Home ownership is one component of personal finance and a past topic on Get In The Green. In past articles we have discussed the mechanics of a mortgage, favorable terms, and recommendations to avoid being house poor. Today’s post is not related to the aforementioned. Rather, it ties into the emotions of buying new construction and provides real life examples of some myths.
A little over two years ago we purchased a new home built by a large publicly traded company. We worked with an excellent realtor to sell our town home and find a new single family home. We had outgrown our space and wanted a larger footprint with a yard.
There are many emotions which come to a head when buying and selling real estate. Location, school district, and property taxes are a few decisions to be made throughout the process. New construction amplifies the emotions significantly. Which lot, floor plan, cabinet color, floor color, door knob style, paint color, counter top material, trim size, shutter color, and light fixtures do we choose? After all, our livelihood is riding on these decisions!
In February of 2015 we closed on a newly constructed home. It was a sweet day capped off by celebrating at a local sandwich shop. If you have been following Get In The Green since last summer it should be no suprise that our celebration dinner cost less than $15. After all, making frugal choices has allowed us to have nice things (like our home).
We have always liked new construction because of the customization, modern floor plans, energy efficient materials, and low maintenance. Of particular interest has been the idea of worry free living. Replacing an air conditioner, furnace, structural concerns, leaking windows, and water drips are not possible with new construction…so we thought.
Issues After Closing
We have lived here since February 20, 2015. We enjoy the community and neighbors but have seen multiple instances of poor workmanship. Here are a few of the work orders placed since February 2015.
- The builder put the gas bill for the month of February 2015 in our name so instead of paying for 8 days of gas we paid for 28. The bill was $250 because the subcontractors were using an inefficient heater in the garage to help set the concrete. We tried disputing this with the gas company and builder. The tires spun, spun, and spun and we got absolutely no traction.
- In the Spring of 2015 after a windy rainstorm a water drip was discovered in a light fixture in one of the bedrooms. Since our home was constructed during the fall and winter, I was told that snow and precipitation settled in the attic before the roof, insulation, and siding were installed and the heavy winds and warmer temperatures pushed the moisture to the path of least resistance. Subcontractors assessed the attic and there were no leaks. This was the first and last time any leaking has occurred in our home.
- When we turned on the air conditioner due to the warmer than average temperatures in March 2015 I noticed a puddle encompassing the furnace and water heater in the basement. The subcontractor who installed the air conditioner did not run the condensation line to the floor drain. The line was a few inches short and after a quick modification the issue was resolved.
Faulty Workmanship and Shingles
All of the previous work orders mentioned above were one and done scenarios. For the last two plus years there have been multiple shingle episodes related to workmanship and material. Details of each episode are listed below.
One month after closing we placed a work order for lifting shingles on the northwest side of the house. Subcontractors “fixed” the problem within a few days and we were told the installation during winter months prevented the shingles from adhering. According to the builder and subcontractor, a few months of sunny and warm weather would be all that was needed to seal the shingles.
One year later gusting winds caused lifting and shingles to be pulled off the roof. This was more pronounced than the year prior. A number of shingles were in our yard after this episode. A work order was generated, a subcontractor performed the work a few days later, and I was told the issue had been resolved. According to all involved these type of things were common for the first year.
A month later, after being promised the issue was resolved, the shingles lifted again. According to the builder and subcontractor the starter shingles used on the northwest corner of the house were defective and needed to be removed and replaced.
After making three claims within a short period of time, I requested the Tamko representative (shingle manufacturer), Pulte rep (home builder) , and subcontractor meet with me to determine the cause and what needed to be done to prevent future occurences. The summary of the meeting was the shingles were not defective and installation was completed according to code. Apparently the high wind speeds and location of our lot were the culprit for these episodes.
You probably wonder why I did not push this further…so do I! I gave them the benefit of the doubt and something I have learned through this process is polite persistence is much more valuable than accepting what you know is BS. If you are going through something similar they should know your phone number, email, and home address by heart which is the tactic I applied in 2017.
It should be no surprise that shingles fell off the same part of the roof a few months ago. Minnesota had strong winds during March but nowhere close to manufacturer warranty (60-80 mph). After calling Pulte, I was surprised to learn a new customer care manager would be assigned to the claim. On Monday March 13th we concluded conversation with an understanding they would get back to me within a few days. I requested new shingles due to the frequency of claims and inability to resolve the problem. At lunch on the 15th I called, left a voicemail, and within three minutes received a decision that pissed me off. Home closing was two years and twenty-four days prior therefore Pulte was not responsible for repairs. Not to mention, the rep had been a coward and emailed this decision rather than speaking on the phone. I learned that once a homeowner surpasses two years you are encouraged to file a homeowners insurance claim or initiate a claim with the shingle manufacturer. Understandable determination if this was the first claim but our shingles had been blowing for two years like Marilyn Monroe’s dress in The Seven Year Itch.
Why Write This Article?
Nate and I’s goal is to provide readers with knowledge on every facet of personal finance-home ownership included. I want to educate those currently living in or considering new construction and provide ammunition for roofing professionals and their customers in a similar position. Getting the run around is not a good feeling however there are some action steps one can take to improve the odds of a settlement.
After learning that Pulte was not going to fix the roof I did what anyone with an internet connection does — go to Google. Search – reputable roofers in Apple Valley, MN. On the front page below the advertised businesses The Roof Guys appeared. I typed a little bit of information on their home page and within 20 mins had a call from Jamey. We talked on the phone and scheduled a free estimate the following day. I requested he take pictures of any defective work or shingles because I planned on continuing my claim with Pulte and wanted proof. I was not surprised to see over driven nails, shiners, debris preventing adherence, and shingles without glue. Of course, this contradicted the information the builder, shingle rep, and subcontractor provided previous year. (click images to enlarge)
After seeing the pictures we considered four options:
- Do Nothing
- File a claim with the shingle manufacturer
- Take Pulte to small claims court
- Hire a lawyer
I spoke to a few friends afterwards. Topher is a college friend who is an attorney in Duluth. He answered questions and educated me on Minnesota statutes and laws. I also talked to another friend from my hockey days named Ryan. He has connections within the industry and gave me some great pointers.
My emotions were far too high to do nothing. I was leaning towards filing a claim with the manufacturer but before doing so decided to call law firms specializing in real estate disputes. I quickly learned that lawyers will not talk unless you sign a binding agreement allowing them to begin billing. I have no problem with someone making money but 20-30 hours of attorney fees would buy a new roof. The return on investment was not there.
Our Action Plan
After consideration, I decided to file a claim with Tamko. After all, Jamey provided proof of a poor product. I initiated the claim and within three days had a packet with instructions on how to file. Three hours was spent filling out forms, getting shingle samples, obtaining proof of purchase through the builder, and gathering/printing pictures of every occurrence. On March 20, 2017 I mailed the 12” x 36” envelope to Joplin, Missouri.
On Friday April 14th we received a thick envelope from Tamko. I must confess I made peace with the situation. I was not going to let this dictate my attitude. Throughout the experience, money was not the sole reason for my anger. The lack of accountability on behalf of the manufacturer, subcontractor, and builder is what frustrated me.
Within the contents of the packet, the warranty service representative thanked us for being a customer, expressed regret for the problem, and made reference to an enclosed settlement. The settlement letter designated a total of $8,050, which would cover 35 squares of shingles and labor.
After receiving the letter I called Jamey. When I described what happened there was a long pause followed by, “What did you do?” Apparently winning a settlement with a shingle manufacturer is rare. He had worked with homeowners in similar circumstances with little success in the past.
My Recommendations If You Are In Similar Situation
- Stay Calm- Human instinct, at least mine, wanted to be belligerent and rude. This would have done no good because we needed someone in our corner. My hope was for an advocate not someone who would hinder my progress to get a new roof. Cue yourself to do exactly the opposite of normal. Say thank you and address people by sir and ma’am.
- Document Everything- The pictures Jamey took validated my claim of faulty product and installation. I kept 30 pages of documents between Pulte, Tamko, and the subcontractor dating back to March 2015. All of these communications were coalesced into a word document substantiating my concerns.
- Be Persistent – It would have been easy to make excuses why we should not pursue this claim. We each work full time and have a young child. Balancing work, continuing education, school logistics, dance, gymnastics, hobbies, leisure, and trying to build this website consume a bit of time. Throughout the process I called daily to check for status updates. As mentioned previously, I should have employed this strategy the year prior. I wanted the builder and manufacturer to know my name, address, email, and home address by heart and to most importantly recognize my voice when I called.
- Tap Into Emotions- Sometimes a simple question makes an immense impact. I asked multiple times through this process how it would feel to be in our shoes. I laid it all on the line and asked how it would feel to buy new construction, have repeated issues, and be left to make an insurance claim or pay out of pocket towards a product and work that should last fifteen years. I made many references to my family because it pulls at the heart strings of most people because they are parents and/or grandparents.
As I wrap up you may be reconsidering the thought of buying new construction. Each decision has to be made using careful consideration of the pros and cons. For some, buying new construction is the way to go while for others it is not. The purpose of my article was not to dissuade you from buying new construction. Rather, it was to bunk some of the myths like buying new construction is equivalent to care free living.
I am appreciative to Tamko Building Products for standing behind their product. They were the antithesis of Pulte and took accountability for a faulty product. I am also grateful to The Roof Guys, particularly Jamey, for providing excellent service, taking pictures, and replacing our roof.