Questions surround Brentwood Homes

Not long after Robin and John Giangrande made a deal with Brentwood Homes to buy its model in the Coker's Crossing neighborhood, Brentwood began a transition to Crescent Homes.

Robin and John Giangrande of Goose Creek weren't ready to buy a smaller home yet.

But when Brentwood Homes slashed the price of the model home in its Coker's Crossing neighborhood and offered to rent the property from them for a year, it was a deal they couldn't resist.

Just days after the couple bought the property in April, the Brentwood name on the signs outside the Goose Creek residence was replaced with Crescent Homes. The marketing materials also were changed.

When Robin Giangrande brought a new lease to be signed — naming Crescent as the tenant — officials refused to sign it, even though Crescent had started using the home to show buyers, she said.

A company representative told her that Brentwood still existed as a legal entity and would continue to pay the rent.

"The problem is that Brentwood isn't occupying the space anymore," Giangrande said.

The Giangrandes aren't the only Brentwood buyers with concerns about the company, whose executives could not be reached for direct comment. Skip Martin, an attorney for Brentwood, said questions are justified.

Martin said this week that the builder is "winding up its business ... because the economy's so bad."

"I think Brentwood's future is that of many other companies in this economic time," he said. "They're downsizing, liquidating assets, selling inventory and doing everything they can to weather the storm."

The sudden transition to Crescent Homes from Brentwood has left homeowners, some of whom live in half-completed communities, confused over who's running the business

Nearly a dozen homeowners have contacted The Post and Courier saying they're having trouble reaching the company.

Residents in Baker Plantation in North Charleston held a meeting on Sunday night to discuss the situation.

Frank Bowdoin, a homeowner in Brentwood's Indigo Palms neighborhood in North Charleston, said he has repeatedly called and e-mailed Brentwood to no avail to ask why his neighborhood's new property manager — an entity called Brentwood Property Management based in Brentwood's West Ashley office — hasn't mowed the common-area lawns in weeks.

He also wonders why monthly dues have nearly doubled, even though the number of homeowners has grown since 2008.

Earlier this year, Brentwood officials sent a letter to homeowners saying the Indigo Palms association was in poor financial condition, forcing the company to remove some lamp-post lights to save money.

Bowdoin said some homeowners are now hesitant to pay their association fees because they have not been getting any answers about where their money is going. He said that "when your builder doesn't give you answers, you fear the worst."

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Martin said the association's money is being handled properly and that a new community management firm will take over soon.

Martin declined to identify who owns Crescent Homes, saying it is a separate company that has acquired a large portion of Brentwood's assets. It was registered in April by a top Brentwood executive, Edward M. Terry, according to a filing with the S.C. Secretary of State.

Brentwood also has transferred a large amount of property to what Martin identified only as a third-party investor: Harris Street LLC.

Established up in 2003, Harris Street was registered between 2006 and 2008 to Edward M. Terry. The company once shared an office on Savage Road with Brentwood Homes, a document from the state Department of Health & Environmental Control shows.

The Web site for the newly formed Crescent Homes advertises homes in six local neighborhoods — all former Brentwood communities. Brentwood's Internet site is still active, but it only contains home-warranty information.

Brentwood entered the local market in 1995. At that time, a contractor who worked for home builder Pace Homes became Brentwood's president after Pace abruptly shut down its operations.

Pace's closure left dozens of homeowners with unfulfilled warranty requests. Also, some homeowners were sued because Pace didn't pay its bills.

Reach Katy Stech at 937-5549 or kstech@postandcourier.com.