San Benito woman out thousands of dollars, what experts say you should look for in contracts

Local News

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a statement from the contractor.

SAN BENITO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A San Benito resident is left without her money after she claims the contractor she hired stopped replying to her.

“This is the property where I had anticipated to build a home,” said Maricela Cardoza, a previous customer of Prestige Home Builders in San Benito. “He never returned any of my emails, I then sent out certified notifications to him and he refused to sign any of them.”

Cardoza is referring to the owner of Prestige Home Builders, also known as RGV Prestige Home Builders, Luis Arevalo. According to Cardoza, Arevalo asked her to pay a $17,940 down payment upfront. She complied but has not heard from him since.

Cardoza is a frontline medical worker and caught COVID-19 earlier this year, cutting back her hours at work.

“I became ill with COVID-19 so I went through different financial circumstances,” said Cardoza.

When Cardoza was out of work, she notified the mortgage company, Academy Mortgage Company, and they denied her a loan. According to Cardoza’s contract with Prestige if she is not approved for her mortgage the contract terminates.

However, instead of Cardoza receiving her money back, Arevalo cashed and signed the cashier’s check only two days after receiving it from Cardoza.

“It’s very disappointing to know that this builder has stolen from me and my children,” said Cardoza.

Attorney Benjamin A. Neece from the Neece Law Firm said the contract is simple enough.

“If the buyer can’t get approval for a loan then the contract terminates, it’s really that simple,” said Neece. “She would deserve what she paid for and if she hasn’t gotten it then I think she deserves her money back.”

Real estate market expert, broker, and owner of RE/MAX Elite, Norma Hinojosa, said that the down payment is usually not paid upfront.

“And you typically do not want to give a down payment until the day of closing,” said Hinojosa.

Hinojosa said that any buyer should consult with a real estate agent or attorney before they sign a contract with a builder.

Now, Cardoza said all that she has worked hard for is gone.

“I’m very disappointed at Mr. Luis Arevalo because this is a home that was anticipated to be built for my children and I. We’ve worked so hard,” said Cardoza.

Timothy Lopes, the attorney for Prestige Home Builders, spoke to ValleyCentral and stated they attempted communication with Cardoza.

“We asked her to come into the office to discuss the issue with the intent of going over the paperwork to discuss why we had to hold onto the money for a bit because we had a considerable amount of materials on order,” said Lopes.  According to Lopes, they did not hear from her after. 

Lopes also mentioned they planned on working with Cardoza, which is why they kept the contract in play.

“She had some issues and we were willing to work with her, and that’s what we intended to do,” said Lopes. “In addition to that, it was money she chose to put down but wasn’t required… We don’t have issues like this too often but when we do, we try to fix them.”

“The communication broke down, that doesn’t mean that we never intended to give her back the money,” said Lopes.

Cardoza mentioned before ValleyCentral spoke with the attorney that she was open to speaking with Arevalo.

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