Do buyers drive builders crazy or vice versa?
At some point in the home-building process, nearly every customer will say, “This builder is driving me crazy.” And — surprise, surprise — buyers also say and do things that drive the builder crazy.
Most stressed-out buyers are willing to express their concerns to anyone who will listen, including their builder. The builders, though, are a more guarded group, and most are reluctant to tell their side of the story. But offered the cloak of anonymity, a number from around the country offered these observations:
1. Don’t ask us to do stuff for free.
A typical conversation between buyers and sales agent:
“I’d like to have this.”
“It’s an option.”
“Well, I want it. I think it should be in the house. Why can’t you include it in the base price?”
“If I put everything in there you thought should be in there, you couldn’t afford it.”
“We’ve been such good clients, can’t you just put it in?”
2. Making selections is not like taking an SAT.
Your entire future will not depend on what kind of cabinet door style and knob you select.
“Many clients feel like life will end if they don’t make the right decision about selections. They should worry about their needs, the room count, space, and spatial relations, but not stress out over which cabinet knobs — they have no idea what they have in their house now.
Part of the problem is way too many choices. Fifteen to 20 years ago, there were $5,000 to $ 10,000 in options, and the choices were limited — one kitchen cabinet door style with five knobs and only five or six countertop choices. Now you have ten cabinet door styles, 20 knobs, 100 countertop options and five different appliance colors.”
3. If you want to add something to your house and we diplomatically say, “The next buyer might not like it,” listen up.
“I’ve been building for 30 years. I do know what I am doing, and the customer needs to listen. When I say, ‘From a resale point of view you might want to rethink it,’ I want to say, ‘This is so stupid no one will ever buy it.’ But don’t get me wrong. People can have great ideas.
Not every idea is stupid, but one or two are so harebrained or impractical no one will ever want it.”
4. We are not mind readers. We can only go by what you say, not by what you realize eight months later you meant.
“If the columns shown on the drawings that you approved are square, they will be square on your house. If you realize when you see them in place that you wanted round ones, please do not suggest reasons that we should make such a significant change at no charge. The dictionary says that columns are usually round, and the Southern anti-bellum look you wanted but never discussed with us always has round columns.'”
5. You are not my only customer.
“Some buyers are so demanding. They constantly ask for this and that. You can’t accommodate them, and you find yourself telling them ‘No!’ all the time. It’s so exasperating.
You want to tell them, ‘Look, I am building 20 other houses at the same time I’m building yours.’ ”
“Even the most low-key buyers start to lose it when their house nears completion, and they are getting ready to move in. And then we have to remind them, too.
We try to say politely, ‘We know you are moving next week, but I have to deal with the people due to move-in this week. I will stress out about you next week.’ ”
6. We will fix things on our timetable, not yours.
“There is a system and a method to construct a house that’s economical. When you see something like loose roof shingles or cracked floor tiles or outlets in the wrong place, these things will be taken care of before you move in. But it’s not even by the builder’s timetable, it’s more like by the house’s timetable.
The next time an electrician comes through, he will fix the problem, but he won’t come until there is at least a half-day of other stuff to do. The roofers will be back to get all the loose shingles on your house and all the other houses at the same time. So please don’t bug me and ask, ‘Well, did you call so and so?’ ”
7. Don’t ask me to do special favors for you.
“We have to treat everyone the same way. If I do it for you, I will do it for all the others. If I don’t do it for you, I won’t do it for your neighbor either.”
8. You don’t own the house until the closing papers are signed.
“Most buyers believe that once they have purchased the house and signed a sales contract, they own it. They start to feel a sense of ownership and think, ‘The builder shouldn’t be able to tell us what to do.’ They say, ‘If we want to visit the site, we will.’ But they don’t own the house.
The builder owns it until closing. He has the right to exclude the buyer from the site during construction — which is a dangerous, unsafe place, especially for kids — even if the builder across the street lets his customers and their families crawl all over the place.”
9. If you see something amiss, let us know — calmly.
“If you think you see an error as your house goes up, politely bringing it to our attention will produce the same result as a volcanic eruption.”
10. Be sure to include toilet paper in your “open immediately” box.
“When you move in, make sure that your ‘open immediately’ box has toilet paper. Otherwise, your kids will use paper towels and stop up the plumbing.”
11. If you don’t water your new lawn, the grass will die.
“Trying to get buyers to water their trees and lawn and to cut their grass — you must cut the grass to force the root system to grow — is impossible. We give buyers two or three papers explaining how to grow and establish the lawn.
We say, ‘It’s your responsibility to water and cut and fertilize it.’ Three or four months later, the buyer will say, ‘I have all this erosion on my lot.’ We want to say, ‘Well, if you watered it and the grass grew, you wouldn’t have this problem.”