new condo - deficiency walkthrough - limitations?

bluebloomFebruary 2, 2009

We are astonished to be told that "the builder" for a new (highish end) condo we are buying has a policy of only letting the actual owners of the suites come for the walk-through for deficiencies (which is a week or two before the closing date). We don't understand why that would be, unless they are not confident about the outcome... or consider it more important/more likely to keep their time expenditure to a minimum this way.

We only just met a person ("builder"/foreman?) involved with the actual building construction recently; the realtor (acting for both the developer and us) seemed to be the gatekeeper for most inquiries all along.

We are so NOT competent to properly "see" let alone address all issues (there are at least a few), and apparently they allot about an hour. The realtor says that if issues are identified after that, they'll still be dealt with. But it seems to us that it would be more efficient at the very least to have more eyes on board at walk-through time with "the builder". We'd like to bring a couple who, having often dealt with builders and done many renos, are quite knowledgable. And we figure some things could cause extra work, mess, wastage and hard feelings the longer the wait. All along we assumed we could bring someone along so did not fret so much about having to know so much ourselves.

We wish to trust (as far as we know the realtors and builders have a good reputation overall) but don't want to unwittingly neglect at this crucial time as this is a significant investment financially and otherwise. Thanks for any comments - usual practices (if it matters, we are in Canada), experience, feelings, advice?

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Do you have a list of what were issues prior to signing, things which you are now looking at to see if they were fixed? Or is it that as a new condo, you're expected to catch all things (in an hour) that have been put in place and check for 'quality control' of all finishes, etc? That would be extremely difficult I think, especially for non pros, and I would definitely, definitely check with the RE board in .. T.O., Vancouver, wherever you are, to see if that 'policy' is legal or if you in fact have recourse to something better. You can't (shouldn't) be expected to catch all the little, maybe even half hidden, things, many of which might only have been done halfway, not work properly, etc., but which are hard to judge in the circumstances, let alone with 'mgmt' along watching you get up the nerve to pick at things for problems. Was the policy business in the contract?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 10:25PM
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Hi Lucy - Well the signing was over a year ago before much if any construction was underway, so no particular issues at that point. So I think more the "new condo" thing - I don't really know to what extent we must catch "all", though they do say that things will continue to be dealt with after... we feel that they would honor dealing with overt malfunctions. The "policy" is not stated per se; the document says something like the buyer & rep of builder will arrange & do inspection together.

Certain things were up for choice (eg colors, styles of this & that); some mistakes were identified recently as finishing items became on site and/or "done/in progress", and have already been dealt with. We try to consider labor, waste and etc to balance against original thoughts, but don't understand all the variables.

Other things were listed in feature promo sheet, that we expected, but didn't get included after all... reason not clear. They have a rider about being able to change things that won't affect marketability or price... a little hard to interpret that but we assumed the spirit of that to include that something planned may become unavailable.

Such as built-in medicine cabinet, built-in toiletry niche in bath & towel warmer rack in the very small guest/hall bathroom (where they installed a large mirror... maybe to make it look larger, but the only place to hang a towel is a wee towel ring beside the sink or on the side of the tub (or the shower head... which would not be desirable), and there's barely any counterspace. The med cabinet just seemed so sensible, and since it was just listed as a feature, we didn't "ask" for it as we did in the ensuite (a lot of communications and confusions re lighting, etc related to that, but hopefully now working out), but when we recently couldn't figure where it would go... "no one has asked for it". Want to find out if things like train rack (for towels) or double towel rack/shelves can be mounted on the mirror (not ideal I imagine, if even feasible)... stymied by our lack of experience/knowledge at this late date.

And toiletry niche and seat in the ensuite shower... nowhere to put anything while showering except on the floor or on the shower head; seemingly lovely quality otherwise but not practical in funny ways - we just thought those would be included as featured. So hasty research so far finds things like fold-down seats that can double as shelves, mountable (unless the nice tiling & etc is wrecked to make an insert.... ?seems difficult and ?risky now??).... but how do we ensure that's "OK" later; some uncertain mention was otherwise of gluing something on.

The things that we don't know much about, are what's feasible/advisable in the long run for aesthetics and function and construction, to make up for these... we don't want something "cheap" or inappropriate found quickly just to "meet" a condition, that could be better planned.... if they had to or chose to (or just plumb forgot), we'd appreciate knowing the whys... They are not earth-shatteringly important in the scheme of all world issues, but they were part of the package that made this such an appealing decision... and detract from how we pictured functioning with guests, etc. Of course now things are getting to crunch time and presumably it's busy for them, so communication time may be limited.

We're (maybe overly?) concerned that if things are left for after "the inspection" (?by the City inspectors), whether they'll be fully ok (we being NOT handy and especially in a condo, don't want to inadvertently - even if or perhaps especially if not immediately - have something done later that causes a problem (eg electrical, plumbing, moisture). We don't know what we don't know, though we've been crash coursing it a bit lately and have picked up a few things... like learning a whole new language.

Oh, I'm so tired I can't pull all thoughts together properly & am rambly, sorry. It would just feel so much better to understand more... on the technical side, and also where/why that policy originates.... they ask if we don't trust, but that's making us feel more nervous, since we've explained our lack of expertize and some things seem puzzling. We just ran into some people yesterday in a store who told us stories of oh-my-goodness problems, and of course reading these forums brings to light all manner of realms of possibilities... bad or good. We don't believe the builders are anything close to shiesters or totally inept, but it just seems silly to not avail ourselves of the extra help at this time, when we can't figure it all out. These friends we wish to bring did come to help once at a much earlier stage, when we had to go make decisions about electrical and cable and such (mostly Greek to me)... so they have some idea of the place. I also can easily forget a thought (or more!) on the spot, so boy would I hate to be a single person with this "policy"; at least there's two of us for this biggest life purchase.

I thought this must come up (or not) for others, hence I'm posting on something I normally wouldn't. Thanks for your thoughts Lucy, and anyone else?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 3:44AM
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Builders count on people not being handy and/or knowledgable, which is why you sign nothing until you get your OWN certified, reference-checked inspector in there. Do not 'assume' anything about the builders - they MAY be perfectly above board, but only the sharks are surviving these days, so you need to take care of yourself regardless of how nice they may seem. What also may seem like tiring trivia to you now could end up being constant headaches down the road, so again let a pro go over it all and don't try to cover the bases yourself - you don't know what to look for in terms of properly carried out work, so you need to have plenty of back-up on your side and not just take everyone's word that things are done right.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 6:22AM
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Unless the contract specifies that only the buyer may inspect the property, they can't block you from using an inspector, agent, or friends. Even if it did specify buyer only, a court might invalidate the clause.

I suggest informing the builder that you intend to have a professional inspect the property. If you get flak, turn it over to a lawyer. One well written letter will probably be all it takes and shouldn't cost more than a couple of hundred dollars. It will be money well spent in the long run.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 8:32AM
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You may want to cross-post this on the Building a Home forum.

I would ask for a copy of the "policy" that excludes others from this walk-through.

Trusting the builder is a really, really bad idea. I can see why they may want to place limits on attendance at this walk-through, but this seems extreme.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 10:03AM
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Thanks for taking the time to reply.

The contract says no holding back anything because of deficiencies, but doesn't specify per se not allowing others for the walkthrough. The realtor (acting for both sides) says they're not allowed to come. Just seems odd and takes away from the confidence factor.

I really think they're very proud of this development project (and we're thrilled with so much about it); hopefully there'll end up being an effective and even amicable collaboration for the final leg for our individual unit.

Thanks again; have posted on the Building a Home Forum for extra feedback sources as graywings suggests. We will ask to see the policy if they do refuse our request; we've asked them to explain reasons if we really can't bring someone(s).

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 11:18AM
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"The contract says no holding back anything because of deficiencies,..."

Why would you ever sign such a contract???
Without the threat of escrow of some funds you have no leverage tomake sure things are completed correctly.

"but doesn't specify per se not allowing others for the walkthrough. The realtor (acting for both sides) says they're not allowed to come. Just seems odd and takes away from the confidence factor."

The realtor can say whatever they want, if it is not in writing, in the contract, it is hot air.

The builder is a real piece of work.
It sounds like he has left you with only one option if work is not completed, and that is to refuse to close.
Do NOT trust anyone who writes such a one sided contract.
A court would not look well on it either if it comes to that.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 4:29PM
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'what the others said'.....I SURE would NOT agree to trusting that the builder will take care of things no matter WHAT/HOW GOOD his dang reputation is! I think this is a RED-FLAG to this builder!! Trust me- the one who USED to trust everybody....DON'T DO IT!!

You'd better be looking through that place every single day between now and the actual closing- make notes- don't settle for the ole' 'oh sure- I'll fix that' talk.
Look at EVERYTHING with friends/inspectors even before the actual walk through. Have notes from what the other people saw.
You have spent alot of money already- a couple hundred for a lawyer letter would be inline.
What about your county seat lawyer- at the courthouse- ask him what he thinks about a thing like that- seems illegal to my little mind....

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 2:04AM
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IMO, it's standard that you still close and if there are a few things you see during walk through, they get written up.

We have a wall in an office that wasn't totally finished as well as one in the master sitting area. They knew they had to come back.

During our final walk through the power went out. Had it been on we would have seen more and I think would have asked for escrow money. I don't suggest anyone buy without holding money, you never know if the builder is strong enough to come back & finish.

Things to look for:
Look at every piece of tile. Make sure it is level.
If you have a tile sitting area in a bathroom, run your hand over it to make sure it's sloped correctly.
Look at caulk on everything.
Look at all ceilings - lights
Walls, corners, molding
Windows - try every window and look at the finish job around them.
Look at the carpet or wood floor. Are the holes filled?
Pick up the heat vent covers, is there trash in it?

You are not going to see everything.
There are things we found right away, others we didn't.
The builder gives you a form which you fax to them to request service. They also have a 1 year review, usually go in and take care of all settling.

I can't see that you are not allowed to bring someone with you to look at the house. When we bought there actually was a inspection request form, inspector had to fax his license then they would set the time up. You might be better off paying an inspector.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 6:12AM
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Though it may not be of benefit to the OP, for the benefit of other readers: Never sign a contract that doesn't allow you to have your own experts on site during construction to inspect, and of course before closing. A builder who won't allow this often has something to hide. It's sleazy. Once they have your money, it's almost impossible to get them to come back and repair things, or repair them correctly. Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 7:43PM
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Thanks for all your replies, sorry not making it back here very often... trying to spend more time shopping and etc. There does seem to be some sort of standardness to still closing, but that items get fixed anyway... also there's a year for allowing some things that may crop up... eg. related to building settling.

It still seems bizarre the unwillingness to "allow" who we like to come... and seemingly not legal according to casual lawyer chat. Really, I'd love to know if they'd insist an 80 year old single gent or lady not bring someone along. Anyway, we are having a professional home inspector which they actually suggested... though it came across as a special concession. Ilmbg - we're not granted general access until the professional inspection date which will be a day before the deficiency walkthrough. All of this is pushing the inspection & walkthrough closer to the closing time to allow them extra time to get things "done" (before inspection), which hopefully won't create any extra problem.

It seems they don't want "friends with a little knowledge" criticizing or influencing the builder to do unreasonable things, but our thoughts are that they should be able to stand up to unreasonable comments, or let decor comments roll off their backs, if they're confident about the core of what they do.

Another "interesting" thing is they are calling the deficiency visit a "builder orientation/walk through", saying that calling it a "deficiency walk through" is too negative... that seems almost humorous! For an hour timeline, it would seem that "orientation" components could suck up most of the time, distracting from "deficiency" aspects - if we weren't going through with an inspector beforehand, we'd be extra concerned, especially given communication gaps throughout. As it is, it may be frustrating to try to cover all within their hour.

We'll try to be organized ahead to follow along with the inspector (who says he has an orientation to teaching/explaining to folks), but very much appreciate the tips offered here.

Roselovr - re every piece of tile being level... is that even for on a wall? Or more on floors? I did see where some (wall) tiles cut to fit in the kitchen, now caulked or grouted in, look "unfinished" at the cut edge which was placed at the bottom - perhaps the nature of the tile/angle of cut (glass rectangular, painted at the backs)... probably esconced in appropriately, just not looking right to me. I imagine a mess would be generated to "fix", even if feasible... so I hope my eye skips over that in time... a more minor visual thing.

Forgive me if I'm not always back for a steady blow-by-blow, but will try to at least come back after it's "all over". This community has helped us stress a bit less about our home community... thanks again for taking the time to comment.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 1:45PM
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