Buying their first home was supposed to be an exciting experience for Surrey residents Jared and Nicole Green. Instead, the couple says it left them dismayed.
That because the Greens, who are also expecting their first child, found out too late that the front yard at their pre-construction townhome would be covered in a concrete slab.
The concrete slab provides access to water supply lines that connect the complex to the City of Surrey water main. Jared Green told CTV News he wasn’t told about the water chamber before they signed the contract, and they wouldn’t have decided to buy the home if they’d known.
He said he didn’t notice anything unusual during the initial phase of construction because concrete slab was covered by a huge shipping container.
"I came by the place several times to look at it but was there. I just didn't see it," Green told CTV News. But he sees it now and wants something done.
The location was approved by the City of Surrey but its design and installation was done by the developer, according to a city engineer.
Green said he dealt directly with the builder when he signed the contract and now wishes he had his own real estate agent or lawyer looking over the contract and disclosures before he signed the deal.
The developer is Brookside Walk Holdings and one of its officers, Brian Kirkwood, who is also a licensed realtor, signed the deal. A clause in the contract encouraged the buyer to get their own independent legal advice.
The Greens didn’t when they signed but now have retained legal advice to resolve the issue.
"There is nothing in the disclosure forms we've been able to find to date which would justify the giant concrete bunker in the front lawn," lawyer Paul Roxburgh told CTV News.
CTV News reached out eight times to Brookside Walk Holdings developer, Brian Kirkwood, through calls and email but has received no response. At one point we were able to get Kirkwood on his cell phone but after we explained why we were calling, the line went dead. Calls back to the same number went to voicemail and we left messages which have not been returned.
The Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board says buyers need to have an advocate working on their behalf when buying a “property by description” or prebuilt construction.
"It's really easy for a consumer to walk into a show suite and say I like what I see here," says Board president Darcy McLeod. “Certainly having somebody that’s on your side that knows what to look for and knows the potential pitfalls of purchasing new construction is really important.”
The Greens’ lawyer doesn’t believe anyone slipped anything into the paperwork. He believes that the developer likely didn’t give it much thought when he put the water chamber in the yard. However, in the end, he believes his client will win.
“Whether this is negotiated or litigated my client will either receive money or it will be moved, " Roxburgh told us.
The experience has soured the first time homebuyers on ever buying something sight unseen again. Green hopes other people learn from his situation.
“I don't know if we'll buy brand new again next time,” said Green, “cause you never know what could be in your yard,”