Reader Question: Monty, Thanks for answering my earlier question about not having a set of plans and specifications for our to-be-built home. I wish I had known about your How To Choose A Builder article 3 weeks ago. I gave the builder a deposit and signed a contract, but I have no plans and specs. I worry I made a mistake. Now my question is what should I do next? – Anonymous.
Monty’s Answer: Hello Anonymous, I do not have much detail. I have not seen the contract nor do I need to see it. I recall the home is to be built on a lot the builder controls and that construction has not begun. I also understood the builder agreed to furnish you plans and specifications on several occasions, but they have yet to materialize.
Here, is my advice. Set up a meeting with the builder specifically to discuss your concerns. Make an outline of your points before the meeting. Give him a copy at the beginning of the meeting. Ask him to allow you to finish before he responds. Review the instances where he stated that plans and specifications would be forthcoming. Explain the lack of agreement on plans and specifications significantly increases the likelihood of future misunderstanding and conflict. Tell him both of you are making a mistake going ahead in this fashion. Explain you expect him to deliver both documents before you can continue.
When this meeting takes place, remain calm and disable the quick tongue if you have one. Be respectful. Do not threaten him. There is a reasonable likelihood that your arguments and presentation will strike a chord, and he will capitulate and agree to comply. If the conversation heads in this direction, work hard to gain a firm delivery date to review the plans and specs. Perhaps, he always intended to provide the documents and it just took your extra effort for him to produce them.
On the other hand, if the meeting is not going your way, there is denial of the promise to furnish plans and specifications, or reasons presented why they are not necessary, then conclude the meeting with a time out. Time is needed to consider the situation. I would excuse myself and promise to get back to them within a few days, and get agreement that nothing will move forward from here until you do.
If he puts off the meeting or refuses to meet, that event would cause me to seek legal advice immediately.
Go to your attorney with the contract and your depiction of the events leading up to your last meeting with the builder. Get their opinion if this is a winnable argument and what will it cost to do so. Disputes are the easiest to resolve before signing contracts and most difficult to solve at the final settlement table. If you cannot get agreement from the builder now, it can only get worse.
I know of cases where custom homes were built without plans and specifications without incident, so it can be done. In the instances I recall, there was a strong connection between the builder and the customer. Conversely, the vast majority of custom homes utilize written plans and specifications because reputable builders understand those documents protect both parties. In my opinion, the outcome of your documented request will determine whether the contractor had always intended to produce the plans and specifications or that he was trying to keep an uneven playing field. Please let me know how it turns out, and, if more questions come up just ask me.