In my last post I said you need to receive four things from your dealer: legalese, modular home drawings, scope of work, and specifications.
Modular Home Drawings
The modular dealer and factory are obligated to build your home to match their drawings. You are obligated to accept what they draw when you “sign-off” on their plans. If your home matches the drawings but is not what you expected, neither the dealer nor the factory will be responsible for correcting the “mistake” at their expense. They also won’t be receptive to your claim, “But I told you . . .!” or “I’m sure you said that!”
The best way to protect yourself is to look very closely at your floor plans and exterior elevations before approving them with your signature. This means that each detail on the plans needs to be correct and that all important details are entered on the plans. A missing detail is a potential mistake. To save time, you will sometimes have to write notes directly on the final draft to ensure they contain every detail. One example of a detail that is easily missed is the location of a ceiling light fixture. Make sure the plans indicate whether you want it centered in the room or centered over an offset table.
Require the general contractor to provide complete plan and elevation drawings for the on-site work. Knowing what your garage, deck, porch, finished basement, etc. will actually look like is clearly important.
Modular Home Scope of Work
Make sure your contract lists all tasks (scope of work) required to complete your home. If you sign a contract that doesn’t include every task, the dealer will come back to you for more money after they begin construction of your home. For example, if you want your porch to be stained, make sure this is written into the contract.
Modular Home Specifications
Look closely at how the contract proposes to complete each task. A dealer can offer a much lower price by selecting a less expensive set of building specifications or by not listing any specifications at all for some tasks. If you sign a contract that doesn’t list the construction specifications for every task, the dealer has the right to select whatever materials he wants when it comes time to build your home. For example, if you want two coats of an oil based stain for your porch, make sure this is in writing.
Modular Home Exclusions
Require the dealer to include a written list of any tasks that are not included in their contract. This is especially important for those tasks that are needed to obtain a certificate of occupancy , especially if you might reasonably expect them to be included. The most complete estimates include these “exclusions” so you aren’t left guessing what you could be responsible for. (If you were an expert in new home construction, you might not need this list because you would know everything you need.) For example, it’s fine if building permit fees and landscaping are not included, but your contract should tell you this, since both will be needed.
Modular Home Allowances
Pay attention to” allowances”. Make sure the dealer only uses them when he can’t know the cost of a particular task. An example is the cost for drilling a well, since a dealer can’t know in advance how deep he’ll need to drill. Builders prefer allowances for two reasons. First, they don’t have to spend as much time preparing their proposal, since they don’t need to know the price. Second, and more importantly, allowances protect builders’ profits, since they make you responsible for all additional costs. If there are too many allowances, you are at risk for significant cost overruns.
The Details Matter for Your Modular Home Drawings, Scope of Work, and Specifications
Finally, make sure you understand the details. It won’t help much if you get what you signed for, but didn’t understand what you were getting. And when the dealer uses unfamiliar construction jargon, ask him to explain what he means.
For more information about modular home drawings, scope of work, and specifications, see Selecting a Modular Home Dealer in my book The Modular Home.