Gisborne families caught in housing company crash

THREE days before a Gisborne family with three young children were due to move into their brand new home, they were told the company building it had gone under.

It now sits 95 percent complete but not livable.

The financial collapse of the Gisborne A1homes franchise holder has left them homeless, up to four more clients with partially-built homes and sub-contractors out of pocket by a total amount claimed to be in six figures.

The company is Fargher Construction Limited (FCL) and its directors and shareholders are Hastings-based couple Rob and Sue Fargher. They cannot be reached for comment.

A1homes general manager Matt Cunliffe confirmed A1homes was aware that FCL had recently stopped work on its current builds.

FCL holds a licence to build A1homes in the Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay areas, he said.

“We are in the process of ascertaining FCL’s position and we have been in contact with Rob Fargher in this regard.

“Once we have this information we will work with FCL and the homeowners with the intention of ensuring that the homeowners’ builds are completed.”

Builders, painters, electricians and plumbers all walked off A1homes’ worksites in Gisborne over the past fortnight because they had not been paid for weeks.

Everyone The Herald has spoken to said they had no idea the company was in such serious financial difficulty.

“We got caught right off-guard. We were all excited about moving in and got hit right between the eyes,” said the father of three, who did not want to be named.

His wife gave birth to their third child four weeks ago.

“We cancelled our rental and we were due to move in. Then we got a phone call saying A1homes had gone bankrupt and tradesmen had walked off the site. At the moment we are in limbo.

“For us to move in, tradesmen have to go back and install the toilet, there is a lot of plumbing work, a lot of electrical work and finishing touches to do.”

It was probably a week of work but everyone was owed so much money no one wanted to go near the place, he said.

A nightmare

“It’s certainly a big mess, a nightmare.”

Frustrating matters further was that no one was communicating.

“We have no idea what is going on. None of the people that should be talking want to talk.”

Painter and decorator Hamish Simpson said the effect on his business was “massive”.

He is owed $35,000 and has had to lay off one staff member already.

“My business isn’t a giant profit organisation. I’m just a small band of painters. It breaks even.

“I certainly don’t have the capital to bankroll it. I’m pretty gutted.”

He had been “very humbled” by support from friends and clients.

It was the first time in his 15 years of business that this sort of thing had happened.

“When bills aren’t paid, I still have to pay mine.

“I am not going to let these guys ruin me but its going to be a very hard year.

“Everything I’ve heard has been second-hand — no correspondence from A1homes.”

Another Gisborne sub-contractor is owed $30,000.

The A1 office on the corner of Wainui Road and Hirini Street is closed.

The sub-contractor said the Gisborne manager no longer worked there and A1homes had not responded to him.

“They’re just ignoring us and have run for cover.

“I believe they knew they were in trouble and continued to trade. I’m told two weeks ago they were still trying to sell homes. That’s just mischievous. I’m taking legal advice.

“People have got to know. The whole thing has been badly handled. This story has to be told.”

Out of pocket

Another customer of A1 homes is $15,000 out of pocket.

“I found out second-hand. There has not been one phone call or email, or any communication to let me know what’s going on. It’s unbelievable.”

His home was five to six weeks from completion when builders walked off the job because they had not been paid for six weeks, he said.

“My big question is, where has all the money gone?”

A company that owned a skip bin on his property told him they would dump the rubbish there and take the bin because they had not been paid either.

He had paid A1homes for that service but paid for the skip bin again himself to ensure he was not stuck with a pile of rubbish, he said.

“The worst bit has been the lack of information.”

Another couple who contracted A1homes felt they were lucky because they had not paid a deposit yet. But they did lose $4000 for the initial plans.

“The annoying thing about it is they took this money when surely they knew they were in trouble.”

Master Builders national CEO David Kelly said it was understandably very hard for homeowners.

Master Builders’ focus was to work with the head franchisor to see what they could do now to look after the home owners.

He remembered a similar situation a couple of years ago with the collapse of Stonewood Homes in Canterbury.

Mr Kelly said all Stonewood homes did get completed in the end.

THREE days before a Gisborne family with three young children were due to move into their brand new home, they were told the company building it had gone under.

It now sits 95 percent complete but not livable.

The financial collapse of the Gisborne A1homes franchise holder has left them homeless, up to four more clients with partially-built homes and sub-contractors out of pocket by a total amount claimed to be in six figures.

The company is Fargher Construction Limited (FCL) and its directors and shareholders are Hastings-based couple Rob and Sue Fargher. They cannot be reached for comment.

A1homes general manager Matt Cunliffe confirmed A1homes was aware that FCL had recently stopped work on its current builds.

FCL holds a licence to build A1homes in the Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay areas, he said.

“We are in the process of ascertaining FCL’s position and we have been in contact with Rob Fargher in this regard.

“Once we have this information we will work with FCL and the homeowners with the intention of ensuring that the homeowners’ builds are completed.”

Builders, painters, electricians and plumbers all walked off A1homes’ worksites in Gisborne over the past fortnight because they had not been paid for weeks.

Everyone The Herald has spoken to said they had no idea the company was in such serious financial difficulty.

“We got caught right off-guard. We were all excited about moving in and got hit right between the eyes,” said the father of three, who did not want to be named.

His wife gave birth to their third child four weeks ago.

“We cancelled our rental and we were due to move in. Then we got a phone call saying A1homes had gone bankrupt and tradesmen had walked off the site. At the moment we are in limbo.

“For us to move in, tradesmen have to go back and install the toilet, there is a lot of plumbing work, a lot of electrical work and finishing touches to do.”

It was probably a week of work but everyone was owed so much money no one wanted to go near the place, he said.

A nightmare

“It’s certainly a big mess, a nightmare.”

Frustrating matters further was that no one was communicating.

“We have no idea what is going on. None of the people that should be talking want to talk.”

Painter and decorator Hamish Simpson said the effect on his business was “massive”.

He is owed $35,000 and has had to lay off one staff member already.

“My business isn’t a giant profit organisation. I’m just a small band of painters. It breaks even.

“I certainly don’t have the capital to bankroll it. I’m pretty gutted.”

He had been “very humbled” by support from friends and clients.

It was the first time in his 15 years of business that this sort of thing had happened.

“When bills aren’t paid, I still have to pay mine.

“I am not going to let these guys ruin me but its going to be a very hard year.

“Everything I’ve heard has been second-hand — no correspondence from A1homes.”

Another Gisborne sub-contractor is owed $30,000.

The A1 office on the corner of Wainui Road and Hirini Street is closed.

The sub-contractor said the Gisborne manager no longer worked there and A1homes had not responded to him.

“They’re just ignoring us and have run for cover.

“I believe they knew they were in trouble and continued to trade. I’m told two weeks ago they were still trying to sell homes. That’s just mischievous. I’m taking legal advice.

“People have got to know. The whole thing has been badly handled. This story has to be told.”

Out of pocket

Another customer of A1 homes is $15,000 out of pocket.

“I found out second-hand. There has not been one phone call or email, or any communication to let me know what’s going on. It’s unbelievable.”

His home was five to six weeks from completion when builders walked off the job because they had not been paid for six weeks, he said.

“My big question is, where has all the money gone?”

A company that owned a skip bin on his property told him they would dump the rubbish there and take the bin because they had not been paid either.

He had paid A1homes for that service but paid for the skip bin again himself to ensure he was not stuck with a pile of rubbish, he said.

“The worst bit has been the lack of information.”

Another couple who contracted A1homes felt they were lucky because they had not paid a deposit yet. But they did lose $4000 for the initial plans.

“The annoying thing about it is they took this money when surely they knew they were in trouble.”

Master Builders national CEO David Kelly said it was understandably very hard for homeowners.

Master Builders’ focus was to work with the head franchisor to see what they could do now to look after the home owners.

He remembered a similar situation a couple of years ago with the collapse of Stonewood Homes in Canterbury.

Mr Kelly said all Stonewood homes did get completed in the end.

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Woody - 1 year ago
Group housing came to town in the 1990s and wiped out the local builders. Local builders are on the return - KNOW AND TRUST THE PERSON NOT THE BRAND. Proud to build houses for families, not for profit-mongers. Another Group Housing Company down, only a few to go.

Brent - 1 year ago
Maybe Ross Thomas who owns the brand A1 Homes could take responsibility? This isn't the first time for A1 Homes! The licencee in Nelson went broke owing millions like FCL in Gisborne. Ross Thomas where are you?

Robbie C, Dunedin - 1 year ago
There is a certain amount of apprehension when deciding which group home franchise to commit to when it comes time to building your home. We built our kitset home through A1 Homes here in Dunedin late last year (2017) and couldn't recommend them highly enough. We were treated fairly, honestly and they were more than accommodating throughout the entire build process (even with my last-minute changes). We were also offered a 100% completion guarantee that ensures any build nationwide is completed if the local franchise went under....... Perhaps this option needs to be looked at in this instance. But make no mistake, to all those looking at the group home option, do your homework, go with a group home franchise who has a good reputation and a guarantee that if the proverbial hits the fan, you are covered. We did and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

RYAN, Napier - 1 year ago
A1 Homes head man franchisee person: Stand by your brand and sort this crap out!.
All the talk about sorting home owners out by A1 chief owner and Master Builders is great. Please also consider us tradies and suppliers. We need help too.

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