By Lauren Victory

CHICAGO (CBS) — A first-time homebuyer’s introduction to a new community in Pingree Grove did not go as planned, after a case of missing money almost cancelled the deal at the last second.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory introduces us to Tim Nuss and Dawn Whalen, whose moving chores got a lot more stressful after a call from the company selling them their new home.

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A new subdivision in Pingree Grove was supposed to be their suburban oasis; featuring an indoor/outdoor pool, a gym, and a clubhouse; plus their very own driveway, garage, and front yard.

“I wanted it to be, like, I’m not going to say Club Med, but like I was on vacation so to speak,” Whalen said. “You couldn’t ask for more. I mean, it is a great community.”

It certainly was a trip. Before calling the active adults’ community in Pingree Grove home, Whalen and her boyfriend had to go through the motions of moving, and then some; ending the lease on their old home, figuring out what to throw out, and packing up the rest.

“Oh, I have to call for the HOA, or I have to change the gas and electric,” Whalen said.

The couple also scrambled and scrounged to get together financials.

“We followed their instructions. We agreed on a sales price. We physically went out there to deliver the check,” Nuss said.

Their $15,000 earnest money check was a non-refundable deposit to prove the first-time homebuyers were serious.

More than a week later, they received a troubling call from developer D.R. Horton: their money was missing.

“Usually I’m never at a loss for words. Never. I didn’t know what to say,” Whalen said.

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The Better Business Bureau has reported U.S. homebuyers lost nearly $1 billion in fraudulent real estate transactions between 2015 and 2017. Scammers’ attempts to target wire transfers rose 1,100% during the same time period.

That’s not what happened in this couple’s case.

“They lost it. I did what I was supposed to do,” Whalen said.

D.R. Horton blamed the postal service for losing the check, but also apologized and tried to fix the mistake. An executive later wrote in an email, “Because we took possession of the check, you will receive a credit at closing in the amount of $15,000.”

Nine days went by, and the couple resumed packing.

Three hours before holding the keys to paradise, they received a last-minute request from D.R. Horton to cancel the lost check and get a new one.

“At that point, I’m livid,” Whalen said. “It should be a great time in your life, and it was the most miserable time.”

“On the inside, I’m just a super kind of volcano, exploding internally on that. So this has been a very stressful period,” Nuss said.

In the end, no one was out any money; just serenity getting to their little slice of heaven.

D.R. Horton’s Midwest team contended the situation was resolved with the couple at their closing.

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Company administrators ignored questions about protocol, and did not say if anyone was reprimanded for the lost check.

Lauren Victory