Don’t let your builder off the hook
My wife Monica and I have built four homes together. We haven’t pounded every nail, but certainly have done our share. The builder was overall responsible but in most cases they allowed us to work alongside them. We gained valuable experience that we’ve put to use in other endeavors and saved a little money. I learned framing, electrical wiring, and roofing, while Monica learned how to install hardwood floors.
The best builder we had was a man named Einar Hoymer of Quality House builders. Einar was a custom builder, he would do anything you wanted. This worked out well for us because we are pretty picky when it comes to our homes. During the building process there were many days when we would approach Einar and ask him to add some new feature that we had just seen in a magazine. He was always accommodating. Einar had very high standards for his work. I remember one day coming to the house and seeing him use several hours tearing out a feature that his apprentice had put in the day before because it wasn’t quite right. Yes, the building took a little longer than it ordinarily would, but the positive trade-off was that we knew everything was done right. Einar became a good friend of ours, and we fondly remember that house as the best we’ve ever lived in. Over the years we recommended Einar many times and would continue to do so except for the fact that Einar builds his houses in Norway; so unless you’re tired of sunshine and beautiful weather, you probably won’t be building a home with him.
Our current home in Palencia was built by a different type of builder, one who is known for including everything. We learned quickly however that including everything is code for “you can't change anything”. I suppose the trade-off for the builder is that you don’t have customers interrupting your work asking for changes. This means that the house is built much quicker. Which from the builder’s perspective means they can finish yours and move on to the next house with little delay. But building houses faster isn’t always synonymous with building houses better.
Don’t let your builder off the hook. An 11-month home inspection is very important. The list that we created and gave to our current builder for our 11-month walkthrough was over three pages long. It included mix-matched shingles on the roof, water damage under several sinks from prior leaks, windows that didn’t function, cracked floor tiles, and two crooked walls. To their credit, the builder fixed everything on the list, no questions asked. Monica and I were fortunate that with our building experience and professional education, we were able to do our own inspection. Most home owners don’t have the experience, the education, the proper tools, or the desire to do a proper evaluation so they turn to home inspection companies. If you decide to go this route, make sure to ask the home inspection company if they have special rates for 11-month warranty inspections; most won’t. Using these companies you could easily spend $500 or more. In their defense they charge this much because they're doing the same inspection they would do for a new buyer that doesn’t know anything about the house. But you do know your house, you’ve lived in it for 11 months so there are many things that the inspector doesn’t have to inspect. For example, you know if your appliances work, you know if your windows go up and down smoothly and you know if your doors latch properly. There’s no reason for the inspector to inspect these things and charge you for it. You probably don't know if you have problems with your roof that only walking on it can reveal, or what's behind your electric panel cover, or if you have a moisture problem in your attic that could lead to mold. When I do an 11-month inspection, typically half of what is included in the report are issues that the home owner told me about, the other half are issues that I find. No matter what company you decide to use, all will produce a professional report that you can hand to your builder, easing the process immensely.
When Einar called and told us it was time for our 11-month walkthrough we told him we didn’t have any issues with the house. He insisted that we had to find something for him to fix. Instead, we invited him over for a dinner of reindeer steaks and red wine. After dinner we took a walk through the house and Einar pointed out a couple small issues that neither Monica nor I had noticed. He came back the next day and completed his work in an hour. I’m sure that some of you reading this have a builder just like Einar. You’re very fortunate and you probably don’t need a professional 11-month home inspection. For the rest of us, who used a builder that doesn’t have the same exacting standards, a professional 11-month home inspection is probably the way to go.