he wanted to live near the mountains (they are really just hills). We became interested in the Jeff Benton neighborhoods around the valley. Jeff Benton was known for spec homes and low cost for nice homes. Seemed like a perfect deal for a first time home owner. True, Chris had owned a home in Jackson, Mississippi. However, I was new at this and it seemed like a great place to start.
We signed our build contract on Chris’s birthday. I remember asking a few questions about the lot that we selected and the position of the house. We had selected to build on lot number 27 along a small creek; the same creek that gave the subdivision its name, Creekstone. Chris and I were both interested in the trees and the privacy they would give us. Our sales agent assured us that the trees would remain on our lot. “Oh, we love our trees in Creekstone”, as if Al Gore was the president of the home owners association. Even before we selected our lot we asked about the trees because they were so attractive to a farm kid.
In the summer as the plans were being finalized we were informed of an easement on our property. I asked right away, “Is there a project planned for this easement”? “No, it is just a standard U&D easement that is there just in case,” was the answer we were given. We were suckers; a sixty foot U&D easement is not standard not even in Texas where everything is big! Other families were moving in along the creek. They too had no clue of the impending destruction that awaited all of us.
We didn’t know about the plans to clear cut our trees and widen our creek until six months into our residence. Chris was out back cleaning brush from the creek and I was cleaning on the inside. Our neighbors told us of a meeting in the summer with Jeff Benton around the same time that we found out of the easement. They told us how they found out about the future project. There were some smoke and mirrors involved, but I am sure of this, there was a ditch improvement project coming, our trees would be cut down and Jeff Benton knew about it before we closed.
Chris stopped his cleaning of the ditch and we started investigating the planned improvement. We found out it was true. We would lose our trees and there wasn’t much we could do about it. The lessons learned are twofold, always do your homework on a piece of land in a real estate deal and never do business with Jeff Benton. The summer of 2007 in a cloud of dust we lost our trees and gained a wall in our back yard. This wall serves as a retaining wall for the ditch. The simple little country creek was transformed into an industrial looking drainage waterway with all the mosquitoes, snakes, and critters that come along with such a ditch. The city of Huntsville came though our yard with bulldozers and track hoes.
Some people would try to blame the city for building the monstrosity in my back yard. Some people would blame the buyer for not doing their homework. And then some people would call Jeff Benton the villain. There is truth in all that I said. But when you sign a contract with the builder and the purchaser stating that all pending public projects have been disclosed you would think you were safe from surprises. Jeff Benton was not up front about the future construction plans. The city of Huntsville has been very helpful to us. The ditch had to go in to help with drainage all throughout our valley. It is a fact of life. As for us doing our homework, we are very good at doing research now.
This is my way to vent. It is my way to shake my fist as the situation. If you don’t like what I have said, please let me know. If you are in the market to build a home and are looking at Jeff Benton, please consider other options first. I love my home and its construction is sound. But would I do business with Jeff Benton again? I wouldn’t even play bingo at the same table as him and I sure wouldn’t purchase a home from his company again. Point is, Creekstone has been transformed into Ditch Wall subdivision. I didn’t get to keep my trees, but I did get flooding to replace the trees.
If you are a part of BRAC’s relocation to Huntsville or just curious about living in our part of the world here are a few suggestions before you buy a Benton home.