White paper on expectations

Building a new home or engaging in major renovations to an existing home, is stressful. There are lots of decisions, time lines are subject to change, issues arise that require design changes, material changes or finish changes. The list goes on and on.

The stress can be minimized if the builder and homeowner understand each other's expectations and responsibilities related to the project. Failure to fully understand these expectations and responsibilities will result in some amount of frustration felt by the builder, homeowner and everyone who is connected with the project. As frustration increases the quality of work declines, issues get missed or not addressed and in the worst case, litigation ensues.

The best way to understand each other's expectations is to discuss them early in the process, like before a contract is signed. This will normally require more than one discussion. Homeowners often bring unrealistic expectations to these types of projects such as:

  • The building will be trouble free;
  • The builder knows what I want;
  • There will not be any changes;
  • I can save money by doing some of the work myself;
  • I go with the lowest bid and expect the highest quality;
  • I make changes and no one told me it would cost more;
  • Subcontractors are not here every day;
  • The builder is not here every day.

Again this list could go on forever and not cover all of the homeowners expectations.

Builders often want to get the contract signed and get his sub-contractors locked into a schedule before their calendar fills up with other work. Builders also bring unrealistic expectations to these types of projects such as:

  • Selections and decisions by the homeowner will be made in a timely manner;
  • The homeowner is familiar with the construction process and terminology;
  • The homeowner understands change orders cost more money and more time;
  • The builder is calling the shots and if differences arise he gets the final say;
  • That issues will be addressed confidently and swiftly when they arise;
  • Believe that subcontractors will be on the job when scheduled;
  • The contract can't cover everything so they "do it" the way he has always done it;
  • The "fix" for an issue may be limited to the least costly since we are on a budget.

Builders normally fail to be good communicators and lack the patients to work with individuals who just don't understand the ins and outs of construction.

Good communication begins with good listening and is a two way process. Lack of clarity by either party is fatal to understanding and completing the work with the least amount of aggravation.

Homeowners benefit greatly if they hire someone who is well versed in the construction process to oversee the project. This allows the homeowner to have someone looking out for their best interest and who is not profiting by just finishing the project as quickly as possible. An experienced third party knows what to watch out for and where short cuts in workmanship issues are likely to arise. Many people view the cost of hiring such an individual to be an unnecessary cost and a place where they can save money. This could not be further from the truth. Addressing issues during the build with someone looking out for the homeowners interest saves money and helps ensure the highest quality. It is always cheaper to fix problems when they occur rather than trying to fix them after the project is complete. Finding problems after construction is finished, depending on the nature and scope, may lead to litigation. If a homeowner gives it some thought, hiring a third party to oversee is cheaper than going through the litigation process. The old adage is true "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The price of an ounce is always less than the price of a pound.