Build on Your Land: Mistakes and Misunderstandings

    Contractors make mistakes. Your builder makes mistakes. Then they fix them. They don't make mistakes because they're lazy, incompetent, or don't care. They make them because they're human.

    You'll enjoy the process watching your new dream home come to life much more if you'll give the contractors the grace you'd like your boss to give you when you goof up at work. Remember the adage: We tend to judge others by their results while we judge ourselves by our intent.

    Tips to Keep in Mind While Building Your Custom Home

    Here are a few things to keep in mind when mistakes happen while building your custom home.

    #1. Don't treat mistakes as an opportunity to negotiate a concession.

    If you treat a mistake by your builder or a contractor as a chance to negotiate for something, you'll end up with less in the end. When you think of the relationship with your builder as a vendor/customer relationship, you tend to look for opportunities to get an advantage.

    Believe me, you'll get a far better experience, and a far better product, if you treat the relationship as a partnership.

    It's kind of like hiring a mountain guide to help you climb Mount Everest. Your life is in the guide's hands, and if you listen and follow his lead, you'll get up the mountain and back down safely. If you decide to try to take advantage of him, negotiate a better deal halfway up, or strike out on your own, you'll probably get into trouble. It's also important to realize that your guide is there to guide your steps, but he can't carry you up the mountain. You have to do that work yourself.

    If that analogy doesn't move you, think of it this way: Your builder has done this many, many times before. If you use his mistakes against him and use them as opportunities to negotiate some concession or make some kind of deal, you'll destroy any goodwill you've built up.

    Then when something comes up that you need your builder's help on that wasn't part of the original deal, he's probably not going to go the extra mile for you. When you demonstrate that his experience, wisdom, expertise, and energy mean nothing more than a transaction to you, that's what you'll become to him.

    #2. With very few exceptions, every mistake is fixable.

    In the construction of any home, there were mistakes made that got fixed in the process and are now irrelevant. Here are some examples of the mistakes I've seen (or made) that you'd never know happened unless you were there during construction.

    • The plumbing for the toilet ended up in the hall.
    • The door swings were all backward.
    • The light switch for the kitchen (or living room, bedroom, etc.) got covered up by drywall.
    • The wrong color granite got installed.
    • The plumber failed to glue one joint in the upstairs tub drain pipe, and it leaked through the drywall downstairs a week before the owner was supposed to move in.
    • The guys blowing insulation in the attic stepped through the bedroom ceiling.

    #3. Things don't always look the way you visualized.

    No house is perfect. Remember how many times someone has seen your custom home in real life? Zero. Don't be too disappointed when everything doesn't turn out exactly as you pictured it. It's simply impossible to think of everything and get a 100% accurate picture of how things will look in real life when you've only seen them on paper.

    If you'll be devastated by imperfection in your custom home, save yourself the anguish and go buy something that's already built.

    #4. Sometimes plans and specifications are ambiguous.

    The honest builder will do everything possible to make you happy, but it's important to work with them on identifying the best possible solution when issues come up. We once built an Oklahoma City home for a family that brought us a house plan designed by an architect, one that we had no part in designing.

    There was a double door leading to a screened porch that was very close to a stairway. As it turned out, there was no room for a double door once the stairway was built, and even a single door was tight. We explored various solutions, but the only option was a narrower single door.

    It wasn't ideal, and we probably should have caught it at plan review, but the single door works fine. Overall, the home is the owner's dream come true, and she was able to look past the issue and see the big picture. She worked with us through various options until we came up with the best solution for her needs.

    #5. Find joy.

    The bottom line? It's important to find the joy in the process. Remember the finished product you looked at when selecting your builder and remind yourself that it went through this phase, too.

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