The Tract Home Builder Trap
Production Builders? We used to call them Tract Homes.
I was at a local restaurant having lunch earlier this week. A couple seated at a nearby table leaned close together and held a conversation in hushed but urgent tones. Between them they had spread as widely as they could a rolled set of blueprints. I learned, from the small part of their conversation, loud enough to overhear, that they were distressed about the cost over-runs they were experiencing with their nationally known major builder.
Apparently, the agreed upon price covered nothing more than foundation, walls and a roof. They complained with dismay that the included windows and doors in the standard package were of a noticeably poor quality. Paint and style upgrades from the tawny beige offered was as if Michelangelo had been exhumed and was commissioned to paint the home himself.
I stopped myself from shaking my head. This poor couple had big worries and the last thing they needed was the pity or ridicule of anyone else. The builder was heaping plenty of both upon them. Amazingly, this is not a rare tale. This is the way production, or tract, builders make their living. They profit upon the lack of expertise of their clientele. Rather than shepherd their customers through the unfamiliar climes of the building industry, from which they profit, they used the signed contract as the tool to bend their arms behind their backs. (read: How to Select a Builder)
Your Builder must be Your Advocate: The doctor giving you the advice you need.
A design drawing created in-house by your builder following your requests and questions is key to the process running smoothly. Your renovation or new home must be as you see it in your imagination, not as the builder wants it to be based upon his bottom-line goals. I believe that a builder must offer you the complete answer to your needs from the start. He should not wait until his client learns about some great option they would like, then reply with wide-eyed surprise, “Oh, you want that too?” The builder is obligated to offer the latest options as a matter of course. I have spoken with countless friends, neighbors and potential clients who told me tales of their experiences with production home builders who took advantage of their lack of knowledge in the industry only to profit from it once they researched their desires for their new homes.
Manage Your Expectations – No Pie in the Sky
Even the best made plans require some modifications in practice. The most hated term in the business for the customer is ‘Change Order.’ As a consulting firm we do our best to anticipate the needs and desires of our clients. We do, however, sometimes miss the detail which invariably comes from searching web sites for ideas. Sometimes we may have to reset for the rare request for an LED lighted, MP3 supporting, speaker in the shower head bathroom shower unit. Usually, however, we anticipate, comfort height cylinder flush toilets, high quality windows and doors, mid to upper level granite counter tops, custom cabinets, etc.
Our knowledge of plumbing, electrical and HVAC specifications help to guarantee that you will know if your existing services can support the renovation you want.
Simply put, each design and budget estimate we tender offers a unique and sustainable solution guaranteed to keep your interest and needs for many years to come.