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East Texas disabled veteran, family struggle after investing life savings into a house that hasn't been built

Our Alan Kasper sat down with a disabled veteran and his wife to hear how a dream home near Henderson is starting to rot away before they've ever moved in.

HENDERSON, Texas — Building a house can be a stressful endeavor, but when you’ve invested your life savings into your family's future and your builder walks away, it can be devastating. 

CBS19's Alan Kasper sat down with a disabled veteran and his wife to hear how a dream home near Henderson is starting to rot away before they ever moved in.

Chris Cormican: I was in the Army for eight years, I spent a tour in Iraq, that’s where I was injured. I was in three separate IED incidences. My entire spine is messed up, I got brain injuries, I have shoulder injuries, knee injuries.

Rosemary Cormican: Nerve damage, PTSD.

Chris Cormican: Last year we decided that we wanted to move into a more country environment, something more quiet. We started looking around and we found this piece of land that we fell in love with. So next up was to find a builder to build our home.

Rosemary Cormican: It is hard when you’re not from the area trying to find a good one, but I relied on reviews and I talk to this company for a number of weeks and I did feel at the time that this was an honest and trustworthy, reputable company.

Chris Cormican: We signed the contract in December. May 28, it was on the contract that, the house would be finished by -- right away we started having problems. Some of it was with weather but some of it was with the administration.

Rosemary Cormican: The foundation didn’t go down until April so there was about a four-month gap or so and then the framing didn’t start until May. In the beginning of May ... the framing was actually moving pretty quick. We were getting really excited thinking that the house was going to be very quick. After that though we started getting contacted by the builder saying that they needed more money.

Chris Cormican: The cost of the materials have been going up because of everything that was going on. So they told us the way to help save money was to purchase the materials before they kept going up in price and storing them in a rented warehouse, so they asked for a decent amount of money upfront, a couple hundred thousand dollars. This is the first time that we have ever built a house and so we thought maybe it was a good idea and gave them the money they had been requesting. Come to find out later that they had never rented the warehouse, they had never purchased the materials upfront and before we knew it, they came back asking for even more money and the framing hadn’t even been finished yet.

Rosemary Cormican: 
When I asked them where the money that we gave them was, they said it’s all out there [spent on the materials used to build the house up to that point]. If you go out to the house you’d find the house that is still missing some framing work and that is it! 

For us it was really hard to take in, The fact that there were hundreds of thousands of dollars of our life savings, we cashed in Chris’s pension, 401(k)’s and everything to build this house and we were told it was all gone. On our contract the price was $410,000 for the home, there was an option to add a garage for another $75,000, which we later opted for and we paid that money as well. 

Our down payment to start was $120,000 that we wired on December 18 last year and then in March they ask for the full $75,000 to add on the garage. Then in May, that was when they came back with the plan to purchase the materials and put them in the warehouse. They said 'we’re going to protect you guys from inflation' and she came over here and she picked up $150,000 check. After that in June, she requested the remainder of the money which was approximately $140,000 but we only gave her $50,000, leaving only $90,000 balance -- $395,000 is what we have paid to date for a barely framed shell of a house that didn’t even have windows.

They sent some very aggressive emails that said they were going to walk if they didn’t get more money ... at that point we began to feel like the walls were just caving in because we realized that we just gave this company $395,000 and trusted them and they told us that money is gone.

Chris Cormican: We didn’t have any loans, we wanted to try and build it without any debt that’s why we decide to use my pension in my 401(k) and all the savings that we had saved up for our whole lives working. They literally took money from our life savings and they essentially walked with it.

Rosemary Cormican: The intention was to remove the stress of Chris feeling like he would have to get a hard career that could potentially cause more damage to some of his injuries and just know that the house was paid for and that it was taken care of. It was supposed to be a place of peace and a place of healing.

Chris Cormican: It started out exciting, having a chance to live out in the country where it was quiet, the kids would be able to run around in and it turned into a nightmare. It has been nothing but stress and grief. It turned from something that was supposed to be great to something that has been just terrible.

Rosemary Cormican: Now we’re in the position where the wood framing is beginning to show weather damage because it’s been exposed since May. That house needs a roof and now we’re having to pay lawyers fees on top of everything else so we’re really in a bad situation.

Chris Cormican: It is completely unprotected and all that we’ve had done so far is literally starting to rot away.

Rosemary Cormican: There was a company that stepped up. There were some windows on the property that hadn’t been installed and they heard about the situation and they felt a burden, they came over that night they installed almost all of those windows and so for us it was a huge blessing. We are very very thankful for that company that they would do that, to drop what they were doing and rush over to do it that night.

The Cromicans currently have a GoFundMe page you can donate to. They say any and all funds are a blessing.