Warranty Work

            For a multi-unit, two or three-year production housing project the builder should consider budgeting a contingency dollar amount for the one-year warranty period between the builder and the homebuyers, for the converted sales models and the empty inventory units that are sold and occupied long past the completion of the construction.

            After two or three years, some subcontractors might be out of business and not available for customer service repairs.  Some repair items might be due to the wear and tear from the age of the units sitting empty which would not come under the subcontractor’s or manufacturer’s warranty.

            The issues of what is warrantied between the builder and the buyer of sales models, and the length of time the subcontractors are responsible for warranty repair work, needs to be addressed contractually for units that may be sold beyond the standard 12-month warranty period at the close of the construction, for example.   

Maintenance for the Sales Office

            Periodic maintenance, repairs, and repainting of the sales office should be included in the project budget.

            On one particular project, the sales office was a separate structure from the sales models assembled out of two double-wide trailers joined together in the middle, which resulted in a 40’-0” x 60’-0” office.

            The exterior doors and windows were wood sash with glass panels, and the woodwork was stained a dark mahogany color with a clear lacquer sealer.

            After a couple of years, the lacquer finish started to peel off, and the stain on the wood faded.  The carpeting showed signs of the constant wear and tear of homebuyer traffic.              Several other items needed fixing including the water leaking underneath thresholds when it rained, and doors binding against each other.

            The builder in terms of budgeting might look at a temporary sales office as a one-time expense for the initial construction, without considering the repairs and maintenance costs required to keep a sales office looking nice for several years.

            The painting or staining of exterior woodwork, the interior painting, the doorknobs, and the carpeting or other flooring might not last the two, three, or four years required to sell-out a large project.

Paint Touchup for the Non-Model Units

            I once worked as the jobsite superintendent on a 22-building, 282-unit condominium project, having a sales model building of 12 units, with 5 of the units being furnished and decorated sales models, and the remaining 7 units being empty inventory units.

            The 7 non-model units could not be occupied until the end of the project, when the entire sales models and sales office complex was converted into regular production units for sale.

            The point here is to point out that the builder needs to budget for the amount of work that is required to bring the non-models, which may have sat empty for a few years while the project was in construction, up to the level of the quality that is standard for the other new units.    

            On this particular project, the 7 non-models sat empty for three years.  The enamel paint on the interior doors and jambs turned yellow in many of the rooms, and the exterior doorknob hardware became badly corroded.  The builder had not anticipated the expense of having to repaint large portions of the interiors of all of the 7 non-model units, along with many other minor repairs.

            Each project is different.  A 250-unit housing tract with 5 sales models will fence off the 5 models and complete the production units for occupancy. 

            A 100-unit, three-story condominium building that is one long connected structure with an open courtyard, for example, will have a sales office and sales models on the first floor, while the rest of the units in the complex will be occupied as they are sold.

            At the completion of these projects no empty non-model units need repair at the time of the conversion of the sales models.

            A 12-unit condominium building, for example, containing 5 furnished and decorated sales models and 7 empty non-models, cannot sell and occupy the 7 non-model units because of the conditions surrounding the sales models complex, including trap fencing, sales models signs, and landscaping potted plants in the streets as barriers to control automobile traffic.

            The sales models complex for this type of project is thus different from the sales models for other projects in terms of how to handle the empty non-model units.

Timers for Lighting for the Sales Models

            The builder should consider the use of clock timers for the sales models lighting during the construction.

            The electric bill for leaving the lights on continuously in four or five models can become expensive, but it is too much work having the sales staff going through the models turning the lights on at the start of the day, and turning them off at the close of each day.

            If the sales office opens at 10:00 AM every day, and closes at 6:00 PM, the timer could be set to turn on the electricity to the models at 9:00 AM, and off at 8:00 PM. 

            Any alarm system would need to be on a separate system (such as connected to the electrical meter ahead of the clock timer) so it could run 24 hours per day.

Sales Models Hours & Exterior Lighting

            When the sales office is separate from the sales models, and the sales office hours extend past darkness, the homebuilder should consider exterior lighting leading from the sales office to the models.

            In one particular case, the sales office stayed open until 6 PM.  With daylight savings in October, darkness began at 5 PM. 

            Enough exterior lighting had not been provided for homebuyers to walk safely from the office to the models.  A few lights were finally added between the sales office and the sales models, using extension cords.

Reverse the Locks on the Garage Man-Doors

            For sales models, the doorknob hardware on the fire-door that separates the interior of the garage from the interior of the house (the man-door), should be installed in reverse.

            Prospective homebuyers walking through the models cannot then accidently close a locked door behind themselves while entering into a garage, that also has its garage door padlocked on the exterior (not uncommon for sales models).

            On one particular project, a husband and wife locked themselves inside the garage of one of the sales models when sales traffic was light.  After unsuccessfully yelling for help for about 30 minutes, the husband then put his shoulder to the locked garage man-door and busted his way out, knocking the door through the door jamb.

            If the hardware for this door is reversed with the finger-turned latch on the garage side of the door, and the keyed half of the doorknob on the house interior side, people are then prevented from entering the garage from the house and accidently locking themselves inside the garage.  

Keys for the Sales Office & Models

            As the sales models grand opening day approaches, the builder should determine how many sets of keys are needed for access to the sales model complex.

            People needing keys include the sales staff, main office management, field construction staff, interior plants maintenance, and the cleaning crew.

            The keys to the sales complex should be different from the master key to the empty inventory units and the units under construction. 

            Plan-ahead this activity of providing keys for those people who will need continuing access to the sales office and the sales models.  This then does not become a crisis along with other last-minute issues. 

Don’t Plug-in Appliances in the Sales Models

            There is something inviting about the digital clock numbers lit-up on the kitchen range, and people are tempted as they walk through the sales models to push buttons and “kick the tires.” 

            The same thing occurs with the microwave oven and the dishwasher, for example.  If people push a button and hear a beep, or turn a knob an get the water to run…their interest is aroused and they may continue to play with the appliance. 

            If the sales models for a large project get several thousand visitors over the span of a year or more, a lot of people are touching and experimenting with the kitchen appliances. 

            If people push a button or turn a knob on one of the appliances and nothing happens, however, they leave the appliance alone and move on to something else.

            One problem to avoid here is the builder needing the appliance technician to replace electrical circuitry inside the sales model appliances that has become worn-out, after the builder has converted the sales models into occupied units and the new homebuyer discovers that their appliances do not work.

            The builder can avoid this problem by simply not plugging in the appliances in the sales models. 

            Appliances are there for everyone to see, but offer no response when people push the buttons.

Bath Fans in the Sales Models

            Bath ceiling fans in the sales models should not be hooked-up to the bathroom light switches, while the units are sales models.

            The builder does not want the bathroom fan motors running all day and night simply because people turned the switch on while walking through the sales models.

            By having the switch to the bath fans dead, but the electrical wiring hot, the builder exclusively controls the interior lighting and fans, not prospective homebuyers.

            When the sales models are converted to livable units, the builder can plug the bathroom ceiling fans back in when the electrical wiring is changed over into normal wiring.

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