Its January 12th and traffic had been slow because of the holidays. Our contingency from Decemember had expired and it was time to re-up for another 30 days. When we turned the contingency in, Norfolk decided they would only renew it if we could hold both house notes(current home and new home being built). We had to go back to our loan officer and fortunately thru the grace of God we were qualified because I had some negative school loan documentation which would basically only get better the more time passed. Even though we did qualify for the two notes it was still not a thought we wanted to entertain of having to pay two house notes so the current house needed to be sold asap. Now if you recall we did have an issue with incentives the builder was offering when we first initially signed the contract. Well thru some looking around on the builders website I did notice that for the month of Decemeber(it had not been taken off of their website yet) they were offering $10k in incentive and now it was January, they were only offering $1,500. Now there was no way I was going to accept not getting the $10k in incentives if I could help it so I drafed another letter to send to Norfolk:
To: Chris Jeter
We would like to thank Norfolk for affording us the opportunity to build our dream home. As previously stated we were approved initially to build under one income only since we were going to use a VA certificate and have been under contingency while we attempted to sale our home. Unfortunately due to the slow market we have not been able to sell our home but have not wavered in our decision to continue to build with Norfolk. Since we have not been able to sell our home we have been exploring our options so that we could hold up our end of the contract. We spoke with Chris Sanders at GMAC (Norfolk's approved lender) and have been qualified to hold our current home mortgage as well build our new home. In our previous request we wanted to renew the contingency for another 30 days which was conditionally granted. At this point we would not like to renew and instead want to remove the contingency immediately to start building and qualify to receive the December promotion of $10K to spend on upgrades. We are aware the promotion did end on December 31st, but since we were under contingency in the month of December and are only 12 days out, we would hope that Norfolk would extend this offer to us as well. When we originally signed with Norfolk the incentive amount offered to us was $8,500.00. Although we did experience a lot of misinformation and were offered a lot of things incorrectly that were taken back from us, we have stuck by our commitment to build with Norfolk and would hope that Norfolk would allow us to take advantage of the incentive. We want to thank everyone at Norfolk for allowing us the opportunity to build in Blair Oaks and look forward to moving into our new home.
Once we got a response back from Norfolk, finally something went in our favor. Thru all the mishaps we were suppose to get $11,100 in incentives, then $8,500 in incentives, both of which the builder withdrew from us and we ended up getting $10k plus a free fireplace so our incentive amount total came to $11,500, more than we were alloted initially. We were very excited about this and ready to start construction on our new home. Next came our time to pick our selections. This was a blessing and a curse as well. We were happy to have the money to spend but there was a lot of pressure as well. The incentive was offered on a Friday and the builder wanted us to have all of our selections done by Sunday which we honestly felt just was not enough time. Now I dont't want to sound ungrateful because it is a good problem to have, it was just stressfull trying to make decisions that we both wanted and could live with in such a short amount of time. We did make our selections by the weekend but as the next week went by, the more we talked about it the more unhappy we were because we felt like we just rushed thru it to get it done. In hindsight we should have just informed the builder that we needed more time and if they wanted our business they would have to allow time to make our selections.
Another issue we had was with out lot. Since we started off with one sales person and manager and they both were no longer with the company, things that we were told were not balancing out. Our lot once it was excavated didn't seem as flat as what we were told. There were also two banks of trees that my wife had issues with as well. One of the banks when it rained collected alot of water and was about 3 feet deep or so. I just assumed it would filled correctly but at this point since we had been given so much misinformation, my wife wanted to question the builder to make sure it would be filled correctly. At this point we requested another meeting to walk the lot with the GC before signing any paperwork so that we could see where the property lines would be and so forth.
I have to mention that one thing that frustrated us greatly and made no sense to us was the builder trying to charge us for wanting to price out an upgrade that we would pay for. This just sounds so asinine to me that I can't comprehend it so just to summarize the builder want to charge me more money so that I can get a price in order spend more money with them? For example, the builder has an upgrade sheet which I had of the prices they charge.
(Once I get a chance to scan it in, I will post a link just to give others and idea of what builders are charing for upgrades in our area)
If we wanted to select something and it was not on the upgrade sheet price list, the builder wanted a $100 check up front as a deposit and if you chose not to select the upgrade once the price was given (and you have no idea of what the price would be), you forfeited your deposit! That is crazy in itself but if you wanted something that was not cosmetic but structual, the deposit price was $500 and if you chose not to select the upgrade once the price was given, you forfeited your deposit! We were very interested in extending our bedroom so that we could have a small sitting area. I ended up writing the builder again in the letter below:
February 6th, 2012
Hello and hope your day is going well. The reason we are writing is to address more concerns that we are encountering. About two weeks ago we requested to have our master bedroom extended by 3 feet to the rear of the home. We were told that extending the master bedroom would require special pricing and since it was structual, we would be required to pay a $500 deposit. This didn't seem logical to us because sitting rooms are an option for all models and master bedrooms so we knew it could be done, but we went ahead and put down the $500 deposit to ensure that the moving process would continue to progress forward. The request was reviewed by structual engineers and we signed off on the special pricing request and was told that everything was fine and we were waiting to be scheduled for our pre-construction meeting. Now, right before we are scheduled for our pre-construction meeting we are told that the bedroom can't be extended to the rear due to the building envelope on lot 11. This was very disheartening to hear because it basically bring back memories of all of the misinformation that we have been given since day 1 when we started this process with Norfolk. Even going back to wehn the original contract was written with Amy Axon and Karen Cassada, we were offered multiple times to add a sitting room and/or a sunroom room. It just seems as if the ball has been dropped several times during this process. If our lot could not have any additions added to rear of the structure, this would have been some valuable and great information to know back in July of 2011. So in essence we were offered this option in July twice by Amy and Karen, were told again just two weeks ago that it could be done and now we are a week or so out from pre-construction, we are just being informed that lot 11 can't handle any additional square footage to the rear of the home.
Our next issue are the two banks of trees on the lots and one of the banks appears to be a creek or some type of resovoir holding water. Back in July we were told by Amy Axon that the trees would be cut down, the large hole would be filled in with dirt and the lot leveled off as much as possible. We were also pointed out how far the lot would extend back as well. Now that we are being told that the bedroom can't be extended to the rear of the home or no additions can be done to the rear, we really have concerns now on what the actual property lines are. At this point we unfortunately don't feel comfortable with any of the information that was relayed to us by Norfolk, Amy Axon or Karen Cassada. Before going any further we would like to have someone come out this week and walk the lot with us to show us the actual property lines and also to ensure that the trees are going to be cut, the hole filled in with dirt and the lot leveled as much as possible. We would like to get this in writing, signed and included in our contract so that everyone is aware of the expectations on the front end and there are no suprises at the end.
At this point we have to admit that our home buying process so far with Norfolk has been filled with nothing but broken promises and alot of misinformation. We don't believe that Norfolk is giving misinformation intentionally but that doesn't change the fact that is keeps occuring. Throughout the building process we have kept out end of the deal and have done whatever has been asked of us by Norfolk. Although we came to the conclusion that that Norfolk homes could meet our family's need, we are also aware that Norfolk is not the only builder that can fufill our needs. We interviewed many builders before finally making a selction on who we beleived could help us achieve our goals of new construction and home ownership. At this point we do have to admit that if the rest of the homebuilding process is anything remotely close to what we have experienced so far and is any indication of what is to follow, honestly we have our doubts if we would like to continue our patnership with Norfolk. As I stated previously we have done everything that has been asked of us since day one and at some point we feel that Norfolk needs to make good on its promises and actually uphold its end of this deal to make this situation right and provide what was offered to us. We have documentation going back to day one on all of the misinformation we were given such as incorrect pricing on incentives, incorrecty incentives that were to be offered on the website for the Blair Oaks community, etc. Now whether that consist of bumping out the entire left side of the house 3 feet for the same price because that is what we were told initially which would give the house a more uniform look like the rest of the houses in the neighborhood, moving us to a different lot and Norfolk paying for the required crawl space, discounting the 4th bedroom to original price of $3,900 which was offered to initially, etc. we honestly feel that Norfolk needs to make this right. We have to say that if the situation were reversed and we were not able to uphold our end on the homebuying process we are pretty positive that Norfolk would be ready to take our deposit money. We could have easily taken all of documentation we have to media outlets, Homebuilders Association of Tennesse, National Home Builders Association or Better Business Bureau, etc to file complaints but we have chosen not to take take that action of recourse. Since we had an agreement with Norfolk, we feel thats its only right and not out of the question for Norfolk to make good on all of the misinformation that we have been given since day one.
We did get a meeting to walk the lot with the GC which was really no help at all (he has since left the company which delayed our build further and we have a new GC now). Since the lot ahd not been surveyed he could only estimate where the property lines would be, which I honestly could do that. He did state that the hole on the lot would need to be looked at by an engineer to see how it would be filled and it the lot would take a concrete slab or needed to built on a crawlspace. Our next step was our agent wrote an addendum to Norfolk stating that the lot would be surveyed by an engineer on how it was to be filled, Norfolk would take the necessary steps to fill the hole correctly and then the engineer would come back and sign off that it was done correctly and we would get a copy of the engineered letter. The builder stated they were not going to sign the addendum which had us puzzled because we weren't asking anything out of the ordinary so if they would not sign the addendum stating the actions they would take, what did they really have to hide? Norfolk only wanted to give us a verbal indication of what they would do. Sorry, but at point with all of the incorrect information we had been given, there was no way we were just going to take Norfolk's word for anything (especially when I even heard they previous GC state they could just wash out some of the concrete trucks and pour the wasted concrete into the hold and fill it with dirt)!
Pictures of lot once the trees were taken up.
Below is a copy of letter from our realtor to Norfolk:
Good Morning. I received your voice mail last night and I spoke to Chris yesterday evening.
Per your email you indicated that the seller would not sign the addendum. In the voice mail you stated that the city has to issue a building permit before building begins.
How is the City going to know about the lot or if it needs to filled or was filled? A filled lot needs to be disclosed. The hole on the lot is not noted on the land plat. They would not have notice of the lot prior to issuing a building permit if they were not provided with the information. Is Norfolk going to hire an engineer before they request a building permit and submit all documentation to the City?
Please provide in writing what steps the builder is going to do in addition to getting the building permit. Is Norfolk going to hire a State of Tennessee licensed engineer to inspect the lot before Norfolk touches it to provide detailed information about the lot? Is Norfolk going to take those steps provided by engineer to correct the lot and have the engineer inspect the work and certify the lot?
I dont understand why the builder does not want to sign a document stating they are going to do these steps.
At this point it gets funny because Norfolk was still declining to sign the addendum or put anything in writing on how the lot would be filled. I took it upon myself to contact the city and ask some general questions about building permits and if a hole on my lot was not on the land plat, when the inspector came out how would they know to look for it and what were my actions of recourse I could take. Well my simple letter emailed to the secretary at the city ended up getting forwarded to the head person of codes of the city, the county engineer and even the Mayor as well. The city ended up sending someone out that day in order to look at the lot and contacted Norfolk as well. This was not my intentions by any means but it sure did upset the builder because now I had untentionally put the city and the codes department all into their business. This could have all been avoided if they would have just disclosed the process they were going to take in fixing the lot. Although not my intention to stir up a mess, I don't apologize at all because it did raise awareness in order to make sure things were done correctly and I know if the shoe was on the other foot, they would have done the samething as well in order to protect the best interest of the family. To make things even funnier Norfolk had their realtor contact my realtor and tell her to get her client(me) calmed down because in their words, "I was out of control!" This was very comical to me to say the least plus they did email something generic pertaining to the steps they would take to have the hole filled correctly. My question, why wasn't this just done up front?
2nd red flag we should have pulled out the deal!!!
Well we ended up making several revisions going back and forth with the builder who at this time I'm sure was frustrated with us but we felt this was a big investment for us so we needed to be happy and felt that we got it right. The main structual changes we ended up with was adding a 4th bedroom and a 3rd car garage. We of couse wanted more high end finishes but felt that in the end those could be added the late. We needed to get the structure in tact first, which we did and we were happy with our choices. We knew with all of the changes something was going to go wrong or be left off so the journey continues.......
Pics of the generic floorplan that was available and elevations we had to choose from are below. Will upload our specific floor plan and elevation shortly.