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New home Construction expectations / recommendations

Old 02-12-2019, 08:15 AM
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Default New home Construction expectations / recommendations

We are looking to purchase or build a home within the next year or so and feel that building a new home would be the better alternative for us on the long run. However, we are dreading the build process.

The new home would be on our own waterfront lot and not in a spec cookie cutter community in SWFL.

We built a home in the past (~15 yrs ago) in a cookie cutter community (Ryland) and that was a nightmare and had to get an attorney involved. Others have had similar experiences as well with other builders and custom home builders in all price ranges. Hence our apprehension of doing it again , but the potential benefits makes it very tempting again to try.

I know this is a boat forum but i think many members here have gone through this process and many are in the industries so might be worth asking for advice and setting expectations.

We have and plan to continue to look at the builder reviews, license complaints and status, BBB complaints and status, past work and referrals, and longevity of the business. We also check to see if the builder has owned prior business in the past in the same industry and if they are active or have gone out of business. We found a builder that had filed bankruptcy and left people with numerous complaints and debt in the past and restarted a new company to rebrand themselves.

However, besides doing those basic things Our concerns are primarily with the builders contract:
1. Contract versus what is being verbally sold. Each builder promises the world but what I care about is the contract.

I have talked to a couple of builders in the area and neither were receptive to having my own attorney go through the contract and make modifications. The contract were very much there to protect the builder and not the home owner.

They required I give up my rights to go to court over disputes and to utilize an arbitrator. I don't have an issue with an arbitrator but there was no specification on how or who would pick the arbitrator. From what I have heard is that the building industry pretty much wines and dines the arbitrator in the local area. Hence I would not want to waive any rights on the contract.

Builders also required a fee and penalty for change orders. I get that and have no problems when I request the change order. However the contract are written to favor the builder on ALL change orders, even if the builder is at fault and not the client. So I would like clarification on this on the contract.

2. Quality of work:
The builders contract I have seen are worded so that a county inspection is the deciding factor on what is acceptable. However, having dealt with a recent roof job , passing county inspection is really the extreme bare minimum at best. Luckily for me I had captured all email and text with the builder on what was promised and expected , but had I not I would have been stuck with a horrendous roof job. So in the contract I would like to add stipulation on what is acceptable and who makes the determination on what is acceptable versus being based on county inspection or up to the builder with the option to have my own inspector.

3. Closing:
The contract also had wording that stated any issues that are cosmetic issues or shoddy work but passed county inspection are to be dealt after closing and any delay to closing would penalizes the buyer. This is a big no for us as we expect the final inspection list to be knocked out before closing. This was what saved us when we built our spec home and is a list of the biggest complaints with builders. Once they get there money they are out the door at their convenience.

According to an attorney I spoke with I asked how likely would a builder be willing to modify their contract and if this a common thing? He said if they don't , then walk away and they aren't a good builder. I get that and have already walked from two builders I talked too. Also if I can't get a builder to provide a fair contract so it sets the proper expectations for everyone then I wont build.

I'm not looking to screw the builder over nor cutting into their profit. However I'm looking to make sure that their sales pitch matches what the contract says and both my expectations and the builders expectations are clearly defined upfront and understood. However, from the couple contract I have seen that does not appear to be the case and its all in favor of the builder.

However, I was wondering what has been your experience with modifying builder contracts or should I just give up in building a home? To be honest at this point after talking with attorneys, mortgage companies, builders, and sales people we are at 95% not likely going with building a home. My wife is at more at 99% not likely to build , but looking for advice ,expectations and recommendations that may sway us to take the risk before tabling the building option.

Also perhaps you have builder you have used in the past that you would recommend in the Naples or Bonita Springs area?

Last edited by alfnator; 02-12-2019 at 08:37 AM.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:30 AM
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Attorney is correct; If they won't accept a modified contract, walk away. If they say no before even seeing the modification; RUN!

A good contractor will be open to contract modification. The really important things are: 1. establish a time frame, 2. define terms such as workmanship, finish (such as drywall, floors), material quality, etc, 3. define what happens if (go through the possibilities of things going afoul and then state responsibility and actions 4. state who's responsibility belongs to each party.

That's not all but some ideas. A good contract protects everyone because most everything is defined. A builder shouldn't run from that.

BTW, I have built several houses and done several major additions and modifications. I wrote a couple contracts and modified the others. I've also had contractor problems and disputes. The contracts worked on my behalf in all cases.
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Last edited by airbrush; 02-12-2019 at 08:40 AM.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by airbrush View Post
Attorney is correct; If they won't accept a modified contract, walk away. If they say no before even seeing the modification; RUN!

A good contractor will be open to contract modification. The really important things are: 1. establish a time frame, 2. define terms such as workmanship, finish (such as drywall, floors), material quality, etc, 3. define what happens if (go through the possibilities of things going afoul and then state responsibility and actions 4. state who's responsibility belongs to each party.

That's not all but some ideas. A good contract protects everyone because most everything is defined. A builder shouldn't run from that.
agreed and Iím on the opposite coin from the consumer. As a builder change orders are a pain most of the time. The hidden work that you never see is why change orders cost so much. Diligently go over and over your stuff and say this is what i want where and stick to it. This will keep price down, a builder happy, and a project on time. Arbitrators arenít bad just make sure you the consumer pick them if need be.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:40 AM
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Go to material suppliers for the construction industry and find out who pays on time and even who pays early for discounts if thatís available. Check two or three of each such as concrete, block, lumber, roofing supplies and such. Then go to subs and find out who pays fast and knows what they are doing, maybe driving around construction sites to get names off trucks. Subs like getting paid fast and should tell you who is on top of their game. Look at job sites to see if things appear to be clean and in order. Get a list of customers and speak to them. As you stated past history is important. There is more that you can do so I will let others chime in. Expect to pay more for quality work!
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by wcffish View Post
Go to material suppliers for the construction industry and find out who pays on time and even who pays early for discounts if thatís available. Check two or three of each such as concrete, block, lumber, roofing supplies and such. Then go to subs and find out who pays fast and knows what they are doing, maybe driving around construction sites to get names off trucks. Subs like getting paid fast and should tell you who is on top of their game. Look at job sites to see if things appear to be clean and in order. Get a list of customers and speak to them. As you stated past history is important. There is more that you can do so I will let others chime in. Expect to pay more for quality work!
take an inspector to dinner and ask him who builds the best home and has the best disposition
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:44 AM
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Thanks for the feedback but since we are batting 0/2 its been a little discouraging at the moment. I was at 50/50 in regards to going the building route while my wife was 100% against when we started looking.

Since I started doing research on it and the couple of conversations I had with builders i swayed to a 95% chance against it while my wife dropped to 98% against it only because we haven't been able to find what we are looking for in a prebuilt home.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by wcffish View Post
Go to material suppliers for the construction industry and find out who pays on time and even who pays early for discounts if thatís available. Check two or three of each such as concrete, block, lumber, roofing supplies and such. Then go to subs and find out who pays fast and knows what they are doing, maybe driving around construction sites to get names off trucks. Subs like getting paid fast and should tell you who is on top of their game. Look at job sites to see if things appear to be clean and in order. Get a list of customers and speak to them. As you stated past history is important.
thats a great idea , I hadn't thought off.


Expect to pay more for quality work!
I have no problems with that, It just doesn't appear a straight forward as paying more money to get better quality work. Unfortunately, the sh1tty guys appear to be willing to charge just as much.


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Old 02-12-2019, 08:52 AM
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Get everything in writing. Everything.

Make sure you have the right to have your own independent property inspector come in before closing. Do not trust the guys developers use, or that the house was certified for occupancy. This is where most people get burned over a couple hundred bucks that cost them tens of thousands.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by TorFed View Post
Get everything in writing. Everything.

Make sure you have the right to have your own independent property inspector come in before closing. .
Yes absolutely , the attorney recommend this and to use him throughout completion phases on the project and we would definitely do that. However, the issue with a couple of builder contracts we have received it appears that there was little purpose on getting your own inspector since the contract heavily favored the builder upon who decides what is acceptable.

Also it will likely be a huge task in itself in finding a good property inspector as well, although the attorney could recommend a couple. Would it be best to hire a third party GC to do the inspection throughout the process or just go with a property inspector? Do most property inspectors have GC license?

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Old 02-12-2019, 09:06 AM
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Unwillingness to modify a contract is a "tell" and you are right to walk away from any contractor who operates that way.

You mentioned you "spoke with" a lawyer... that isn't enough. Find a lawyer who specializes in construction law and have them review and negotiate any contract - new build or renovation. They may even have builder recommendations. A couple thousand dollars of legal cost is nothing compared to the heartache and headache or a build gone south...
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by nicecast View Post
Unwillingness to modify a contract is a "tell" and you are right to walk away from any contractor who operates that way.

You mentioned you "spoke with" a lawyer... that isn't enough. Find a lawyer who specializes in construction law and have them review and negotiate any contract - new build or renovation. They may even have builder recommendations. A couple thousand dollars of legal cost is nothing compared to the heartache and headache or a build gone south...
Absolutely agree, The attorney we talked to specializes and teaches construction law at college level. He also had a couple builder recommendations that he has worked with in the past and a couple he drafted their contracts for.

However, I wasn't so sure if its a definite good thing or a bad thing to go with a builder the attorney helped draft their contract for. Also wasn't sure about the potential conflict of interest.

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Old 02-12-2019, 09:26 AM
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Ok . So far the consequence appears that its not an abnormal expectations for the builder to modify their contract to benefit everyone. From the two we talked too so far, they made it sound like we were crazy to even suggest such a thing. One even suggested to not worry about the contract and its more about who you feel comfortable with, lol

That gives me a little more hope to continue to pursue the possibility of building new.

So are the following stipulations reasonable to include in the contract:
1. No waiving of buyers rights?

2. No closing fees ,final payments or penalties for the buyer until all items on the punch out list are completed?

3. Buyer inspectors required to buy off in certain big milestones?

4. Upon quality of work disagreement a third party arbitrator decides the outcome . However, how can or what is the process to select a third party arbitrator that is fair for everyone?

5. arbitrator cost goes to the loser of the outcome?

6. Change order due to buyer , the buyer pays (change in materials, design, addition, modifications,etc ).

7. Change order due to builder fault, the builder pays (unable to get materials, permitting, labor, etc).

8. Time based penalties for builder not completing milestones in a designated time frame set by them, excluding due to acts of nature.

9. release of lean and partial leans upon payment

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Old 02-12-2019, 09:33 AM
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Most builders around here will not modify their contract. They will add addenda to them, but not modify the wording.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by thefuzz View Post
Most builders around here will not modify their contract. They will add addenda to them, but not modify the wording.
Doesn't an addenda come to effect after the original contract is signed? Can the addenda be added prior to signing any part of the original contract?
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:51 AM
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Agree with the the above posts. Any contractor that refuses to accept amended articles in the contract is not one I would entertain doing business with.
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Old 02-12-2019, 10:02 AM
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Maybe its just me, but I would rather find a home that is not exactly what I want but is close enough, and have to deal with fixing the things that weren't done right in the first place. I'm never sure if the home built to my own specs would necessarily be better than a used home that is close enough to what I think I want. Having lived in homes that I thought fit me to a T, and then finding out after living there a while I'm not to sure I know exactly what would suit me. There are pluses and minuses to every feature, and it sometimes takes some time for the warts to show their ugly heads.

The nightmare of dealing with a builder is enough to keep me away from any process of building a home.
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Old 02-12-2019, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by alfnator View Post
should I just give up in building a home? To be honest at this point after talking with attorneys, mortgage companies, builders, and sales people we are at 95% not likely going with building a home. My wife is at more at 99% not likely to build , but looking for advice ,expectations and recommendations that may sway us to take the risk before tabling the building option.
My wife and I put a year into researching the build process and in the end decided we could get A LOT more for our money and save ourselves massive hassle by not building. It was exasperating trying to find a builder. Forget about modifying any of their standard contracts, most will just tell you to go fly a kite. We too, finally came to the conclusion that it wasn't worth it.
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Old 02-12-2019, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by alfnator View Post
Doesn't an addenda come to effect after the original contract is signed? Can the addenda be added prior to signing any part of the original contract?
All part of the "agreement". The contract is usually drawn up by the builders attorney, and explains in detail what to expect, how things are handled, time frames, etc....

The contract very well could reference Addendum/Exhibit A: Description of Improvements. Exhibit B: Draw Schedule. Exhibit C. Owners selected items.

Those addenda are what protect you and lock in the price, style, serial numbers of products, etc....If the builder doesn't produce what is in that contract and the addenda, then the contract is null and void.

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Old 02-12-2019, 10:24 AM
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A few things that were mentioned above are worth repeating:
1. NO punch list. All items noted in final inspection will be remedied prior to final payment. CO has no bearing on final payment.
2. An Addendum can be made as a condition on the original contract. It IS a modification to the language of the main agreement and should supersede any conditions of the main contract. They are signed at the same time.
3. Time based penalties for builder not completing milestones in a designated time frame set by them, excluding due to acts of nature.
4. A contract can continue beyond Final Acceptance and Closing and define how and when the builder will remedy defects and remedies if defects are not corrected.
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    Old 02-12-2019, 10:27 AM
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    Originally Posted by SeaJay View Post
    Maybe its just me, but I would rather find a home that is not exactly what I want but is close enough, and have to deal with fixing the things that weren't done right in the first place. I'm never sure if the home built to my own specs would necessarily be better than a used home that is close enough to what I think I want. Having lived in homes that I thought fit me to a T, and then finding out after living there a while I'm not to sure I know exactly what would suit me. There are pluses and minuses to every feature, and it sometimes takes some time for the warts to show their ugly heads.

    The nightmare of dealing with a builder is enough to keep me away from any process of building a home.
    The reason we are thinking its better to build in the long run for us is primarily the following 3 reasons:

    1. The existing waterfront home in our price range are mostly older homes below the BFE flood zone in SWFL. This not only puts us in a risk of floods, having to deal with the headache of a flood in hurricane central, but also increases the insurance rates significantly .As much as 6-10K a year difference in insurance between building new versus buying older home below BFE and only going up each year.

    If we weren't wanting to purchase on the water than the choice would be easy with plenty of selections in non water front homes. However, since we want to buy on the water the choices are limited. We had an offer on a house that was accepted but then ended up backing out during our due diligence period to inspect. Talking to insurance companies, county inspectors, mortgage brokers, and finding out several of the older homes all flooded in irma we see benefit in buying new as long as we can protect ourselves enough during the build out contract.

    2. Remodeling while and easier task than completely building new still has to deal with the same issues and contracts concerns. Not to mention once you touch anything of significance the county will likely require you to bring up everything to code. At the end of the day you will have a home that you easily put 100K into and is up to code but is still at the BFE flood zone and paying a sh1t load of extra on insurance . I rather put that extra insurance payments into the house. Also insurance payments are infinite unless you are willing to insure yourself after paying the house off and they only go up.

    In the end your still own a remodeled home below the BFE.

    3. The pre existing home that are above the BFE flood zone are not only typically outdated but are also $150-250K higher in price than what it would cost to build a comparable new home from what we have seen and based on sq ft. Keep in mind this is still an assumption based on the builders we have talked too , attorneys, and research I have done. However, we need to get past the contract phase to really see if this turns out to be true.

    Last edited by alfnator; 02-12-2019 at 10:33 AM.
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