We always preach that people should thoroughly interview and vet their home builders, contractors, architects, designers, and anyone they’re trusting with their home and money. But sometimes even the most detailed vetting process lets through some poor ones.
It’s always best that you spot the signs of a bad home builder early on. This saves you from giving them money, being left with poor work, being so far in it’s hard to get a new one, or driven yourself to the point of frustration and rage.
There’s no one type of bad custom home builder. It can be anything from pocketing extra money, using shoddy materials, drinking on the job, or just not listening to your needs. Sometimes it simply comes down to a difference in opinion.
Here are a few signs to look for that let your know it’s time to fire your custom home builder and get a new one.
1. Asking For Too Much Money Up Front
Let us start by saying that yes, every home builder will ask for some money up front. Anything over 15% the total amount is a red flag though. A good home builder should have enough credit to pay the rest up-don’t costs.
There will be moments along the way where additional money will be required. Things like framing, foundation work, plumbing, roofing and unplanned for costs may require more money. Money should be tied to constructional milestones like the ones mentioned above. If a home builder is trying to allocate money to dates, as in you need to pay by X date rather than by time the plumber comes, this is another red flag.
Don’t always take the lowest bid either. A common scam bad home builders use is to charge less saying they’ll use the house for advertising purposes. The thing is that a low big usually means poor work. The home builder only cares how it looks in pictures, not in reality. Remember, you get what you pay for. So research realistic costs and don’t give all the money up front.
2.Keeping Odd Hours
We always urge our clients to visit a job site to see the progress going on. While we usually say to let us know for safety reasons, clients are more than welcome to drive by to check on progress. If you visit the project on a Monday at 10 am or a Friday at 2 pm and the site is quiet, that’s an issue.
Home builders do set their own hours, but if they aren’t working during the day then when are the working? Chances are the project will take longer and therefore cost you more. Sometimes work can’t be done for a day due to a material needing time to dry or set but while one day or a few hours off is professional, shaving off hours every week is not.
Make sure to confront and ask your custom home builder about any questionable absences or missing hours. If they have a reasonable explanation such as the floor stain was drying then that’s fine. If they aren’t in until a certain time because of paper work or material shopping then that’s fine too. If their excuses are lame or they become defensive then it’s time to look into a new builder.
3.Using Drugs or Alcohol On the Job
What a home builder does in their free time is their business. What they do on the job site, or if their personal time bleeds into their professional time, then it is your business. You shouldn’t tolerate illicit drugs, alcohol, or unreasonable prescription drug use on your project site. This doesn’t just go for the home builder either. If you hear about any of the contractors or workmen doing this then it’s time to find new ones.
Being intoxicated or high can impede their judgment and make the work site a dangerous place. This could mean work being done that is shoddy or a potential safety hazard. It could mean damaged material that needs to be repaid for. It could mean someone getting hurt on the site. Overall, having your home builder or their employees impaired is detrimental to your home.
4. Not Signing a Contract
A contract is more than a piece of paper. It’s a document that provides safety for both you and the builder. If something is disputed, damaged, or even just misunderstood, a contract is there for clarity. A contract should spell out everything from expected work to materials being used. This impacts the price you agreed to pay.
A home builder that doesn’t want to sign a contract is likely one that doesn’t intend to do what they’re saying. The same thing goes for permits. If your home builder is telling you that permits aren’t necessary then it’s time to fire them. Contracts and permits might mean some paperwork but it’s these documents that protect you.
5.Having Poor Communication
If there’s one thing that is vital in building a custom home it is communication. You are the homeowners, so while you might not know exactly what everything means you should know what is going on. You’re the one paying for it after all. A good home builder will communicate with you at every step of the way.
Have reasonable expectations for communication too. It’s best to discuss this before signing the contract. If they miss your call that is fine, they’re probably busy working. But they should call you back in a timely manner. It is unacceptable and unprofessional if you are unable to get a hold of them for days at a time.
Be wary of vague communication too. A good home builder should be able to tell you everything that is going on and should try to explain it so that you can understand it. If your home builder is giving you vague information about the project be concerned. They might be trying to hide something. It’s important to remember that the builder works for you, and reporting to you is part of their job. Don’t feel guilty for asking for information.
6.Not Following Contract Guidelines
Remember us mentioning that contract? Well, it’s important to get a binding agreement for a reason. Some builders might agree to something but won’t follow through. Having everything spelled out in a contract guarantees that you can hold them to it and if they still refuse that you can legally fire them.
Not following contract guidelines can take on different forms. Sometimes a builder will take shortcuts with the work, having it look sloppy or shoddy. They could also use lower quality materials than was agreed upon. If they are trying to pass off poorer materials as nicer ones then chances are they are pocketing the extra money. You can consider this a form of theft.
Cutting labor costs is also a popular way shady home builders work. If you’re paying for labor intensive designs you should be getting that. A home builder that finds a short cut or something of lesser quality, then they are slighting you.
7.Poorly Managing Subcontractors
When you hire a custom home builder you are also hiring them to be your project manager. That means that it falls on them to schedule, order, and manage subcontractors. Part of a home builders skill is their ability to hire good people for the work.
It’s not just about hiring good subcontractors either. Properly managing them is important. If your home builder is too soft or too harsh with the subcontracts both are bad signs. You want someone that is firm but kind. It’s not just about how they treat them. They should be able to properly schedule and monitor the work too. If they schedule your plumber and flooring to come in at the same time you might have issues. If they don’t make sure the framing gets done in time then everything else will be delayed.
8. Stealing From You
Theft is a no brainer reason for firing. It might be harder than you think to spot it though. Shady home builders have certain ways they steal. They may order over-order and tuck the excess away. These excess materials might be used personally by them, for another project, or sold.
You can compare the bill of materials list with the order receipts to see if this is happening. A good home builder will order some extra materials in case of damage or mistakes but too much is a warning sign. If you’ve gotten to the point where you have to monitor material deliveries or counting floorboards save yourself a headache and just find a custom home builder that you trust.
9.Can’t Solve Problems
It’s safe to assume that during a home building project problems and issues will come up. This is part of the reason why you hire a custom home builder so that they deal with this instead of you. Not everything will go smoothly, and a home builder should expect this and be able to deal with it.
Delays will happen, tools will break, workers get sick or injured, and unexpected issues may come up. There will be multiple issues from large to small that will need to be solved by your home builder. Even the more experienced and skilled home builder will experience these bumps in the road. It’s their ability to handle them that shows their true quality. If time after time your home builder can’t come up with a solution or make it work then it’s time to replace them.
10.Not Listening to You
This is one of the biggest warning signs. A good home builder listens to what the client needs and wants. They should be able to deliver on that or at least explain why they cannot. One of the biggest complaints people have about poor home builders is that they felt they weren’t listened to.
If you ask for white kitchen cabinets and you get off-white ones don’t feel difficult for asking them to be replaced. If your home builder keeps insisting they should stay fire them. Sometimes a home builder can’t give you what you want or need due to regulations, laws, structural issues, or money. However, if they are unable to explain why they can’t or insist their way is right then you shouldn’t be working with them.