Closing Time

It’s official…actually it’s been official for a week this past Monday. We finally closed escrow on a new home built by DeNova Homes out of Concord, CA. What started out as wonderful buying experience has turned into a new home nightmare, as much of the finishing work lacked detail, care and craftsmanship. Some I have spoke with have referred to it as “punch list material.” As mentioned in the prior update, we had two pre-purchase inspections with the warranty manager, which honestly didn’t yield the results we were anticipating, but decided to close escrow, as we were running up against getting out of our rental.

mone_pit_holeWhile DeNova Homes hasn’t sunk to the level of KB Homes (yet), I am prepared to speak of them in the same breath, especially after the purchase of our first “money pit” in 2004, which had me feeling helpless, much like Walter Fielding stuck in the floor, from the 1986 movie, The Money Pit. Unfortunately I am not singing the Name Game to pass the time. After I sent scathing e-mail in response to their “welcome e-mail” we have a laundry list of items that need attention. Currently my wife and I are very disappointed when we should be elated to be in a new home.

All the blue tape set by my wife during our initial walk through, the ongoing discussions with the sales representatives, the construction superintendent didn’t yield the results we had anticipated. After our move in, my wife was finding pieces of blue tape, balled up in drawers, on the floor that once represented a flaw in the finishing. I need to step back for a moment and remind myself, this is NOT a custom house and I am not paying a premier price. If I were quality and craftsmanship would be much higher and the builder I hired would have take care and time. These developments are constructed quickly with the bottom line to sell and start making money on them.

The more we settled in, the more flaw came to the forefront of our new purchase. This before we had ANY furniture in the house. Movers did not ding the marks we identified and sent to DeNova Homes for “discussion” over by their management team. What really gets me is, the fact we can’t be the first of four families to run into this problem. Maybe we were so enamored with the purchase of a house we loved that we went a bit too fast in the buying process and should have taken a step back and forced DeNova’s hand in correctly outstanding problems.

Thankfully we have a document signed by the warranty manager that identifies two major and many minor problems through out the house. As of Wednesday, we met Carlos, dispatched by DeNova Homes to repair our problems. Unfortunately, when he arrived at our house on Wednesday, there was very little work he could accomplish for a few reasons. First, we had just completed our move and had not open and stored all our belongings, so many of the areas in question were not accessible. Second, the amount of flaws my wife showed Carlos had him call his boss for further discussion. The decision was made and Carlos was going to return before the 30 day warranty period with a crew to repair our home.

We have kept in touch with our realtor, John Canning of Canning Dreams Homes, who has gone above and beyond our expectations and continues to stand by our side as we force the issues with a houseful of problems. My wife called a sales director earlier this, as well as taking to social media in order to get something done. Needless to say the Twitter responses were of a canned variety, “Per Our Conversation, someone will be at your home tomorrow &Thursday to resolve your concerns. See you tomorrow!” Not surprising, really. After the tweets by my wife, I sent our first service request to DeNova that included 48 images of flaws, along with text about each, none of which we find acceptable in a new home, some are very glaring problems. Will they be repaired? Don’t know, time will tell.

Second Time’s a Charm

In a manner of speaking, the second walk through of our new DeNova Homes, should have been finished to this level of quality. If it were, chances are there would have been few complaints on our part and no phone calls to directors and people above those we have had to deal with. That still does not take away from the fact the master bathroom is unacceptable. The level of craftsmanship is no better than poor I would like to think that anyone who didn’t upgrade their master bathroom to tile would stick to their guns like we have in hopes of resolving this problem.

As we did a few days ago, we met Kevin, the Warranty Manager at our new home at Emerson Ranch, in Oakley. As an aside, I still won’t recommend anyone to purchase a home from this at this point until I see them follow through with our home, which might possible change my opinion of them. But currently, they really don’t rank much higher than KB Homes and the snafu we have had with broken pipes in the last two homes we have owned in Oakley.

With Kevin in tow, we began walking the home again, it was amazing to see many of the original issues dealt with. You could tell new paint had been laid, as we walked up our “upgraded” front door was being painted. I really only had two issues, both of which I considered major in nature and I knew neither had been taken care of correctly. The only way the master bathroom becomes satisfactory is to tile the walls, anything less, at this point is unacceptable.

The newel post at the top of the stairs had been worked on again, but the post is still not straight some more bondo and another coat of paint. Maybe, as our realtor said a few days ago, if we would have see it we would have been okay with it. But knowing what it looked like originally and the work they have done, a new post is the only way I will be happy with the banister. Maybe that makes me an asshole for not giving in on these two items alone, but with the price we are spending and the quality of the house, things need to be up to a standard before the house is presented to us, the buyer. It wasn’t, so we got out the fine toothed comb and went through the remainder of the house nothing every little discrepancy. Why not?

While there were still many imperfections, mostly in the paint my wife was more pleased today than she was two days ago. Still Kevin was madly taking notes of items to pass along that required attention. The list was nowhere near as long, but still some items were left outstanding that my wife and I agreed upon needed attention. When you start throwing around not closing and withholding funds, along with phone calls to the higher level people at DeNova shit started to get done. But did it ever need to come to this?

I am very thankful we retained a realtor through this entire process, with John Canning of Canning Dream Homes, I am not sure we would have been as tenacious as he was. He wanted to make things right and in my opinion has gone above an beyond as our realtor to get us what we want and more importantly to see us happy in our new “dream home.” We had a good realtor when we purchased our first home, but this time around I believe we have gained a friend based solely on John’s dedication to make things right.

As the walk through continued my wife pointed out areas that were still unacceptable, meaning someone pulled the blue paint tape and never fix that item, as there were quite a few of those. I am thankful I took pictures of all the tape, as I was walking room to room, mobile phone in hand comparing the picture to the home. While I won’t say I was 100% pleased, the finishing was an improvement. If and when we close, there will still be walls to touch up with paint or even window sills that went unpainted, believe it or not. How this gets past quality control is beyond me.

There is still a considerable amount of work to be done IF we plan on closing escrow on Friday and picking up keys to our new home. Even after that, we will still have 90 days to report items that don’t meet our standards and we will be dealing with Kevin again to make it right. With any luck we will be moved in by the middle of next week and will start tagging items on that warranty list.

Mortgage Bound

sienna_frontWe never intended to settle into a new home when we began our house hunting adventures. After contacting John at Canning Dream Homes, I developed a rather short list of homes to tour. I can’t say they were overly impressive as the stock in Oakley was quite limited because of many ‘Pending’ offers. After our first purchase back in 2004, I would like to think we have learned a few things about the home buying process. which would not lead us down that same disastrous road we traveled when we purchased the first time. From the enter buying process to the interest free loan for the first 12 months to two bad refinances and a shitload of debt, it was amazing we survived as long as we did in our first house.

While the end result caused stress and frustration, we entered the home buying process in a much better position than in 2004. After touring 6 homes it became apparent, “our house” wasn’t “in the middle of the street” (Madness reset) or to be found in Oakley, based on what we wanted in a house. It was somewhat frustrating, as we were growing out of the renting experience and needed to reestablish ourselves in a place to call our own.

John was wonderful enough to take my wife out to a new housing development in Oakley called Emerson Ranch built by DeNova Homes. While I didn’t accompany them on the first trip to Emerson Ranch I stopped by after my wife raved about the model they were looking at. Of course, models being models are staged with great looking furnishings and have MANY upgrades added to the base home.

For a few days I felt we were rushing into a new home before seriously considering other options. Both options had good and bad associated with them. One night, while lying in bed I decided to look out towards Valley Springs and was shocked at what we could buy for $350,000 to $375,000. One of my main concerns was property size. I wanted a minimum of 3 acres, something I was not going to find in Oakley. Valley Springs was amazing. The prices fell within our range and many of the homes we looked at on Realtor.com met many of our requirements we were looking. I even found a 2500 sq. ft. home with 40 acres! Not only could I run ultras on my property, we could camp and fish in the Calaveras River, which ran through land!

Yet until the size strapped lots in Oakley, the commute and schools in Valley Springs became an issue. With a single high school and only a handful of elementary and junior high school, commuting our son to school would not be as simple as a 2 minute ride down to the corner to drop him off. Living in the foothills of the Sierras would also turn my 45 minute commute into a 2:15 commute. One way! So was buying out in Valley Spring realistic? Probably not, but I would make the sacrifice and commute if it allowed us a place to buy.

Back in Oakley, my wife and I were getting excited as we talked to our realtor, as well as Kelly and Wendy at DeNova Homes. The homes weren’t moving as fast as they had expected and there were some good upgrades and credits being offered to entice people into buying. After visiting the development a second time and walking through a few of the “Move-In Ready” homes, as well as the model, we decided to put down a soft deposit in order to hold the house. It was their only single story floor plan (Amber), which was a few hundred square feet smaller than the rental we are in. Even worse, the footprint of the slab, left very little room in the backyard to house some sort of kennel for my wife’s breeding hobby (Bengal cats).

After spending a few days reading the 3 inch binder full of fine print, rules, regulations and more stuff that I probably didn’t care about. A day later my wife, with John in tow were back at Emerson Ranch and I received a phone call about purchasing a bigger home, which was the next floor plan up, called the Sienna. This home made a bit more sense. It provided us with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a California Room, something as a Californian since 1971 I had never heard of, as well as a fireplace in about 2300 square feet.

Not having walked the larger models I was taken back by the size of this home, it was rather well laid out, seemed to have a good flow and energy through out. The kitchen was amazing. I can’t believe the amount of storage space with dual pantries and about 30′ of counter space! I could have people in the kitchen and still be able to cook comfortably! This house was about $30,000 more, but broken down into mortgage terms that came out to about $210 a month. Then I remember the wise words of my friend Brian N, as well as our realtor, “happy wife, happy life.” I know she would love this home, as would I, so we moved our deposit to the larger floor plan and started the paperwork.

One of my requirements for a home was a 3-car garage and I missed the next floor plan up, the Emberglow had just that. I got very excited, especially since the price of this home was JUST another $10,000 (or $70/month on my mortgage). I drive out to Emerson Ranch and walked the floor plan. My main concern, the garage, which was actually a 2-car garage with a tandem garage extending one side. It worked for me, but the downstairs floor plan was terrible. The ‘Great Room’ wasn’t so great and seemed to run into the kitchen, which now included a nook. It just didn’t flow well and I knew it the moment I walked it. The master bathroom, which it offered more closet space, was smaller than the previous model, but the upstairs did have a loft, which overlooked the entry way. At over 2600 square feet, it was too much house, even though the garage was nice.

Now that paperwork has been started we are probably 4-6 weeks away from closing on our new home. Still very hard to believe we are going through the new home buying process. Unlike our previous home, where we were carrying quite a bit of debt, this time we are debt free, earn more money and the entire situation feels right.