Tick Tock

Melissa talked to a friend who had a production home built while her sister had a custom home built.  She said her process was pretty smooth, but her sister bitched non-stop about the custom builder …and that really captures the part of the story we haven’t blogged about yet.  Sorry to all of our friends, family, and co-workers who have become weary when asking about the  house.  The project is moving along, but the nuances of mistakes and delays are definitely under our skin.

Better Be Prompt!  63-TickTock-SCZ_03  63-TickTock-SCZ_02

We met with our builder early this week to discuss a few things:

Our 9-month term construction loan ends in two weeks (we have to purchase an extension)

  • The three other builders we initially talked to (and even the banker) said this was a 5-6 month project.  We added 3 in the term of the loan to factor in our involvement.
  • They say in construction you get to pick 2 of these 3: Quality, Reasonable Cost, Timely Completion.  We’ve obviously picked the first two, but this is ridiculous.
  • Delays were blamed primarily on the alternate beams ordered outside his regular supply chain to save nearly $8k (even though I prompted him of the lead time several times well in advance – the part of the story he seems to have forgot.)
  • Delays and mistakes by the fireplace installer, outside of his regular supply chain, were also mentioned.  They did screw up.
  • The many other factors were not brought up.  But the worst is that he takes no personal responsibility and offers no sense of urgency moving toward completion.
 The sequence and schedule of the remaining work
  •  The order of events are not entirely intuitive, it’s good to get them straight.
  •  There is a LOT of “owner performed work” coming up and I need to know how to spread my vacation time out.
Scope of work: who does what
  • A couple weeks ago I reminded him that I planned to provide and install wall base and door casing, and asked when / where the doors were coming from.  He said those were on my plate because that’s part of an interior trim package (despite that my intended performance was outlined in detail and handed to him well before we signed a contract).  We wanted to ensure more “oh, that’s your scope” things weren’t going to creep in from other aspects of the build.
  • We were able to push painting back onto him.  His pro will work 3 times faster and have to do the touch ups at the end.
  • We were NOT able to push any flooring back onto him because our selected products (also shared with him from the beginning) are not carried and therefore not installed by the 1 resource he uses.  This was news to us.

The lesson we learned is that “custom builder” is a loose term.  Our builder has primarily one resource for each trade, and if you look outside of those resources, his oversight, loose organization and coordination falters.  This explains why he could offer nothing when asked what to change in the initial design to control costs following his first estimate (despite 35 years experience), and does more to explain the many days with no action on site (tradesmen tied up on other jobs, no one else in the queue).

Builders have been forced to work on smaller profit margins to remain afloat this past decade; their process is lean and streamlined.  This eats into front end planning and supervision.  It would seem prudent to have reviewed the consequences of this earlier, especially considering the arrangements we made regarding scope of work and the greater vigilance for coordination it requires.  You know, just all around good ol’ communication.

It’s clear that we picked the wrong partner for this project, but we’re over that fact and only interested in facilitating our move-in as soon as we can.

Regardless, I still intend to share The List in another post (I keep track these things).  It’s only fair to share red flags that should send you running to another builder.

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2 thoughts on “Tick Tock

  1. This is an incredibly common experience for most homeowners on both the “custom builder” and “production builder” side of things. The one thing that is missing here and would have been an invaluable resource for you as the homeowner is an Architect. Hiring an architect would have given you a professional advocate during design, bidding/contracts and construction to make sure not only that all of these issues were discussed, agreed upon and documented during bidding but also that things moved along in a timely and professional manner during construction.
    Quite simply it’s what an architect is there for – you, the client.

  2. Our architect is there for us ALL THE TIME (sometimes it’s annoying), but we’re paying him really REALLY poorly. Also, considering he has no control over the “means and methods” of construction I don’t think he has any gravity on the construction timeline. He’s done a LOT of follow-up research to find alternate sources for more affordable items (refer to the beams mentioned above), so we definitely have an advocate. 😉

    There were a lot of red flags during contract signing that we ignored for the sake of momentum, but I’ll elaborate on that later.

    https://zabelproject.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/architect-as-his-own-architect/

    Thanks for reading and the input!

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