(Source: Joy Campbell Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.) -- Nicole and Joey Hodskins thought they were on the way to moving into their dream home on May 23, 2011, when the footer was poured on their lot at 11920 Young Drive in Utica. But the experience with Image Builders LLC has turned into a nightmare, Nicole Hodskins said recently.
The Hodskins currently live in a mobile home at 952 W Harmons Ferry Road, Calhoun.
The Hodskins had no reason not to trust Images Builders when the couple said they agreed to let their builder use the equity in their $29,000 lot as the down payment for a construction loan. When the home was finished, they would buy it.
Nicole Hodskins said the couple signed over the lot to Image Builders so the company could get a construction loan something she thought was customary. As of last week, nothing had been done on the house in months and there is a list of issues with some of the work that has been done, she said.
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“Image Builders doesn’t have any money, according to what they told my husband,” Nicole Hodskins said. “We found out they have been in financial trouble for a while and they shouldn’t have taken on our home. Randy Hayden told us we had to wait for one of their homes to close to generate money for materials for our home, but where did the $146,000 construction loan money go? We were told some of it went to fund another house being built. And now, we no longer own our property.”
Even more frustrating, she said, is that there are now liens totaling about $88,000 on the house from subcontractors and suppliers who have not been paid. She also said she learned last week from the bank that Image Builders has not kept up the interest payments on the construction loan, so the bank is starting foreclosure proceedings.
Adding insult to injury, she said, officials from Image Builders stopped returning phone calls.
The couple met with an attorney on Monday.
Hodskins said their agreement with Image Builders was that she and her husband would do some of the work — including painting, dirt work and cleanup. They purchased needed items and were supposed to be reimbursed from the construction loan and were not.
Randy Hayden is listed with the Kentucky Secretary of State as Image Builders’ agent and organizer, with the company managed by its members — Hayden and Jim Estes — both also local Realtors.
Hayden submitted the following statement by email that he said was from his attorney, but he did not provide the attorney’s name.
“The Messenger-Inquirer just published in an article today (Friday) indicating that 2011 was the worst year in history for new homes. Like home builders almost everywhere, Image Builders has been badly hurt by this historic recession. We are now talking to our lenders about a restructuring of the obligations and are trying to resolve homeowner issues. We do not yet know the outcome for Image Builders but we are working for solutions.”
Estes said in a phone interview that he doesn’t have anything to do with Image Builders’ day-to-day operations. He referred questions to Hayden.
But Estes did speak for the company in August 2009 when it was piggybacking on the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program with a similar offer of a $4,500 discount on a new house for homeowners who wanted to trade in a vehicle. The company pledged to donate the vehicles it received to charities that accepted them.
At that time, Image Builders had houses in six Daviess County neighborhoods selling for between $115,000 and $300,000, Estes told the newspaper.
Hodskins said all she and her husband want is for their house to be built right and subcontractors paid. A back door that was not installed properly has leaked and flooded the house, she said. They notified Image Builders, but nothing was done to correct it, she said.
“How is this not illegal?” she said. “We submitted this to the commonwealth’s attorney, but they turned it down. They said it was a civil matter. The county attorney also turned us down.”
Other families have reported that they also asked the county and commonwealth’s attorneys to investigate.
Daviess County Attorney Claud Porter said Monday that the issues are being investigated for possible criminal charges. He is “putting all of it together” and talking to the commonwealth’s attorney, he said.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Kuegel said Monday that he doesn’t talk about specific cases that have not been determined to be criminal or pending criminal cases. He declined to say anything about Image Builders for this article.
In general, he said his office looks at each case individually. “Based on the information we have at the time, we decide if it’s a criminal or civil matter,” Kuegel said.
His office does not do independent investigations; it relies on law enforcement, he said. Officers consult with his office about whether a case may be criminal or civil, and they may investigate, including interviewing witnesses.
In theft of services or theft by deception cases, there must be an intent to defraud or steal, Kuegel said. If there is a determination that a case meets the criminal intent criteria, then a decision would be made whether to present the case to a grand jury.
Josh Hope and his family said they also are considering their options since their home still is not finished. The Hopes had lived in Elizabethtown for 12 years and wanted to move closer to their hometown of Henderson.
They did their homework and talked to several builders including Image Builders.
“Randy Hayden was president of the Owensboro Realtors Association and was with Coldwell Banker then,” Hope said. “He beat another builder out by 30 percent and got our business in November 2010.”
The Hopes sold their house in E’town and moved into a rental house in Owensboro in August to ensure they were ready for the kids to enroll in school. It was supposed to be a short-term rental agreement.
Josh Hope said he then noticed that little or no progress had been made on their new home and that there were $91,000 in mechanics liens on the property.
He declined to go into more detail about the family’s ordeal. They have hired an attorney.
He did say that they bought the rental house because they couldn’t afford to move the family again.
Hayden and Estes are no longer affiliated with Coldwell. Estes announced on a local radio show in June that he had formed Greater Owensboro Realty Co.
Steve Dennison said the home Image Builders started building for him in Rockport, Ind., six and a half months ago has no drywall, doors and windows or main garage door, so it’s open to the elements.
Even so, he considers himself more fortunate than some.
“I’m pretty lucky. The house has no liens on it,” Dennison said. “I owned the lot, and they tried to get me to sign it over. But I got my own construction loan.”
Dennison said Image Builders used money from his construction loan to pay for something else, but he has since “convinced them to put it back.”
What he wants now is to get out of the contract with Image Builders so he can finish the house on his own. He has a list of 10 to 15 items the company needs to fix.
Beth and Scott Eckstein also have issues with Image Builders, which they hired to build their home at 3435 London Pike in Philpot. The couple said they have received a proposal for more than $47,000 from another company to finish the uncompleted items and to make the needed repairs.
Nicole Hodskins said another builder is preparing an estimate on what it will take to finish their home as well.
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Joy Campbell, 691-7299, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Source: Joy Campbell Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.