So one sunny in early January, now over two years ago, the couple had been to the same display housing estate more than a few times and seen the smaller version of the house design that caught the eye and the imagination to the point of making first contact. Talking to a sales person.
Lesson: Sales people at show homes know very little about the ability of the company to build for you, or the house that they’re showing. But they’ll answer pretty much every question with yes, just to keep you on the hook.
The first big bright red flag came early. After looking at, and deciding upon a house design the intrepid couple told the sales person of their intentions, confident with their pre approval for financing (they had been at this some time and didn’t want to be tripped up early on) and so arranged to meet with them to sign the standard $1k deposit to get the ball rolling and begin refining the design.
Now the design itself was from a set that came with options. Let’s call it The MirrorBall 247 is originally a 3 bed (and study) 2 living area design. The first option is to change it to 4 bed, which they take. There is an option to redesign the pantry/kitchen to allow for a media area, which they take. And then they move a wall to turn the media area to be ready to become a bar in the second lounge area. That’s the MirrorBall 247. With these thoughts in mind they arrive at the company headquarters to meet with the salesman and sign themselves up for the first stages of getting a house built.
Oh, that red flag mentioned? The sales person had the couple sign paper copies of the design for the MirrorBall 229. The house they’d seen at the display centre but not the one they had been asking about to build.
This was the first ‘no it’s ok that this isn’t right, it’s not the final contract, so there is still time to refine the plan’ dismissal they experienced. It would not be the last. Far from it.
And so, begins stage one of months of missed communications, slow progress and growing frustration with building a home.
Lesson: if you are a couple, building a house, get a joint email account. You would not believe the number of times that an email in which you’re cc’d into by your partner, gets responded to directly back to them, leaving you none the wiser. Meetings can get missed, decisions miss made, and weeks can go by where one person rightly thinks they’re doing all the work. Get a joint email. Seriously. It’s key.
Their first sales person didn’t last long in the scheme of things (5 months, you know, long enough to fully design a house you’d think, from scratch even) plans went back and forth. Amendments were made, discussions were had. Every meeting that had a change even remotely structural resulted in a delay, sometimes of weeks before the amended plans came back only to find a previous amendment had somehow fallen away. Rinse and repeat.
Building companies for some reason have a 9-5 weekday mentality. They assume any day of the work week, you can just pop around, together, and meet them at their offices.
The process should have been easy. The couple saw a display home, and liked what they saw. The design, the materials, the colour scheme. So the answer to almost all questions was “like they had in the display home’. Everyone knows that a display home is built to the high end level, part of the bait, 5e switch usually being they’ve built it to premium specs. The couple however had the funds, so taking the best option on offer was something they could and in most cases, did do. However when you discover the sales person doesn’t know how to sell you something you hit a delay.
Sometimes it’s a 2 week delay just because you want a different door. Something you can google in 5 mins but takes them much longer to work out how to install it and what to charge you.
Almost six months pass, and the salesman leaves the company (did they jump or were they pushed) and a new, seemingly much more pro active and competent sales person takes their place. Plans and elevations are drawn up (again) mistakes discovered (again) and fixed (again).
Even in the above design the plumbing for the bar seemed to have faded away, the fireplace was yet to be included. Lots of red and yellow to catch the eye, making it easy to miss the bits they didn’t include from last time.
Finally it seems progress has been made. They could sort the loan and build now, right?
Like the Mines of Moria they were far from the last challenge for the Fellowship of the Ring our intrepid and future home owners had another challenge ahead of them.
Which will be endured and bitched about in the next complaint riddled and therapeutic instalment of A Very Long Complaint: writing reduces rage.