This time last year, we were packing up a U-Haul and moving into our new house. It's crazy that we've lived here a year already. Looking back on the whole build and surviving the warranty process, I thought I would share a list of things that I would do from the time of signing a contract to the end of your warranty period. I wish somebody had told us this when we started to build our house.
1. Get yourself Realtor'ed up
When we built our house, we really didn't have expendable cash to pay the commission of a realtor out of pocket. But now I wish we would have had one. I've talked to so many neighbors who said their realtor was able to help them so much. They may not be able to get the builder to budge on the price but they might be able to get you some extras built into your house. We talked to our neighbors and were shocked at all the things our builder threw in for them because their realtor asked for it for them.
2. Study your plans like a textbook
When we signed the contract with our builder they handed us a binder and jokingly referred to it as our building Bible. We threw it in a drawer at the apartment and hadn't really paid much attention to the plans. That was until the frame of the house went up and we realized that the exterior elevation of the house was different than the one we fell in love with in another subdivision. THAT house was what made us decide to build with this builder. At that point there really wasn't anything we could do since the builder had only gotten two exterior elevations approved by the HOA. Neither of them were the one we fell in love with. So we made the best of the situation and continued the build and tried to make some exterior modifications to make it look like the one we loved. After the elevation debacle we started pouring over our blueprints and eletrical diagrams and found some things that we also needed taken out such as a post that was next to the back door. Had I not caught that post in the plans and asked to have it removed, it would have messed with the flow of the house. They did push back a little and said they would have to make sure it wasn't structurally necessary but in the end we were able to eliminate it. While I did manage to catch that by looking at the plans, we did manage to miss a few things by not looking more closely at our plans. Like the extra 2' of space between our mudroom and our laundry room. Had I caught it, we could have had that additional space added onto our laundry room. It was enough room to add a counter in there. But by the time I caught it and brought it up to our construction manager, he said it would require a plan change and permits from the city. Now whether or not that is true or if he was just feeding me a line of crap is beyond me. I would still like to add that area at a later time but I'm sure it won't be as easy or as cheap as it would have been had we done it during the build process. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Make structural changes during the build
Is there a dead space in your house that would be better utilized in the laundry room? Want to get rid of one of the five closets in the hall? Do it prior to framing. Also, adding any electrical or plumbing components is easier to do pre-drywall than it is after or after you've moved in. When we were building the house, we added an extra pendant light over the island and an outlet in our closet so we could do our ironing in there. Now that we've lived in our house for a year, there are places in the house that I wish I had thought to put extra outlets in so we could plug in our electric devices like my laptop. Other places I would have liked extra outlets would ahave been in our hall closet so I can plug in our hand vac. I know, silly right? We've got an electrician scheduled to come and install all the extra outlets I didn't think about until after we were all settled in and learned where we really needed them.
4. Make site visits often
I know this may not be feasible for some depending on how for you live from your build but I highly recommend going to check on the progress of your build often. We were having issues weekly and so I felt it was necessary to check on the progress daily. J got so frustrated by the number of mistakes that he had to stop going. Ha.
When we sold our house to buy this one, the inspector who inspected it TORE.IT.APART. His report was 23 pages of things that were wrong with our house. After we sold our house, we found out his area of expertise was on new builds. J called him up and while we would have loved to have him do daily inspections (it would have helped save my sanity) it wasn't financially possible for us. So he suggested that the best time to have him inspect is pre-drywall and pre-closing. During the pre-drywall inspection he checked framing, wiring, plumbing, HVAC lines and the roof. He did catch a few major things that needed to be fixed which the builder happily did. The second inspection is prior to closing to make sure the issues were addressed from the previous inspection and to look for any flaws in the finish out. While we did have him come out and do both inspections, I would highly recommend having the inspector come back out prior to the warranty period of your house expiring. Ours expired on November 14th. We had him come back out and again, he found some issues and addressed some of our concerns which he noted in his report that we passed onto the builder. We are still in the process of getting all the warranty work.
I hope these tips are helpful if you are planning to build a house in the near future. Might help save your sanity through the process. Good luck!