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Fast, Cheap and Out of Control

When the housing boom hit Longmont, city inspectors missed a few steps.

"When you're trying to deal with the volume we were dealing with," Hoeben says, "it was not uncommon to have 30 to 35 addresses to do a day. I'm sure there were things that we should have caught that we just didn't have time to see. That makes the eventual owner of the home something of a victim, I guess."

The Mayraths say they're determined to see their house brought into compliance with the building code. "James and I are from Kansas, and maybe we're naive in a lot of ways," says Sonia. "The way we grew up, a handshake is a man's word. We were too trusting, and [U.S. Home] has a very glossy sales pitch."

Homebuyers have to take additional measures to protect themselves in a market as hot as this one, Peterson says. He recommends that buyers hire their own inspector to monitor the construction process, note problems as they arise and get them corrected before the project is done. "You shouldn't rely on city inspectors to be looking at quality issues for you. If you're going to invest $200,000 in something, it makes sense to invest another five or six hundred dollars to get an independent, outside inspector that's qualified to do this."

Hoeben says his office hasn't received an unusual number of complaints from Markham Farms homeowners. He doesn't know if the Mayraths got stung with an unusually poor product, are just hard to please, or suffer from "bad karma or something." But he, too, urges consumers to do some aggressive research of their own before investing in a new house.

"There are some builders who place a high priority on turning out a quality product," he says, "and others who are more concerned about the bottom line. They find a way to cut corners, and customer satisfaction isn't high on their list. There's always someone waiting in the wings to buy what they produce."

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