New homebuyers charged thousands more after signing contract; builder blames material shortage

MELBOURNE, Fla. — A Melbourne couple claims a new builder refuses to honor its contract to build their dream home. They say months after signing, the company is charging thousands more to cover increased construction costs.

Nicole Cason and her husband say their new-home dreams have been crushed by Life Style Homes Builders in West Melbourne.

“I just want him to honor his contract,” Cason said.

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The Casons signed a $588,000 contract to build a home in the Enclave at Lake Washington community. She felt it would be the perfect house.

“My husband is a disabled vet, and it’s getting harder for him to go upstairs, so I wanted

a one-story house,” Cason said.

Six months after signing the contract, the couple received an email from Life Style Homes. The email informed them that because of construction material delays and lumber price hikes, the couple’s home would cost $21,000 more.

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“I don’t think that’s fair. I think if we have a binding contract they should honor the binding contract,” Cason said.

The Casons refused to pay more. The builder terminated the contract on the grounds that permits had not been obtained within the deadline, and offered to return their $5,000 deposit.

Feeling burned, the couple contacted Action 9, and Todd Ulrich showed their new-home contract to a real estate expert.

“The price is the price, that’s why we have written contracts,” said real estate attorney Karen Wonsettler.

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Wonsettler said the contract had no inflation clause to raise prices and said the permit deadline was the builder’s issue, not the buyer’s.

“The builder signed a bad contract, so they want more money to pay for those materials.” Wonsettler also said the couple has legal grounds to challenge the termination.

In response to Ulrich’s questions, Life Style’s president said raw material costs are out of control, the increased price of the home didn’t include any profit, and he said the contract allows termination over permitting issues.

“I just think this is a low blow for Life Style to do,” Cason said.

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New homebuyers need to be aware that construction costs are inflated and builders might add clauses to future contracts that include price hikes.

Life Style Homes Builders response:

As has been widely reported, the homebuilding industry is in a crisis, and LifeStyle Homes is no exception. The cost of raw materials - namely lumber - continues to spiral out of control with no end in sight. In our 37 years in business, we have never experienced anything like this. It is Lifestyle’s general intent to get all homes under signed contracts through engineering and permitting within 120 days of execution of the contract to allow Lifestyle (in ordinary circumstances) to secure pricing of materials for the homes based upon the final design selections of the customer. Our contract and agreement provides Lifestyle the right to terminate any contract at our option that is not through permitting within 120 days because Lifestyle may not be able to secure the same material pricing until plans and designs are final. If there is not a material price increase of course Lifestyle does whatever it can to avoid having to exercise this option or right. Mrs. Cason’s Contract with Lifestyle is no different. Mrs. Cason’s Contract was executed in November 2020 and the engineering plans and designs were not finalized for various reasons and it was not permitted for construction within the 120 days of execution. From the time of execution as stated the construction industry has experienced unprecedented and unpredictable material cost increases that did not exist in November 2020. Before exercising its right under the Contract Lifestyle gave Mrs. Carson the opportunity to pay the dollar for dollar material cost increase which she refused. Please note that the $21,000 increase we requested from Mrs. Cason and you reference was simply to cover the increased cost of raw materials we would need to build her home. There was $0 profit for LifeStyle in that number. We tried to be as fair as possible to Mrs. Cason as we have with any other affected contracts with our customers in this terribly unfortunate circumstance. Lifestyle offered to return her deposit in full if she didn’t wish to pay the $21,000. Her decision was to retain legal counsel and not accept our offer.

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.