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Building a Home, Ruining Trust

RichRich administrator Posts: 582 Site Admin
I am obsessed with customer service lately. I think I might be becoming one of those consumers who EXPECTS to be treated a certain way. Maybe it`s because I spend so much time here at StartupNation advocating the best business practices and how to become successful.In any event, like my post about waiting in the Doctor`s lounge, I also have some recent experience with home builders and related contractors. First a disclaimer - the process and trade skills of building a home totally fascinates me - i love the nature of the work immensely. It`s creative, it`s about strategy (sequencing), it`s tangible, and it`s filled with dreams and visions of a future that come to life upon completion. Also, there are very high quality people in the business of construction.But what I noticed on my project and have heard about so many others--to a person--is that building a home can also be a miserable process. More often than not, the contractor and subs have nowhere NEAR the level of care or concern for a quality end result as the customer. In fact, it seems like "cutting corners" (no pun intended) is institutionalized in the sub-contractor world. And the subs are part of a club where there`s a CYA code in place...I`m looking for perspectives about the home construction trades/entrepreneurs and for any ideas and recommendations that would clearly make their business one that is known for excellence in customer experience, rather than the seemingly rampant view that building a home is the most stressful experience you can have... also referred to as, "a nightmare..."i hope we can assemble some great advice here...


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    NicoleCNicoleC subscriber Posts: 18
    I am sorry to hear you had a bad experience in building your home.  I hope your contractor will be willing to listen and work with you in resolving the concerns.
    Ideas for avoiding nightmare experiences:
    1)  Research the builder/contractors and their sub-contractors!  This involves checking with the state to see if any complaints have been filed against the builder`s license or individual contractor.  Check with local municipalities to see if any of the local residents have addressed concerns about the builder, the quality of product used, and the builder`s workmanship. Be sure to speak with the local community`s building inspector and the Planning Department to find out if they have ever had to issue a stop work order and/or at any time prohibited the builder from working in the community. They may be willing to share public information even when they keep their personal opinions to themselves.  (It is not uncommon for fire marshalls, building inspectors and planning staff to know which builders provide the bare minimum in building standards verses those who deliver high quality building materials.  Although they may not volunteer what they know about the builder some questions such as what information is on the public records (site plan reviews, blue prints, recorded meeting minutes, etc.) may disclose tell tale information such as if the builder is using minimum standard products for their builds or premium grade building products.  Also ask for references from prior clients and visit them to see first hand if the exterior grading is level; if there are any cracks in the foundation or porches; is the tile work waving or cracking from being applied to an unlevel surface; are the grout lines spaced and/or visually straight within any tile work; are there any leaks or standing water in the basement or around windows; take a level to verify that cabinets were hung appropriately; and watch for small details such as if there are any visable gaps appearing in/around baseboards and/or crown moldings.  In other words make a list of things to look for then check their references for client satisfaction and visually inspect work they have done.  (Keep in mind depending on the soil composition it can take ten years before a house will settle.  Therefore if the contractor has been in business for over ten years it might be worthwhile to visit homes they recently built, a home which was built over eighteen months ago, and one they built ten years ago.) 
    2) Ask if your building project will have a construction project manager and/or if the trade/contractor would be willing to work with the one you hire.  Be specific with the construction project manager and contractor on the details of the site, the quality you expect in both workmanship and materials used, the time frame you wish for the work to be completed and any other expectations. (Just as with any job there are many talented people but not everyone is a good fit for the task at hand so ask lots of questions.)
    3) Hire a local attorney who specializes in real estate law for the review and/or crafting of all contracts and addendums.  Above all else make sure all agreements and expectations are expressed in writing before any work is conducted or money exchanged. Your attorney should be able to advise on what options best meet your needs for negotiating safe guards like placing funds in escrow with specific stipulations on how, when and under what conditions partial payments will be released.
    5) Don`t assume--verify for yourself and ask questions at various stages of your project. 
    6) Easier said then done: try to set aside the excitement and emotional ties related to the home. 
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