Bad Contracts Zap
When you sign a contract, you might as well consider that pen in your hand
to be a stick of dynamite. Over the next several months, you will have to live by what is
and- equally important- what is not in the contract.
If you ever talk to a home buyer whos been ripped off by a builder
(that is, had a negative home buying experience), youll notice one
common thread: a bad contract. After you strip away all the incompetent
subcontractors, the builder-grade materials, and the outright deception by the builder or
salespeople, youll usually discover that it all starts with a lousy contract that
didnt protect the consumer.
How do bad contracts zap good home buyers?
1) Generic real estate forms. Surprisingly, many new homes are bought with
just the generic real estate Contract to Buy and Sell. While this may be fine
for existing homes, new home construction is another ball game. Although this generic
contract does not identify the buyer and seller and the amount to be paid, no mention is
made of exactly what youre buying or when it will be completed. Some builders get
around this problem with a new construction addendum, which is nice but it
runs into the next problem.
2) Omission of details. Even the contracts written for new construction
are devoid of critical details. For example, its rare to find a completion date and
any penalty clause. No specs or materials are promised-just a vague wording that says the
home will be built in accordance with the drawings and design plans. If the
builder drew those plans, the plans may still omit many details. For example, a door
opening is drawn on the plans but no mention is made whether its an expensive, six
panel, solid oak door or a cheap, pine hollow-core door. And its like that all down
the line: heating/cooling systems, windows, faucets-the plans give you no clue as to
whether youre getting quality or trash.
3) Verbal Promises. The final straw of these bad contracts is verbal
agreements. The builder may promise a brick fireplace at the beginning, but having no
written agreement makes it easier for the builder to say later he never promised you that.
If you order a change but fail to put it in writing, the builder may fail to make the
change. Or the change will be made and youll be charged twice the verbal
price. Near closing, you may be shocked by huge bills for items you thought were more
affordable in earlier conversions.
This Homebuyers Tip was excerpted from:
Your New House, by Alan & Denise Fields, Windsor Press, 1996