My builder doesn’t want to provide contract specifications…
“My husband and I are at the very beginning stages of building a new home. We found a house we love, and are having the contracts looked over by our lawyer. I’ve asked the builders assistant to send me a list of materials/specs to be installed in the home, but she seemed reluctant. She said no builder gives this information to the buyer. That seemed a bit odd, since it’s my house and my money. Would this information be more easily accessed from a request from our lawyer directly to the builder?”
Do not sign an incomplete homebuilding contract…
First of all, let me commend you for hiring a lawyer to review the contract documents before you sign them. You might be surprised how many people don’t consult an attorney when making a new home purchase – until after things go wrong. By then, a buyer’s options may be severely limited. What could have been a relatively small fee, of a few hundred dollars paid to a lawyer to review documents, frequently turns into a very expensive legal battle with your builder and/or a very unhappy homebuilding experience. Of course, having a lawyer review your documents won’t guarantee a smooth running job with no disagreements, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
As for the builder’s assistant not providing you with specifications, I would respectfully suggest that she is wrong if she said no builder provides that information to their buyers. Construction specifications should absolutely be an integral part of every construction agreement. How are you supposed to know what you are buying if you do not see it in writing and it is not part of your contract? Do you get vinyl siding everywhere or brick veneer on certain walls? Does the refrigerator shown in the model come with your home? How about the icemaker, double bowl sink, granite island countertop? Who pays to have the driveway paved, the utilities connected to the house, the septic system installed? Will your heat pump be a high efficiency model? How many coats of finish will be applied to your hardwood floor? What if you want more than one color paint in your house, extra electrical outlets, more phone jacks, wires for a sound system…? There is almost no limit to the things that can and do go wrong when clearly written specifications are not included in a homebuilding agreement. More importantly, without such information in writing, you have little legal recourse if you don’t get that for which you thought you paid.
While it is generally a good idea, whenever possible, to give your builder the benefit of the doubt and to avoid upsetting the people that are building your home, your builder also needs to remember that you are still their client. As you say, it is your house, your money, your future, and you have every right to know what you are getting and to get what you want. So, make sure that you are comfortable with how your home will be constructed and what fixtures it will contain by having as much information as possible clearly defined in writing before you sign a contract. If you don’t understand the purchase agreement, and/or the specifications, and/or the words contained in them don’t say exactly what you think they should, it is a good idea to take the time to reword the documents, so that all parties agree, before you sign them. The only documents to which you will be able to refer when something does not go as you thought it should are the signed pieces of paper that make up your contract. In general, what you think, what the builder or their representatives told you, or what you saw in the model home are no longer very important if they are not specifically referenced in your purchase agreement and/or specifications.
Your contract should contain enough information that a third party – like maybe an arbitrator or a judge – will also know what you are purchasing. The more vague your contract, the more likely there will be disagreements over it. While some builders prefer vague contracts, to give them as much freedom as possible to make substitutions using “like materials”, such a contract does not always benefit them in court. However, when specifications are not clear and a buyer thinks that they are not getting something for which they think they paid, a dispute almost always ensues. The size of the dispute is usually directly related to the cost of the items in question, but since people can become personally attached to a new house very quickly, emotions are just as often a major factor in legal disputes. Regardless of what started it, if the disagreement cannot be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, the project may be delayed and lawyers may need to get involved; at which point builder and buyer may both lose.
Getting back to the benefit of the doubt theory, maybe the assistant to whom you talked is inexperienced, or the builder may, as a matter of policy, send out as little information as possible until they know they are dealing with a serious buyer, or maybe someone simply forgot to send out the information that you requested. So, rather than have your attorney start writing letters too early – and pay for his or her time and upset the builder before you even start building – you may want to talk directly with the owner of the company or send them a very courteous letter explaining that you asked, so and so, for a copy of the construction specifications for the home that you are considering purchasing. She told you that “no builder provides that information” and to date she has not provided you with any specifications. Would they please see that you receive a copy of the construction specifications for your home as soon as possible so that you can make a decision on your purchase. Depending upon their response, you can decide how to proceed from there. Personally, if a builder would not provide written specifications for the house I was about to have them build for me, I would not have them build it, regardless of how much I liked their model home. However, you will have to determine for yourself what to do in your particular case if the builder continues to refuse to give you the information that you have requested. Hopefully, a personal conversation with the owner or a pleasant written request will do the trick.
Good luck with your project, thank you for visiting B4UBUILD.COM, and have fun building!