Labor Day marks the six year anniversary moving into our custom home in Highland Village, TX. It was the process of selling our home and building our current one that inspired me to follow a career in real estate.
It was a whirlwind decision but one we knew was right. We have fantastic neighbors, wonderful community amenities and great schools to boot.
One of the things that buyers overlook when building a home is the value of a real estate agent. Even though we had a real estate agent she pretty much stayed out of anything after our contract was written.
Six years later, we still have building defects and issues that were problems from day one. Most are minor but there are several significant problems. Our builder was open to repairing huge cracks in our walls and drainage problems for the first few years.
One of our biggest problems is continual shifting. We've had doors that haven't closed properly since we moved in and cracks that have been repaired three times. We've called the third-party warranty company out, six or seven foundation companies and everyone says that "this is normal". I am sorry, but cracks in our floors, separated hardwoods, humps in several parts of our floors, huge separation in our bricks in addition to the numerous cracks in our walls, are not normal after six years.
So, share with me your experience with custom homes or builders. Here are some tips that I have come up with when you are building your dream home. Hopefully these will help you learn from my mistakes!
1. Get everything in writing! You have no leg to stand on if you get into a "he said she said" argument. When we would ask our builder to do something along the way, he would say "Sure, we can do that". It was never "Yes, but it will cost you XX to do so".
2. Know what you are getting and not getting! In Texas, our soils are extremely volatile. Our lot was a bit difficult to build on and our builder didn't include piers in our initial plan. We had already negotiated terms and then he came back to us and said we need piers and it would be over $8,000 extra. Uh, no. That came out of his pocket. He also tried to charge us extra for our third car garage. His architect put the third car garage on there but did not put (optional) on it. He ate that too.
3. Know what you can and cannot do! I found a great faucet place and had them all shipped to his house. He had them for two months and never looked at the box. He assumed we had one faucet when we had another and then drilled incorrect holes in all of our counters. Ask if builders will let you purchase items for your home because many will not, especially when it's for items to install during the building process.
4. Take lots of pictures! From start to finish and every single process in between. You need to be an active participant in this process! If there is a lot of standing water, take pictures. When your piers are being installed, take pictures. When the framing is going up and there is a splintered piece of wood, take pictures. And save those pictures! In case you didn't get my urging, take pictures!!!!
5. Ask questions! And lots of them! If your builder says that you will be getting 50 piers installed, ask to see the documentation and get copies! I don't have any copies because he's not required to give them to us. Another big one is for the heating and air systems. Make sure the HVAC has the correct tonnage for the size of your home. City inspectors are just getting the house done, they don't really do a great job of thoroughly inspecting the home, in my experience. This is your investment so no question is too small or too silly. We were ignorant and didn't know the process. We know better now.
6. Don't settle! Do not close on that house with items still needing to be done. Even if you trust your builder and he says "We will take care of that after you move in". Just say no. Get it done now and get it done right.
7. Find out the warranty details! What is included? Who will do the repairs? Who do I call? How long is it good for?
This isn't an all-inclusive list but it is some important points that we have learned from our own experience. Buyer beware!!!!