Abandoned homes

AUTUMN OWENS/WD PHOTO

There are 18 homes in Meadow Place Estates that were abandoned by the builder Serene Country Homes, LLC, after the company went bankrupt last year. City of Willow Park officials have been unable to get a response from the company and are now looking to get reputable local builders and developers to take over the projects. 

Willow Park officials are looking to partner with local, reputable companies after the builders on 18 homes in Meadow Place Estates, Serene Country Homes, LLC, abandoned the lots.

The issue was brought up by Willow Park resident Shivaun Palmer at a Tuesday afternoon WP finances presentation after she read an article published last week about Serene Country Homes, which has a Fort Worth address.

“I’m so excited about living in this community and my husband and I drove by [Meadow Place], and it’s just heartbreaking to see those houses unfinished,” Palmer said. “It’s a lovely neighborhood and I just felt devastated for the people that have built their homes there.”

According to WP Communications and Marketing Specialist Rosealee Kertok, Serene Country Homes started building in 2017, but never finished the homes. The city was told Serene Country Homes ran out of money. 

“The houses were owned by two different sets of investors — nine of them are owned by Global Forest [LLC] and nine of them are owned by another investment company,” Kertok said. “Serene is the builder on all 18 of those lots and they were doing the building for Global [Forest] and the other company. None of them are completely finished and they are in various stages of construction — some of them are closer to being done than others.”

The second investor’s name is unknown at this time. 

Kertok said the companies that provided some building materials for the work on the 18 homes are planning to come clean up the lots and there are currently three other building companies who have finished, or are in the process of constructing, homes in Meadow Place Estates at this time.

According to the Serene Country Homes website, homes in the Meadow Place Willow Park development are listed at a starting price of $285,950, going up to $369,950. But as far as the city knows, no one had purchased any of the unfinished Serene homes. 

WP City Manager Bryan Grimes said the city is trying to get the situation handled.

“The city of Willow Park is exhausting all possible measures to alleviate the blight in the Meadow Place neighborhood,” Grimes said. “We appreciate the efforts of reputable local developers and builders who are partnering with us.”

Grimes said they became aware of the situation sometime in October 2018.

“We reached out to them and at that point they still had an employee. We got the standard, ‘It’s going to be OK, we have a cash-flow problem.’ Every time I hear a contractor say they have a cash-flow problem, it’s going to get bad,” Grimes said. 

The city was unable to get any further communication from Serene. 

“You’re not going to get anything out of them,” Grimes said. “They weren’t even really a company, it was a ponzi scheme. They had [foreign] investors and it was set up so if you invested in the property, you got an unexpired green card — you got citizenship for it. If you noticed in January, you saw a bunch of Asian people driving around the neighborhood and stopping, getting out and taking pictures. That’s what that was, the individual investors.”

A “ponzi scheme” is a form of fraud in which belief in the success of a nonexistent business is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money provided by later investors. The scheme leads victims to believe that profits are coming from product sales or other means, and they remain unaware that other investors are the sources of funds. 

Grimes said the lots are a public safety hazard and are full of debris. He added that two months ago, when temperatures hit below freezing, the shower heads in the unfinished homes burst, causing water to flow out.

Besides Meadow Place, Serene Country Homes is also the builder of Sendera Ranch, Fort Worth; Homestead Estates, Waxahachie; The Hills of Windridge, White Settlement; and The Trails of Fossil Creek, Fort Worth, according to Serene’s website. The website also has a “available soon” marked on a subdivision called Barton Woods planned for Conroe, Texas. 

According to an article that was published by CBS DFW on Nov. 13, 2018, homeowners in the Trails of Fossil Creek and The Hills of Windridge said Serene had yet to finish the houses or complete warranty work on their homes. 

Sherry Huckaby closed on her home in The Trails of Fossil Creek back in April 2018, but her home wasn’t finished until a month later. She said the experience has been anything but “serene.”

“We have about the same number of houses that were abandoned in our neighborhood too. I don’t know how many are in the White Settlement neighborhood, but I drove out there one time and saw about 10 to 15 at that point. It’s a mess,” Huckaby said. “I closed on my house at the end of April, but it wasn’t finished. They still hadn’t gotten the air conditioning working and they had all sorts of problems. I found out later on that they did that to a lot of people, so they were just pushing to get the money for the sales.”

Huckaby said she saw Serene employees come back and finish one home in her neighborhood and in The Hills of Windridge.

“They’re doing it under the radar because you can’t get anybody to talk to, they’re all gone. There’s actually one house on the street behind me and one house that I saw in White Settlement and they got those two houses to a completed status and they’re trying to sell them now,” Huckaby said. “The problem with Serene is not only are they tied to a foreign investor company, A2A [Developments], but they’ve opened so many LLCs that God knows where the money is. You have 20 LLCs and you can shove that money wherever you want to.”

Huckaby said she has tried to find an attorney to file a class action suit against Serene.

“I have gone to many many law firms trying to find somebody that would do a class action suit for those of us that are homeowners — and for any of the people who were in the process of buying where they paid for upgrades and Serene walked away with the money — and I can’t find an attorney that wants to represent us because they think it’s a no-win situation,” Huckaby said.

The owners of the company are listed as Dirk Foo and Joe Attrux and the business was started on March 12, 2013, according to the Better Business Bureau. 

A lawsuit was filed on Nov. 6, 2018, by more than a dozen investors against Serene Country Homes, Windridge A2A Developments, Fossil Creek A2A Developments and Foo Tiang Meng Dirk Robert as the tustee of Windridge Trust and Fossil Creek Trust, according to the official document filed with the Tarrant County District Court. 

“Right now I’m sending all the information I can find to the investors’ attorney so if somebody is going to sue them, they’re going to get all the information I can give them,” Huckaby said. “So that’s where I am now.”

Grimes said the unfinished homes in Meadow Place Estates belong to Serene Country Homes. 

“When the property was transferred to Serene, that liability transferred to Serene Homes and not the developer itself,” Grimes said. “So Serene is responsible or liable for anything that’s happening on that property.”

According to the Better Business Bureau website, Serene Country Homes had its accreditation revoked on Jan. 24 by the BBB board of directors because of its failure to adhere to several requirements. 

The Weatherford Democrat left multiple messages for Serene Country Homes by email and phone, but received no response.  

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