Brian and Jennifer Eisenman bought a brand new home. But even though it was brand new, they quickly began to notice that there were plenty of problems, big and small. Now, after two and a half years of fighting with the builder, Pulte Homes, the Eisenmans feel like they are getting nowhere.
It’s really a sad story. Brian and Jennifer were so excited to own a brand new home. But as they lived in it, it became apparent that Pulte Homes had not built a very stable home. First, there were little issues like poorly grouted tile. But then the problems grew. Shoddy plumbing led to a burst pipe, broken upstairs toilet, and a flood of water coming through the chandelier right into the kitchen below!
As different parts of the house began to fail, the Eisenmans brought in engineers to take a better look at the overall structure of the house. The news was not good. It turned out that the upper floors were supported by a weight-bearing wall that rested on a single floor joist with no additional supports. There were doors that wouldn’t close, walls that were beginning to crack, and all sorts of other issues. What seemed like a blessing was turning into a nightmare.
The Eisenmans tried to work with Pulte Homes, the builder of their house, to get the repairs the house needed. But they made minimal efforts to make the necessary repairs and continued to stall. Eventually, they stalled for so long that the house was out of warranty.
Was this an intentional tactic by Pulte Homes?
We reached out to our followers on Facebook and found out that this was not an isolated incident. It turns out that quite a few people have been burned by Pulte Homes.
To make matters worse, Pulte Homes had inserted a clause into their contract that required all complaints to be settled in arbitration and precluded the Eisenmans from taking their claims to a court of law.
Unfortunately, these arbitration clauses are found in contracts for all sorts of industries. Everything from cell phone companies to corporate employers to credit card companies are including them. Due to the nature of arbitration, it is hard to get exact figures on how many cases are brought and how they are settled. But the best research available indicates that the consumer rarely wins. But with arbitration clauses being so prevalent, it’s hard to get the services and products you need without agreeing to arbitration.
So what can you do to avoid a problem like the Eisenmans are facing?
First of all, let’s be clear that the Eisnemans did nothing wrong. They purchased a product, a large and expensive product, in good faith. They bought a brand new home and rightly expected it to be in excellent condition. Pulte Homes should never have sold them a home in the condition they did.
However, there are ways you can protect yourself from unscrupulous builders who are willing to sell a substandard product.
In an earlier post, we talked about the benefits of hiring a home inspector before purchasing a home. Back in May, we featured the story of Dale’s son, Adam, and his wife. They were in the market for a new home and found one they just loved. On the advice of Dale, they hired a home inspector to take a look before signing the papers. What the inspector found made them think twice. In the end, Adam and his wife chose not to buy the home. But even if they did want the home, knowing the existing issues with the home would have put them in a position to negotiate the price down to cover the cost of making the necessary repairs.
It’s easy to understand why you would want a home inspector when you are buying an older home. Over time, houses age and things can go wrong. Plumbing can corrode, wiring can loosen, and foundations can settle. Well-meaning do-it-yourselfers can make additions to the home that aren’t to code and may become unsafe. In short, there is a lot that can happen with an older home.
But what about a new home? Do you really need an inspector?
The short answer, as we have seen, is a resounding “Yes!” A new home should be free of problems. You can walk around a new home and see the fresh paint, new carpets, and shiny appliances and get the sense that you are purchasing a home in great condition. But as a private homebuyer, you probably don’t have the knowledge or expertise to really “look under the hood” and tell if the home you are buying is really all it’s cracked up to be.
An inspector knows what to look for in any home, new or old.
An inspector will check all sorts of things on a home. They will do a thorough inspection of the plumbing, electrical, and structural integrity of the home. They can check for water problems, settling issues, and many other problems that can afflict new and old homes.
If you are purchasing a new home, have the inspector come twice. They should do an initial inspection while the home is under construction, just before the drywall is put up. That way they can get an easy look at all the internal parts of the home, including plumbing, wiring, and structural integrity. Then have them come back when the house is done to look for any new issues that might have crept in as the house was being finished. That way, any problems with the home can be addressed before the final papers are signed.
If you are in need of a home inspection, TrustDALE has a number of certified home inspectors you can trust. Just click here for a full list.
Pulte Homes are not the only ones at fault!
It’s true that even new home buyers should hire their own inspector before moving in. But the city, in this case the city of Sandy Springs, is also responsible for inspecting the home. Whether you are building a new home or just building on an addition to an existing home, local regulations require an inspection by the city or county. No work can be completed without the approval of a public building inspector.
In the case of the Eisenmans’ home, there were multiple visits from a public building inspector. When the construction was complete, the inspector approved a certificate of occupancy. But with the problems in the Eisenmans’ home, the inspector should have flagged the issues and required that they were corrected before construction could continue.
This was a failure of the city’s permitting and inspection process, too.
The permitting and inspection process exists to ensure that buildings are safe. In this case, that process didn’t work. But the city of Sandy Springs has been unwilling to talk about this case.
With a recalcitrant builder, an arbitration clause, and a city government unwilling to step up, the Eisenmans have little recourse.
Some of our Facebook followers have suggested taking matters into their own hands, such as publicly shaming Pulte Homes online and in person. We hope that Pulte Homes will do what’s right and fix the Eisenmans’ home, or pay for someone who will.
Businesses should always do what’s right. Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t. When it comes to buying a home, you can try to protect yourself with a home inspection before you buy. For other services, try searching for what you need at TrustDALE.com. When you work with TrustDALE certified businesses, you know that we stand behind them. They have undergone Dales 7 point investigative review and agreed to his Make it Right Guarantee™.