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Behind on Schedule -- At builder's mercy or are there options?

November 25, 2013

We have been working with our builder since Jan. finalizing floor plans, decisions, and getting an estimate. When we first met with them we had a larger floor plan than what we are doing now, and were told that they could build our house in 4 months. Every time we met with them from Jan. - June, we were told that they would only need 4 months to build our house.

We signed our contract in July and received a schedule of what would be completed each week and the time frame had jumped to 7 months. We were disappointed, but were just happy that we were getting started. I guess as we were getting ready to sign, they also signed another house and several other projects. Construction workers are in short supply in our area right now.

We broke ground in August. As we live in Nebraska, we want to be enclosed before the snow and winter weather set in. According to our schedule, trusses were to have gone up Nov. 11 and this week we were supposed to have gotten shingles & windows and doors.

We are doing an ICF house and today they are completing the ceiling of the main floor. They still have another level to do, plus pouring of the concrete. The garage area has not been poured yet either. The trusses are now scheduled to be delivered Dec. 3rd, but there is no way they will be ready to put them up next week with the Thanksgiving holiday this week.

From our calculations, they are at least 5 weeks behind, if not more, and we haven't seen any action yet to try and catch up. There have only been 3 workers working on our house.

So, I guess my question is, are we at their mercy and if it doesn't get enclosed, it is what it is. We've mentioned this at our weekly meetings for the past 4 weeks, and they say that they are only a week or so behind. But, the week or so's are adding up.

Any advice?

Just thought of some additional info. The floor plan was finalized before the contract was signed. We have not made any changes at all once we started.

This post was edited by neroselover on Mon, Nov 25, 13 at 13:24

Comments (21)
  • live_wire_oak

    Is it his first ICF build? There's a learning curve for anything new to any builder. 4 months for any builder for a standard stick built is extremely ambitious, but for ICF, that's pie in the sky dreaming.

    Unless you have a clause in your contract that addresses a deadling, with some type of penalty clause (and bonus structure as well) you are at the mercy of "It's done when it's done,"

  • mom2samlibby

    When we met with the Jan. - Apr. they said they had done ICF before. From what I understand, ICF is supposed to go up more quickly than stick builds. But, it hasn't in our case.

    I'm not really sure what to believe anymore. I thought 4 months was extremely fast when they kept saying it before. However, I'm following a blogger right now that started her build the same day we did. Hers is enclosed and she says they only have about 5 weeks left.

    We found out a couple of weeks ago that our house and the other house they are doing are their first houses from start to finish. Wish they would have been a little more honest about that before.

  • worthy

    You didn't mention the size of your home.

    FWIW, I've built custom homes from 2,400-5,200 sf, all with finished basements and the builds have taken from six-ten months, no matter how hard I try. Of course, first-time homebuilders and diyers are always convinced they can run circles around me.

    Nice to be closed in before the snow flies. But I've built a number of homes where the first order of the workday was to shovel off the first or second floor decks of four or five inches of snow.

    This post was edited by worthy on Mon, Nov 25, 13 at 15:54

  • mom2samlibby

    I'm ok with it taking the 7 months or so, but I just want it enclosed before the snow starts flying! I would rather they do it right and well. But, I want it protected from the weather.

    It sounds like they have been realizing that they are behind. They plan on working on Friday and Saturday of this week. And will work Saturdays to get caught up.

  • nostalgicfarm

    Hope they get it closed in for you soon. Especially since we have already gotten snow in Nebraska! Are you building in Omaha/Lincoln? You would think there would not be a shortage of help! We are looking at ICF for the basement level, but my understanding is that ICF was to be faster.

  • zippity1

    in our area, subcontractors are stretched thin
    a lot of building is going on and people are waiting
    weeks to "get the good guys"
    our builder builds up to six houses at a time (not
    all at the same stage of course) and he's running
    about 50 percent longer than normal.....
    we've been "ready" since mid February and he's hoping
    to start on ours before Christmas.......but who can tell

  • xc60

    Ours is at least 4 months behind minimum. People that signed with our builder months after us are moving in. We should of been in about now or before Christmas but will be lucky if we are in by March. Frustrating.

    Fingers crossed it all starts moving for all of us, good luck! :)

  • virgilcarter

    It much, much better to do it right (and professionally), than to do it fast. I've never understood why some owners want an "instant" house.

    You'll appreciate this when you are in the house. You'll appreciate even more 5-10 years later.

    Good luck on your project.

  • mom2samlibby

    nostaligicfarm -- We are in Grand Island. And there is a huge shortage of workers here. GI is in a housing/building boom right now. From our estimate, they are at least 6 weeks behind now on getting it enclosed. They were to pour the concrete tomorrow for our balcony and the concrete on the 2nd story walls on Friday, but that is now delayed due to the cold weather that has come through. It's been very frustrating.

    worthy -- the main areas of the house are a little over 1,800 sq. feet. With the garage area and scrapbook/storage area we have over 2,500 on the main floor. We have a basement level (walk out) and 2nd story also. My husband and I thought that 4 months sounded extremely unrealistic when they told us that in Jan. But, they repeated that number every time we met with them nailing down details. They said 5 months would be in there were any delays and 6 months, worse case scenario. As far as delays, there have been none on our end -- we have not changed anything to the floor plan, we come to all our meetings prepared, the plumbing supplies have been picked out since May and all are purchased now, the tile has been picked out since May, the windows arrived a month ago, and the lights are all ordered and waiting.

    Virgil -- As I said earlier, I'm fine with it being done right. However, what I am upset about is the fact that they are the ones that told us they could do it in 4 months when we met with them from Jan. - June. Once we signed a contract and they started working, the schedule changed. We were disappointed that it was going to take longer, but would rather they take longer and do quality work. However, our project seems to have been placed on the back burner. We have been asking for the past 8 weeks how they planned to get it enclosed before the snow starts to fly. The original schedule said they would be doing trusses the week of Nov. 11 and windows/doors the week of Nov. 25th. We were given a revised schedule the end of Oct. for the month of November and nothing on that schedule has been completed. We asked at our last meeting if they had plans to bring additional people onto our project, as the other house they are working on was enclosed last month, and they said that we had just about the same amount on our job as all their other projects. We have 4 or 5 guys working on ours. I drove by one of their other projects today and there were 13 vehicles parked there.

    I would be fine with waiting AFTER our house is enclosed and if they would be honest with us. I'm feeling like the builder that we met with in Jan. is not the same one that we are getting. They seemed very excited about working on our build when we met with them this spring. We were told that they would meet with us weekly to go over what was coming up with our house and to go over questions. We would also be presented at these meetings with bids, so we could select where different items would be purchased. They are not prepared at any of our meetings. We ask questions about what info they need from us and they say they don't need any. Then the next day, they'll call my husband with a question that they need an answer to immediately. I'm not understanding the point of these weekly meetings when nothing is being covered. We are not seeing different bids unless we ask for them. We had to ask for one 3 weeks in a row before they finally got numbers too. It's been a very frustrating process and I just wish it were done.

    I'm unsure how much of my disappointment I can voice without upsetting my project. Or, I'm wondering if they squeaky wheel is getting the grease, which is why there were at least 13 working on the other project today and no one was at mine.

  • akshars_mom

    I do understand your frustration. We are also behind on our project by a few weeks. we also broke ground End of August and we were told it would take 7 months but at this point we are about 4 weeks behind

    Our GC is also working on 6 houses. He typically works on 3 or 4. Thats why is running short on people.

    Voice your concerns without getting upset and see what they say.

  • patriceny

    We ended up closing and moving in way behind schedule too, and this was over a year ago now - before the construction boom picked up.

    It seems endemic to the home building industry. I don't know why. I'd far rather be told a time frame that is realistic and that I can really plan around...but that doesn't seem to be the way the game is played.

    All I can really tell you is that you certainly aren't alone. This happens a lot. Once you move in....a year from now most of this stress will have faded.

  • patriceny

    deleting duplicate

    This post was edited by patriceny on Thu, Dec 5, 13 at 9:05

  • worthy

    Homebuilding can be a frustrating business if you let it get to you. Since almost all trades are subbed, the builder has limited control of scheduling and completion.

    I once spent a couple of days with the president/owner of the largest homebuilder in Ontario, then building thousands of units a year. The largest part of his day was spent on the phone begging, cajoling, badgering, reminding subs and suppliers of their obligations and timelines.

    You're dealing with a homebuilder who started off with an absurd target, either out of naivete' or salesmanship. You suspected as much but still signed the deal. As suggested earlier, in the end, the quality of the build is more important than speed. Building through the winter is SOP in cold climates.

    I had major surgery a few years back. I was relieved to find that it had taken three plus hours, despite the fact that the surgeon was paid a pittance per procedure. He could have rushed it. Who would know?

  • mom2samlibby

    Worthy -- Nothing has been subbed out yet. This has all been our builder's crew. We haven't gotten to the parts yet where the subs are needed -- electrical, plumbing, drywall, and heating/ac are subbed. Up to now, it's been all them.

  • LOTO

    neroslover...I lived and worked in Nebraska for 20 years and built many a commercial project in Columbus, O'Neill, and Shelby to name a few and we usually figured that if we didn't have all the exterior concrete poured by December 1st we were pretty much done until February. We also built many tents to cover and heat but that gets pretty expensive.
    It sound like you are getting some pretty brutal weather in Nebraska right now so good luck with your build and GBR!!

  • dadereni

    I agree that no matter what happens to stay focused on maintaining quality.

    Also, not sure if this has been mentioned yet: Don't get ahead of the value of work in place in paying the contractor. Especially if you see signs that the contractor is living hand to mouth. The project with 13 vehicles may just be experiencing a burst of work in anticipation of a big draw (maybe to pay for yours or a third project) and then will slow down too. Also, if a bank is providing financing you should be able to question their opinion on how much has been completed. Does your contract call for retainage on progress payments?

    Also, what bids have you been expecting to see? Is this not a fixed price contract?

  • mom2samlibby

    dadereni -- We are doing cost plus, so we are expecting to see bids on everything. Even before we negotiated to do cost plus, they were showing us initial bids on electrical and plumbing.

    The project with all the vehicles is a business that is wanting to open the week of Christmas. I know they are pushing them hard right now to get done, so they can get in and opened. I'm probably more frustrated about that too because the commercial business (owner's wife works with my husband) was working with another builder and couldn't get bid nailed down with them, so they started working with our builder when they heard who we were working with.

    We are not using a bank for financing. We put down an initial deposit and then have been billed once. We are supposed to be billed every month, but their billing person has everything messed up and was fired last month. They are still sorting that mess out.

    That's probably part of my irritation also. I'm not seeing the value of a general contractor right now. They've missed quite a few items that were on the plans that my husband has caught that they had to correct. When we toured their work back in Feb. they had such pride in their work and pointed out all the extra things they do to complete job.

    They are not in contact at all with the electrician. My husband has had to contact him to keep him updated on the job. And knowing that that the temp was going to majorly drop this week, my husband wanted the fill dirt in the garage compacted on Monday or Tuesday, otherwise, it probably wouldn't happen until Spring. He had to call and ask them to get it done. We've had to ask at each meeting what the next step is, has this been ordered, have they gotten bids on this, etc. It's been very strange.

    We had glowing references from many people when we were picking them as our builder, but I'm just not seeing how and why now that we are going on month 5 here.

  • dadereni

    It does sound strange, given the references you got. I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. Are all of the GC's other key people still with the company? Did an all-star manager/superintendent leave? Or maybe they are just a victim of their own success and have not been able to handle a larger workload. Maybe you could ask the other clients how it's going for them, who with the builder has been most responsive, etc. Although it sounds like the GC overpromised up front, given your contract and provided good management you should have more options for expediting the work and getting good subs in, in a timely manner.

    No matter what, I strongly suggest documenting everything and not communicating directly with the electrician or other subs outside the presence of the GC, even if everyone seems ok with it. This would go for any project. Note if there are things in your contract not being met, such as milestone dates, or even seemingly minor things like frequency of meetings, promptness of communication, timely billing--these would all be things expected if they are in the contract. Maybe things will speed up soon, but I've seen even the most cordial and longest relationships with contractors go downhill quickly because a contractor got overwhelmed and the client having no recourse because they failed to document the many tiny problems and their dissatisfaction with them, before they piled up into a big mess. Not trying to alarm you, but CYA.

  • pumpkinhouse

    A projected substantial completion date on a contract rarely holds any water. Building contracts are almost always written in the builders favor. Sometimes a commercial project on a tight schedule will have a completion date with penalties for every day or week the project goes over, but this is rarely seen in residential. Even if you builder is trying to the best of his abilities to meet your completion date, there are things that are out of his control...supplies come in late, union strikes, etc.
    The best advice is to hire a builder you trust. Too late in your situation, unless you want to try firing him and starting with someone else.

  • Billygoatjoe

    Unfortunate set of circumstances for you. Don't have any helpful tips after the fact.

    However, we had and would recommend a real estate attorney in the state where building prepare the contract to build. For most people, custom residential construction is the most expensive (financial & emotional) purchase ever made.

    Secondly, we chose to include a financial incentive if occupancy was achieved by the GCs pre-specified date. Timely occupancy was vital to us due to a long distance move, out of state build. The $4,000 incentive was achieved by the GC.


  • mom2samlibby

    pumpkinhouse -- Since it is too late for us, I'm just wondering what advice you'd have for one beginning the process. We thought we were picking an excellent builder. We met with them several times between Jan and July to go over plans, estimates, and questions/answers. We toured 2 different homes that they had done -- one was remodel and the other a new build. We asked for references and spoke with several of them. We spoke to the home owner of the new build that we toured. We had a letter of recommendation for the other. The sales person at Briggs plumbing recommended them as one of her top 3 builders she would use in our area. Our tile lady also had wonderful things to say about them. We attended an open house at their new office and spoke with a couple that had used them for several projects. They spoke highly of them, what a wonderful job they had done, how they would only use them on any projects in their house, etc.,etc.

    So, I'm unsure what we could have done differently in the "trust" area. We never heard anything negative at all about them in all the people that I talked to. I thought I would be able to believe them when they told us that they watched carefully to make sure they didn't over schedule, so they could meet deadlines and deliver quality work. I thought I could believe them when they said they could build our house in 4 months, 5 if there were delays, and 6 months was worse case scenario. This was stated EVERY time we met with them from January through June. We've never built a house before, so we had no reason to think that they wouldn't be able to deliver what they were saying.

    As far as delays, we've only had 3 days where it rained and they were unable to work. Now that it has snowed, they missed 4 days due to weather, which I understand . . .but if we would have been enclosed earlier work could have continued. We have had no delays from supplies, not being here on time. Nothing has been subbed out yet, so we aren't dealing with waiting for subs.

    So, I guess we can only say that the delay has been that the ICF has taken them a lot longer than then they originally anticipated and the number of people working each day.

    I do wish now that we had written something into the contract about having it enclosed by a certain date. We had even talked about the late starting time when we signed the contract in July, but were reassured that they would have it enclosed well before the snow would begin to fly. Hindsight is 20/20.

    This post was edited by neroselover on Wed, Dec 11, 13 at 0:47

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