Where Are They Building Now? A Royce Builders Bankruptcy Reunion Tour

Channel 2 investigative reporter Amy Davis sends a KPRC newschopper to buzz the 80-acre Cypress party pad estate of former Royce Builders president John Speer. More than a year after we featured the innumerable builder upgrades of that Mack-Daddy mansion on Swamplot, it’s still sitting on the market — for the same $9.8 million.

Meanwhile, less than a mile to the west, sales aren’t going so well either in former Royce Homes subdivision Grant Meadows:

“Houses are in disrepair. Fences are in disrepair,” explained homeowner Matt Adams. “The whole neighborhood’s been left in ruins.” . . .

Royce stopped paying the bill for the street lights in Grant Meadows in July 2008.

Reliant recently switched them off, and told homeowners they must pay the $14,000 owed before they can turn them back on.

“It’s pitch black out here at night,” said homeowner Evit Byrd, who planned to retire in Grant Meadows with his wife. “You can’t see anything.”

But there’s some good news: Speer has been building again! His new company, Vestalia Homes, which Speer founded 3 weeks after he closed down Royce, is busy constructing and selling homes a little closer to FM 1960, in a subdivision called the Lakes of Cypress Forest.


What’s happening in that other former Royce subdivision, Westwood Gardens? Davis surveys some of the unfinished homes in the neighborhood:

. . . and knocks on the door of the sales trailer belonging to WG Homes:

At Westwood Gardens, WG homes has purchased some of the empty lots to pick up where Royce left off. While WG Homes sales staff told me they have no relation to the old Royce Homes or its executives, the phone number on WG Homes Web site was the same number listed for Vestalia Homes.

When we called, the former vice president of Royce, Shonna Speer answered the phone, but she wouldn’t answer our questions.

Two days later, that phone number on Vestalia’s site was changed.

Photos of Westwood Gardens subdivision: Amy Davis, Click2Houston

12 Comment

  • The man belongs in prison.

  • What you’re seeing here is the harsh reality faced by first time homebuyers who have extended themselves far beyond their means. Their suburban fantasy is over and it is time to declare bankruptcy and resume life as a renter. Let this be a warning to those who view our suburban wastelands as a twisted Shangri-la.

  • This story might be a good lesson in why the first few homes in a new development are often priced cheaper than they otherwise might be.

    Although it may be more expensive to do so, buying in an established development usually gives some measure of security that your new neighborhood isn’t going to go downhill in the near term.

  • Landed Gent, seriously? Did you read the post? Where does anything in this point to homeowners who overextended themselves?
    I could say, yeah, this is a lesson in why you might want to consider a previously lived-in home in an established neighborhood, but this isn’t a reason to rent.

  • He still belongs in prison. Along with quite a few others. Including those who no doubt will defend his right to declare bankruptcy and then go on his merry little way, with his inventory, under a new corporate name.

    Maybe he sold his inventory to himself under the new corporate name?

    The homebuilders wonder why they have such a terrible reputation. This is just one of many reasons why.

  • Claire, Gent is just a troll trying to stir the pot. I don’t know why this website still accepts posts from his IP address.

  • For those of us who’ve made a career in homebuilding, the Speers have had a horrible reputation for bad business practices for a long time. People in the industry knew not to buy a Royce home and even more were savvy enough not to work for that disorganized, pathetic excuse for a homebuilder. Unfortunately, a few of my very talented friends got ‘Speered’ over the years and witnessed the debacle firsthand. The stories of Shawn and Shonna, her handbags and their giant egos are legendary and I’d say most reputable people in the business did their best to steer their friends and family away from Royce’s shoddy product. They do indeed ALL belong in prison.

  • To Matt Mystery:

    I am a homebuilder. I agree with all said above about John Speer and I am the man whose job he took 20 years ago in Royce’s early years. After 30 years in this business it still embarasses me to know what greedy irresponsible people are in this industry. They ignore all economic standards and when the industry gets out of controll as it did on not only a national basis but a worldwide basis during this recession, all economic sensibility i. e. the economic laws of Supply and Demand go out the door. Those people with no ethics, conscious or values such as John Speer get away with murder while the rest of us small honest builders are left to struggle. I had my differences with Mike Manners, the founder of Royce but I’ll bet even he is embarassed at what became of the company he started at this point. Of course he probably did get his money out of Speer when he bought the company.

  • Random: You are correct. It has been my experience that purchasing in the last phases of a project can get the buyer almost the same pricing as the early phases, yet the risk is significantly lower since the HOA has been funded for a while, amenities are finished and you have a much better idea where the neighborhood is headed.

  • HELP! I put an earnest deposit on a house at westwood gardens. The house was sold and I just found out. When I went to ask for my earnest money back, the agent told me that he could not give me that back because I did not get a prepaid credit card. I have never heard of this before, am I wrong in thinking I am entitled to my money back since they sold the house without letting me know?

  • You have to wonder why the AG’s Office hasn’t investigated this. Did anyone contact the consumer protection division?

    This is not a homebuilder/homebuyer dispute. It increasingly seems to be a case of fraud.

  • I have a Royce Home in Lakewood Grove that is poor quality from top to bottom. Only 8 years old. I had to replace all granite because they did not put any decking under the granite. It all cracked within 3 years. I have had re place every appliance except dishwasher. The driveway is cracked in several areas and had to be skim coated the first few months. Plumbing lines do not have the correct angle to them so I have to have them cleaned out regularly. I would never buy another home by Dperts or his son.