Bella Vita homebuilder

Note: All week, CandysDirt.com has been taking a closer look at the legal travails of Bella Vita Custom Homes, and the trail of dissatisfied customers, subcontractors and investors they left in the wake of their bankruptcy. You can keep up with the entire series here.

I have a document on my computer that changes every day. For a while, it was changing every hour.

In that document, I have lists of people who have lost money to Bella Vita Custom Homes. I have a secondary list of people who have lost money (or peace of mind and money) from other homebuilders in the are in similar fashion.

Even now, as I am winding up the first installment of this series, every time I interview a new family or person, they give me two or three more people who were left — at the very least — less than satisfied with their experience with the building company the Clem family owns.

We may never know what caused Bella Vita and its owners to apparently fail to satisfy their customers, to fulfill their contractual obligations. They wouldn’t respond to requests for comment. I’d dearly love to be able to tell their side of the story.

In the absence of explanation, we are left with questions and facts gathered piecemeal to form a picture — albeit a murky one in places.  I am still getting documents, social media posts, interviews, phone calls, and emails, each one giving another tidbit to be verified and run down, or becoming confirmation of a tip I had already been given about the homebuilder.

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Bella Vita Custom Homes Dallas Home

Bella Vita Custom Homes built this M Streets abode. Investors, subcontractors and vendors have alleged that the builder’s homes frequently came at their expense. (Photo courtesy Houzz)

Note: This is the third story of four detailing the legal travails of Bella Vita Custom Homes, and the trail of dissatisfied customers, subcontractors and investors they left in the wake of their bankruptcy. You can keep up with the entire series here.

Lisa Brankin is an Austin-based Realtor who isn’t even sure she wants to be one anymore.

Brankin said she, her husband, and another couple, Brian and Elizabeth Boyer, formed a limited liability corporation called Belle Amici Properties LLC in order to invest with Bella Vita Custom Homes. The plan, she said, was to build a home in Spanish Oaks, a private golf community in Bee Cave, near Austin.

“They approached us and said they had an ‘investor program’ where they build us a home at ‘cost’ and then we (as owners) sell it,” she explained. “Whatever it sells for we then split the profit with them 50/50.”

“In essence, they were getting investors like us to finance all of their spec homes, creating the image that they were a cash-rich company,” Brankin said. “It was the perfect plan. They carried no debt or liability and had access to all of the cash.” (more…)

Some customers of Bella Vita Custom Homes said they saw little to no progress on their homes, despite promises by the builder.

Some customers of Bella Vita Custom Homes said they saw little to no progress on their homes, despite promises by the builder. (Photo courtesy Jennifer Roslund)

Note: This is the second story of four detailing the legal travails of Bella Vita Custom Homes, and the trail of dissatisfied customers, subcontractors and investors they left in the wake of their bankruptcy. The first story can be found here

The custom home Tod Gibbs is building was almost built by Bella Vita Custom Homes. These days, he’s considering himself fortunate that a gut check early in the process told him to move on.

“I spent two months completely wasting my time trying to work with them,” Gibbs said. “They tried to mislead me on the budget. There was a bait and switch going on where every time we met, there was a new number.”

Gibbs, who is no stranger to the custom homebuilding game, said his knowledge of how it was supposed to work made him cut ties. “They literally try to take advantage of people who just don’t know,” he added.

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Roslund family was sued by a subcontractor after Bella Vita Custom Homes failed to pay subs and vendors for their work on the family's custom-built home.

The Roslund family found themselves sued by a subcontractor after their builder, Bella Vita Custom Homes, failed to pay. (Photo courtesy Jennifer Roslund)

Publisher’s Note: A few months ago, two of the most well-known, highly promoted home builders in North Texas filed for bankruptcy, leaving scads of consumers who thought they were building custom-built homes loaded with liens and unpaid subcontractor bills. These were builders who advertised everywhere, won accolades for being the “best” in their business, and filled street after street from Park Cities to North Dallas with shiny new $2 to $3 million mansions.

If this had happened in 2007, when the lending market dried up and home prices plummeted, it may have been swept up as a sign of the times. But our housing market is the healthiest it has ever been. Home prices are rising, and inventory is low. How in the world could two luxury home builders blow it in this market? Bethany Erickson has been researching Bella Vita Custom Homes and other builders in a months-long investigation that uncovered more than 20 victims in the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone. Instead of getting their dream custom-built home, these buyers got a nightmare.

“Your baby’s heart problem ain’t my problem,” the voice on the other end of the phone told Sue. The turn that conversation, which the new mother said happened after months of pleading with the builders of her home to fix major issues with the new abode, took her aback. The voice on the other end, she says, was Tracey Clem, who belongs to the family that owns Bella Vita Custom Homes.

When Sue and her husband, Pete (their names have been changed for privacy reasons) found out they were expecting their first child, they wanted to find that perfect home in that perfect neighborhood — just like many expectant parents. And when they found a big home built by the popular builder, they began picturing the day they would bring their daughter home to it. (more…)