Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Building a House: Making the Most of Your First Year Warranty

Greetings from the midst of our "trying to adjust to daylight savings" week. There is a lot going on this week, and it is definitely "back to reality" for us after spring break. Last night in barre class, my teacher told me to work harder and joked "no more spring break." It's so true!

We just hit another major home building milestone: the completion of our last first year warranty request. Our plumbing is under warranty for another year and our foundation is under warranty for another nine years, but this request was the last one we could put in to fix just any issue.

In our one year of warranty, we've had a LOT of problems fixed. One of the problems was serious. It required tearing up floors and a wall, and the estimated damage cost to the construction company was about $3,000 (of course, the repair was free to us since it was under warranty). However, most of our problems were extremely minor. I would definitely describe most of them as "nit picky," but I have absolutely no regrets about taking advantage of our warranty to the fullest extent.

Here is my advice for anyone that is building a home on making the most of your first year warranty.

1.) Limit Your Warranty Submissions 
Our builder recommended limiting warranty requests to four total and submitting them at one, three, seven, and eleven months. We roughly stuck with that advice, submitting only four warranty requests total. The last one, we waited until three days before the expiration to submit. This way, we could truly account for every issue.

2.) Write it Down
Keep a running list (on your fridge, in your planner, etc) that everyone in the household can add to. This way, when it comes time to fill out the request, you actually remember every little thing that you noticed.

3.) No Problem Too Small 
When you build a house, the price you pay for the house is the price given for that house built perfectly. Let me explain it this way: the construction company is already adding the cost of dealing with your warranty requests into the price of the home that they sell you. This is very different from an already lived in home, which would be priced as is. We are conditioned from a young age to not expect perfection and to let the small stuff slide. While normally that is good advice, when it comes to building your house, you should get what you already paid for. Some examples of literal warranties I submitted: "the light in the pantry is crooked," "the lock on the backdoor was installed upside down," "a tile around the bathtub looks more raised than the others," and "the bathroom door has a noticeable patch, but I'd rather just have a new door." The warranty covered, you guessed it, all the issues. If you are someone that does not submit a warranty at all, you are, in effect, paying for the repairs of neighbors like me that submit every issue.

4.) Warranty Repairs Won't Cost Money But Will Cost Time 
Keep in mind, every warranty repair takes up your valuable time. You have to be home when the repair people come. Unfortunately, this sometimes turns into a game of missed connections: the repair person goes to the wrong house or comes during the only thirty minute window all day when no one can be at home (true story). Sometimes, you will have multiple missed appointments. It gets annoying fast. Be sure to let the builder know if you are taking off work. Communication is key. Suggestion: always confirm every appointment a day ahead and thirty minutes ahead. If someone is thirty minutes late, let your builder know right away. Try to get a firm time rather than a time window whenever possible. Be polite but firm. I speculate that some people give up on repairs out of frustration and vow to fix things themselves but never get around to it (or aren't actually capable of it). It takes immense patience (I think I was stood up four appointments in a row once?), but it is worth it in the end if you have what you want.

5.) You Pay For What Isn't Fixed Too
When it comes to problems with your house, you can pay now in time (by spending the time waiting for the repairs) or pay later in money (by losing value on your house when you sell it). Remember that issues that are minor to you could very well be a deal breaker to a future homebuyer, and issues that seem small could worsen and become major without needed repairs. We had some of our brick torn out to re-set a window. If we had skipped this, it could have led to insulation problems later on.

6.) Ask to Keep Leftover Material
Due to the above mentioned brick issue, we have a stack of extra bricks in our garage. If something like this happens to you, make the most of it by asking to keep the extra material. You never know when it might come in handy (we have already used some of our extra brick with a landscaping project).

7.) Monitor Repairs Carefully
I was sure that some flooring had been damaged after a leak (the house's one serious issue), but the repair people told me it was just the coloring of the wood. It wasn't, and I re-submitted a request and got the flooring fixed properly. Monitor repairs carefully, and don't let yourself get talked out of wanting issues fixed.

8.) On Paint 
Today, we had our entire painting job touched up. Everywhere that had a texture issue, crack, scuff, mark, or minor imperfection was attended to. This is a good thing to have done. After all, you already paid for it (technically!) It's also a good idea to find out the name and brand of your paint colors (interior and exterior). After a few years, you'll have to do touch ups yourself.

9.) On Mirrors 
Check for discoloration. We had a mirror replaced because the backing was causing strange marks to appear at the bottom edge. Don't ever use windex on your home mirrors as it damages them.

10.) It's Good to Care
Take it from someone that spent a painful eight hours sealing grout and backsplash on day one of homeownership: there is no such thing as treating your house too well. One day, you'll sell it, and in the meantime, you live in it, so be kind to your house. In the end, you'll be nothing but glad that you were.

Happy Home!

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