Homebuyers Need the Construction Details for Their Home
Our homebuyers often tell us that few of our competitors, stick or modular, provide thorough and detailed construction information. The reason homebuyers like our emphasis on construction details is that they are almost always novices. They recognize that they lack professional knowledge, and they’ve heard the stories about cost overruns from their friends. They’re afraid they’re going to make a mistake or be taken advantage of. They are comforted by our efforts to patiently explain the construction details and then to document them in writing.
However, sometimes we don’t explain the construction details as well as we could because we forget how much more we know as professionals than our homebuyers. Our homebuyers sometimes unintentionally contribute to this miscommunication by saying they understand something they’re embarrassed to admit they don’t understand.
For example, a construction professional knows the significance of this note on a homebuyer’s elevation drawing:
“The ground level elevations are approximate, and the final heights will be determined during the site work”.
The professional realizes that any of the following might be affected by the site work on their homebuyer’s property:
- How much of the foundation will be exposed above the finished grade
- Whether kneewalls will be required or a walkout will be possible
- How many steps will be needed from the ground to their entry doors, porches, and decks
- Whether railings will be needed on the steps to their entry doors, porches, and decks
- How many steps will be needed from their house into the garage
Moreover, the professional knows that each of these changes will alter how their homebuyer’s finished home will look and function. Because homebuyers are unlikely to recognize these implications, the professional needs to explain them in some detail. Of course, this level of construction detail overwhelms some homebuyers. And few homebuyers absorb all the construction details. But even though the professional can’t make every homebuyer understand or recall every word they say, they should err on the side of too much information rather than on too little.
Presenting the Construction Details to a Novice Is Not Over Explaining
Sometimes construction professionals are concerned they are guilty of “over explaining”. They would be over explaining if they were talking to an expert rather than a novice. An expert has mastered the material, so they can be presented new information in their area of expertise in a few simple, brief statements. But a novice is trying to learn unfamiliar material they don’t yet understand. When explaining this new material to them, the professional needs to elaborate the details until the novice understands how the parts fit together.
For example, if a construction supervisor tells an apprentice carpenter on his first day to “frame the house”, the apprentice might not know where to begin. But once the apprentice has framed many houses, the supervisor can say this and the carpenter will know all the steps. When we say, “Always keep your explanation short”, we confuse the two stages of learning. What works for the expert isn’t enough for the novice.
Finally, providing the construction details to homebuyers does not necessarily mean being long winded. Completeness and brevity can go together. But if a construction professional is going to make a mistake, they should err on the side of completeness. You as the homebuyer deserve this.
For more information about getting all of the details from your modular dealer and general contractor, see Selecting a Modular Home Dealer, Modular Home Specifications and Features, Selecting a General Contractor, and see The General Contractor’s Responsibilities for Building a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.