PINOPOLIS, S.C. (WCBD) — A Summerville couple is out thousands of dollars after waiting almost two years for their dream home, and they say the Colorado-based steel manufacturing company they ordered from is to blame.
Michelle Swarvar and her husband had plans to build a ‘barndominium’ on their new property in Berkeley County.
Swarvar said the price tag was around $95,000, and in October 2021 they put down $22,000 for their steel building through Armstrong Steel.
“They said we would get a discount if we signed during that month and that it was a price lock guarantee,” she said.
Swarvar said she was told the project would take about six months to complete. Eight months later, in the summer of 2021, Swarvar said she received the blueprints for her home along with a $35,000 price increase on the cost of her project.
Armstrong Steel notified her that the price was going up due to increased costs for steel. As for the price lock guarantee, Swarvar said she was told that the fine print of her contract states it was only good for 30 days.
When she tried to cancel her project, she said Armstrong Steel notified her that she could be charged thousands of dollars.
“I asked for half of my refund — anything — and they said no,” Swarvar said.
News 2 then reached out to Armstrong Steel’s Vice President, Brooke Gerhardt, for a response to the claims.
She provided us with this response:
“Armstrong Steel is a metal building manufacturer with thousands of satisfied customers. It is unfortunate that their positive experiences will not be given the same spotlight today. We are proud of our products, our people, and our reputation. We are disappointed to learn that Mr. & Mrs. Swarvar have chosen to sensationalize their views in the media rather than stay in touch with us regarding their order. Like most companies throughout the world, we were unable to fully avoid the impact of the COVID pandemic and the effects it has had on material supply, sharply rising costs, inflation, and other aspects of production. However, since then, steel prices have declined as more supply enters the market. In fact, there is no price increase associated with Mr. and Mrs. Swarvar’s order at this time. We encourage them to contact us to schedule the fabrication & delivery of their building.”
Swarvar said she did contact Armstrong Steel in February 2023 and was told by Gerhardt that steel prices went down and they were working on new pricing.
A week later, Swarvar said she followed up and never got an answer.
“I tried to reach out one or two more times — never heard back,” she said.
Swarvar also explained that she isn’t alone. She is part of a Facebook group called “Armstrong Steel Buildings Victim Group.”
“There are about 135 members with basically the same exact story as me,” she said.
Swarvar said she is most disappointed because she thought she did everything right. She checked the company’s rating on the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which for Armstrong Steel is an A+.
The company has several complaints on the BBB website that are similar to Swarvar’s, but according to BBB officials, ratings do not always reflect customer opinions.
Chris Hadley, President/CEO of the BBB serving central South Carolina and Charleston, explained that if a company is responsive to customer complaints it can boost its BBB rating.
“People’s venting, people’s praise, that’s not really what we are focusing on as far as ratings,” said Hadley. “What we are looking for is complaints — when you file a complaint with the BBB you are looking for a desired resolution”
Hadley also offered some advice for consumers entering into a pricey contract. He recommends doing business with local companies in case problems arise, and having an attorney or legal expert look over documents.
“You want to get everything in writing so you know what you’re getting into,” he said. “And then know who you’re working with.”
Swarvar said they were part of a class action lawsuit against Armstrong Steel, but they are now planning to take their case to arbitration at the advice of their lawyer.
As for their dream home, Swarvar said they will be moving forward with a different company.