Oh no. It’s the thing you dread the most when building a new home (other than a fire or a natural disaster). Your builder made a mistake in your beautiful new construction home.
It could be something small, like ours was. They installed the master bath tile in the secondary baths, and the secondary bath tile in the master bath. (It didn’t seem small at the time, I promise you. But, in reality, it was a relatively small error in the scheme of things).
Or, it could be something big. Like a whole room. (Yes, that really happened. I’ll tell you all about it in a little bit).
After having your small panic attack (you’re allowed to have one; this is your new home, after all), let me tell you 99% of the time, they’re going to be able to fix it with little to no delay. I promise.
In this post I’ll give you tips for how to handle when your builder makes a mistake. And, then I’ll share my best advice on how to catch those mistakes as early as possible to ensure you still get the home of your dreams.
First Things First, Make Sure It’s a True Mistake
There’s No Way I Chose That Tile. . . Right?
Scenario 1: You walk through your new construction home and stare in horror at the tile in the powder room. That is NOT the color grey you picked for your tile. Your grey was definitely lighter, more blue tones. This seemed dark and more brown than grey.
You frantically call your build manager, and much to your dismay, they say no, that’s exactly what you chose.
You insist they are wrong, so they go get the sample from the design center to show you that in fact, that tile is is the same one you picked out. There isn’t anything you can do at this point, unless you want to pay for a change order and pay for a new tile option.
Unfortunately, this isn’t that uncommon. When viewing samples under the well lit design center, they can look completely different than in your new home. This is especially true if you pick a stone countertop with a lot of variation, like a lot of granites.
This is exactly why we didn’t pick a few of the countertop options we had. We weren’t allowed to pick the slab out, and we didn’t want large veins running through our island. So, we paid extra and got a more simple quartz to guarantee a certain look.
An Actual Builder Mistake
Scenario 2: Same as above, except when you call your build manager and send them a picture, they say, “Oh yeah, that’s definitely not icy grey.”
Now what? Let’s dive into the most common options you’ll have (or, you should know to ask for).
Ask Them to Fix It
We’ve had several small mistakes happen on our current new build home. Some examples include missing recessed lights and a poorly placed outlet in our master bath. We also had a more substantial mistake when the wrong tile was installed in all 4 of our bathrooms.
The first time the builder made a mistake, I was super stressed. But, a quick call to our build manager, and she had everything fixed within a week. Even with the tile, she assured us it wasn’t that big of a deal and had the wrong tile removed and the right tile installed within a week with no delays on our closing date.
The vast majority of mistakes a builder makes can be fixed, and quite easily. But, it’s important to say something when you see it. Having the wrong tile installed is an easy fix a month out, but it’s not so easy the day before closing.
Ask for Alternative Upgrades Available
If the builder made a mistake that can’t be fixed, ask for a different upgrade in its place. For example, if they installed the wrong countertops, but it would delay closing 30 days to replace them with the correct ones and you don’t dislike the mistake enough to delay your move, ask for a different upgrade!
Be Careful What You Ask For
You want to avoid asking for an upgrade that may have shipping or manufacturing delays (cabinets, flooring, countertops) or would alter any permitting process (adding additional windows or additional structural elements). And, don’t ask for something that is double the value of the mistake they made (if they installed group 1 tile instead of group 2 in the laundry room, don’t ask for group 5 hardwoods throughout the whole first floor).
Here are some great examples of additional upgrades to ask for:
- Can they upgrade your faucets and cabinet hardware to make up for the mistake?
- Will they add a fire pit in the backyard (if that was an option in the first place)?
- Can you get the house painted in two different colors, instead of the standard white?
Ask for something that may not cost the builder a ton of money, but would make a difference to you after move in.
Ask for a Credit Towards Purchase Price
Sometimes, it’s too late to fix the mistake the builder made and too late for any sort of alternative upgrades. My parents built a home with a national builder a few states away, so they didn’t see the home until closing. When they had their final walk through, they noticed a room was missing.
It was an upgrade they purchased to add an office space on the second floor. Obviously, they were upset, but it was too late to fix it or offer any sort of upgrade. The only options they were offered were to take a credit towards the purchase price, or start over on a new lot and wait another 6 months for their home.
They weren’t willing to wait, so they received a credit for the cost of the room on their purchase price, as well as a credit towards their down payment.
I don’t want you freaking out that something this large is going to happen to you, but I wanted to share that it can happen. That’s why all the checks where you review your options with the realtor, design center, and build manager are so important.
Last Resort, Walk Away
If there was such a significant mistake that cannot be fixed that you don’t want to live in your home any more, you always have the option to walk away.
Walking away means starting over elsewhere and another 4-8 months of waiting, so you really need to decide if the mistake is worth that time and stress.
And, make sure consult with your realtor or an attorney before you make that decision. You want to ensure that you can get any cash you’ve already put into the home back. Otherwise, you’re losing your potential home and your down payment.
Best Advice: If You See Something Wrong, Say Something!
You know your home and your finishes better than anyone else. The best advice I can give you is to walk through your home frequently (a couple times a month if you can). That way you can review things as they get installed to make sure they’re correct.
What If You Can’t Walk Through That Often?
Not a big deal. We couldn’t. We lived 500 miles from our home while it was being built.
Ask your build manager to send you weekly pictures of everything that gets installed that week. Or, ask them to Facetime you during your weekly call if they can. Most build managers are happy to send you pictures once a week.
We caught our mistakes on the two walk throughs we were able to do, but we just happened to be there before the build manager had seen the house that week. We would have easily been able to catch our tile mistake with our weekly photos.
But, Mistakes Do Happen
No one is trying to mess up your new home on purpose, I promise. Mistakes typically cost your builder money, so they pay very close attention to what’s going on. So, I don’t want you walking away from this post thinking mistakes are 100% going to happen in your new home.
But, mistakes can and do happen. The people doing the work on your house are likely contractors, or employees there to perform a specific job (install trim, install tile, install drywall). And, they’re working on many houses at once. They aren’t necessarily looking at your spec sheet as they are doing the work.
Shouldn’t My Build Manager Catch These?
Yes, and they’ll catch a whole bunch of mistakes you never even hear about because they work hard at their job.
But, you also need to remember that your build manager is managing several new build properties at once. So, they may not remember which particular white kitchen cabinet you chose, or in what room you added one extra outlet off the top of their head. ( And, if we’re being totally honest, I don’t remember all the details of my own home).
If you do have any concerns, your build manager has copies of your selections. They can easily review them with you and answer any questions you have. And, if there is a mistake, your build manager is the one who can help you fix it before it becomes a bigger issue.
You are your home’s best advocate. If something seems off or missing, verify with your design order sheet and talk with your build manager.
If the builder made a mistake in your home, 99% of the time they’ll either be able to assure you it’s correct, or fix it quickly if it’s wrong.