Landslide Threatens San Antonio Home-owners and Home Values

More than 80 families in a still under-construction San Antonio subdivision were evacuated Sunday when giant fissures as much as 15 feet deep opened up near their homes. Now, some of the residents want out.

The president of Pulte Homes admitted to News 4 WOAI Monday night the home-builder has had problems in the past with the partially collapsed retaining wall that is believed responsible for the landslide. The city claims the builder never obtained a permit for the wall.

The near-vertical retaining wall likely failed under the weight of the area's clay soil that readily expands when drenched with heavy precipitation, as it was last week, said Sazzad Bin-Shafique, an assistant engineering professor and soil expert at the University of Texas-San Antonio who went out to the site on Monday. Steep, tall retaining walls can hold up if built correctly, he told the Associated Press.

But the fact that the wall didn't hold up? "It spells bad news for the sellers," Matt Stigliano, a San Antonio-area Realtor with Re/Max Access told HousingWatch. "I can't imagine anyone calling me and saying they want to buy there."
The homes at the "Hills of Rivermist" subdivision were built by Centex, which is owned by Pulte Homes. The builder told the displaced families at a meeting held in a local high school that the company would pay for their stay at the Drury Inn and help out with meal expenses, reported WOAI.

But some residents want more. How about paying for the cost to repair any damage to their homes, or better yet, pay their real estate commission and other costs of moving!

Resident Lakeika James, for one, has had enough. "I'm just going to be uncomfortable and worried for my family," said this mother of a 5-year-old girl told the Associated Press. She said she's long heard strange groaning noises at night, and that nails had begun popping out recently.

The development, which was started in 2004, has nearly 750 homes with still more under construction. The neighborhood is one dozens that have sprung up on the hilly former ranch land as San Antonio grew to be the nation's seventh largest city.

Houses is the development were selling for around $250,000 before the wall collapsed. Now, property values are sure to take a dive, and homes are unlikely to find buyers until Pulte can assure them that the issue will not happen again. That doesn't bode well for residents like James who are itching to leave.

Stigliano's brokerage in Garden Ridge, Texas, has sold three houses there. Two homes listed by another agency have sales that went under contract earlier this month. One is right near the corner where the bulk of the damage occurred.

"I am hoping the builder does right by the homeowners and not turn this into 'it's not our fault,'" Stigliano says. "Their best move is to pay and move on with this."
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