Justin Ebbels recently posted his experience with a leading home builder based in Melbourne to his personal Facebook page.
The story gained a lot of traction online and soon people started to add their own stories in the comments, amongst advice and offers of help. Justin joins many Australian families who’ve lost control during their build and have been left out of pocket, no closer to moving into their dream home.
Justin posted his story to warn people against one particular company. Our hope is that the Australians reading this use his experience as a reason to research every available option and take control from the start. Whether that control is gained through a thorough vetting process prior to contracting a company or building as an owner builder, there is no reason any person should have to experience what Justin and his family did at the hands of a dishonest builder. This is his story.
“Just like anyone else, all I want is to provide a safe and comfortable place for my family to live in, and while that once seemed so close, it feels like it’s starting to get out of reach…”
In January 2015, Justin Ebbels secured and then purchased a block of land within 25kms of Melbourne. As a young father and sole income earner in his family, it was a huge achievement for him and it was with pride and excitement that he started to look for building companies. When he chose a building company advertising with realestate.com, he took a huge leap of faith. Justin and his fiance Leah who was pregnant with their now 11 month old son were on the precipice of their new life in their dream home, and couldn’t wait to get started.
After looking at display homes and plan options, they happily paid a $10,000 deposit in July 2015, after the initial contract was agreed upon and signed. Finally in February 2016, the block had titled, which meant construction could legally start. At this stage Justin and Leah were ready to build – they had already gone through paint colours, tiling decisions and had even started collecting furniture. They didn’t think the company would be far behind them and construction would start any day.
It was at this point where the young family realised they were very, very, wrong.
The couple called several times to make sure they’d done everything they could on their end and were reassured that the start date wasn’t far off; “a few weeks and we’ll be right.” Although he was suspicious, Justin couldn’t complain as the contract stated that the company could use up to 60 days to obtain the necessary permits, warranties and insurance. However as the sixth month came and went, and Justin’s daily phone calls went unanswered, he gave up. He made the decision to cut his losses, and asked for the $10,000 deposit back so he could start looking elsewhere. This was refused.
Panicked at the thought of losing his deposit, Justin started to research options. By October 2016, Justin was making daily calls to the company, who repeatedly assured him they had organised the insurance. As the company was refusing to provide proof as to whether they had it or not, he called every insurance company in Victoria and discovered it hadn’t been purchased at all. This meant the company couldn’t have legally started the build and had been lying about acquiring it just to stop Justin’s calls from coming in each day.
The only sliver of hope at this point came in December, in the form of a meeting between Justin and the company’s key investor, a man named Sam. Justin hoped to use the face-to-face meeting to appeal his case and either start the build or at the very least, get his $10,000 deposit back. Instead he was told that yes, they would build his house, as long as he agreed to pay $43,000 more. An unwarranted 20% increase to the original contract was not only impossible for Justin, but illegal for the company to request. The young family was left with no choice but to formally ask to be let out of the contract.
Justin received nothing but a promise that his money would be refunded. A year later and he still hasn’t seen a cent.
Justin and his family aren’t the only people who have been left with huge financial and mental strain during what should’ve been an exciting time in their lives. As he started to speak about what had happened, people came to him with stories of their own. Some were about their experience with the same company and some were different builders altogether. Encouraged by their support and advice, Justin applied for a VCAT application to take action against the company, only to be told by the courts that the owner didn’t pay the one company who managed to take him to court and since then never showed up to his hearings. Going to court was a ‘lost cause.’
The building company has since liquidated and to this day, Justin remains $10,000 out of pocket, with a block of empty land he can’t afford to build on and a young family to support.
“Something like this has a huge impact on someone’s mental health. I think about it at work, I think about it at home, at events, while with friends and even while doing the things that normally make me happiest, like playing hockey.”
Justin and his family
Justin’s story hits home for so many people who can empathise with losing control of their build. Whether it’s on a large, expensive scale like Justin, or minor cases where a company took advantage of the owner’s inexperience; more and more people are fighting back against ‘dodgy’ deals.
Justin is a hardworking Australian, taken advantage of by a company with no regard for anything except the bottom line. He shared his story to help people like him avoid a similar ordeal. So if you’re about to build, how can you know who to trust? While websites like Unlock Property have been created so users can review building companies and share stories, it’s no surprise that more people are avoiding the risk altogether and taking on the build themselves.
More than 40,000 Australians are becoming owner builders per year.
An owner builder is someone who builds or renovates their own home themselves by taking on the role a traditional builder would normally be hired for. Owner builders organise trades, contractors and suppliers to bring the build together and have complete control over every aspect.
Home Together works with Australian’s who have decided to own and build by offering them a complete solution that guarantees their build is finished on time, on budget and is exactly what they imagined – their dream home. If you haven’t considered owner-building, make sure you do before you hire a company. It’s quickly becoming the best way to take control of your project, while saving money and time along the way.