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Houston home builder skips big step, leaves smart homes dumb

HOUSTON – Buying a new home is a big moment. Moving in is exciting; but several new homeowners in one Houston community say their brand new homes are missing a crucial utility, especially during the pandemic. They have no internet service.

You know the feeling when you’re trying to get some work done online and you lose your internet connection for a few minutes? Now, imagine that you lose it for six months. It’s what happened to nine homeowners in north Houston who just moved into a brand new smart home community. They say it’s costing them hundreds of dollars just to do their jobs.

Tidwell Grove is just 10 miles from downtown Houston -- brand new homes just outside the Loop. Each home is equipped with a smart home system, but people who live there said that the lack of internet service has left their homes dumb.

“I didn’t find out about it till the day I closed,” said new homeowner Josh Rhodes.

Rhodes moved in April 28. He said Disama Builders told him then it would take about two or three weeks to get internet service established. It’s now three-and-a-half months later, and Rhodes and his neighbors are still waiting.

“We can’t work,” he said. “We can’t entertain ourselves. It’s frustrating.”

His neighbor, Juan Junca, moved in a few weeks later.

“Without the internet, you know, it’s really, really frustrating,” Junca said. “Especially because I work from home.”

Ten of the 40 planned homes in the community are complete, but the nine buyers already here said the builder skipped a big step. Disama failed to notify any cable company when they started construction.

Comcast said the soonest they can get the homes online is Oct. 29, issuing the following statement to KPRC 2:

“There is an industry-standard process for any service provider in advance of new construction that includes an application process for the necessary permits, then design and construct of the network. We regularly work with developers, and they notify us, or any service provider, well in advance of beginning actual construction.”

By phone, the owner of Disama Building Group said all of the properties surrounding the Tidwell Grove lots had Comcast/Xfinity service so he assumed his property would be covered too. It wasn’t until the first buyer moved in and tried to establish internet service that Disama realized the infrastructure isn’t available to provide service to the homes. Disama is a fairly new builder, but they are building all over the Houston area. The best Disama said it could do was offer homeowners $300 to help cover the cost of mobile hotspots.

“How far is that supposed to take us?” asked Rhodes. “The jet pack itself is $300.”

“If I would have known this before the closing, I probably would have just, like, back away or looking at similar places,” Junca said.

Mobile hotspots can get expensive, especially if you are downloading a lot of files and sitting in on virtual meetings.

Who would think in 2020 you’d need to ask if your new home is internet ready? But as in this case, it never hurts to ask or even call a provider and check before you decide to buy.