United Built Homes — home building
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The above is an excerpt from the United Built Homes' website
I'm writing this letter to you to tell you of my experience with United Built Homes and the house they are building for me on my property in Etoile, TX. Everything contained in this review is to the best of my knowledge, with dates backed up by numerous emails between myself and the employees of the UBH Cleveland office - salesman Armando Delgado, sales manager Sean Tinney, superintendents Jakob Kruse and Thomas Evans, and regional director Brian Glass.
I began my search for a house in February of 2017. I settled on the UBH Aspen 50 model. I contacted the UBH Cleveland office where I was introduced to Armando Delgado. We spoke for a bit, I described my place and what I want to build. After a month or so of discussion, Armando made a visit to my property. We talked about floorplans, and asked me to take a ride with him down the street to visit another UBH built home. So far everything seemed fine, but I was still undecided and did not want to be rushed into anything. I put the project on hold for a few months.
On June 2nd of 2017, I received an email from Mr. Delgado with an offer for a $5000 metal roof credit if I closed on a house by December 31st. That was a good deal, and was a factor in my decision to move forward. I arranged a meeting with Mr. Delgado and his boss Sean Tinney. On August 4th, I met with Mr. Delgado and Mr. Tinney to finalize my plans. When I mentioned the $5000 metal roof credit, Mr. Tinney immediately pulled the offer from the table. He said it was an old promotion and no longer valid. I told him that I just received the offer a month earlier, but Mr. Delgado spoke up saying he made a mistake and was confused by the offer sheets. I insisted they honor it. All I could get from Mr. Tinney was a promise he would look into it. (A month later, as I spoke with the regional supervisor Brian Glass about this obvious bait-and-switch tactic, I discovered that Mr. Tinney never inquired to his boss about honoring this deal.)
This was a red flag, something I should have heeded. But I liked the floorplan and decided to move forward with closing. Mid-August of 2017, I met with superintendent Jakob Kruse and another UBH gentleman whom I only know as Doyle. We met at the property to review foundation plans. The site is on a slope and would need an engineered slab. Mr. Kruse mentioned at the time he had never installed an engineered slab, so Doyle was brought in to help. This was the only time I met Doyle, and as far as I know he never visited the jobsite again. Doyle took measurements and determined that the slab would need to be moved an additional 10 feet to the west and 5 feet north to accommodate the engineering requirements. This was fine with me.
We closed on the construction loan on September 15th. No promises were made on how long it would take to build the house, but many stories were told by Mr. Tinney about how fast they complete projects. 100 days construction time was mentioned several times. Only a few days after closing, a crew was on site to place form boards for the slab. Only the form boards were in the wrong place - they were placed at the original spot, not the new area pointed out by Doyle. I asked about this, and got no response from anyone. This will be the first example of an ongoing trend of no responses to my emails, texts, or calls from any UBH employee. I have several emails logging this lack of communication, but the trend continued.
By October 17, Mr. Kruse finally acknowledge the form boards were in the wrong location. Since he had to get the new location approved, this caused further delays in getting the slab poured. Concrete for the slab was poured on November 17th, a full 2 months since closing. These delays are significant because of the UBH in-house construction loan. They offer a 12 month construction loan, with no payments for the first 6 months. Again, while no promises were made, they indicated they offer the no payments for 6 months so the customer can get his house built and refinanced on a conventional loan without having to pay the much higher UBH interest rates. At this point I am 2 months into the contract, and the work was just beginning. And so were the excuses. Again I was getting no responses to emails or texts about the progress of the work. When I did get in touch with Mr. Kruse, all I got were stories of no contractors available in the area, contractors being sick, etc. It seems to me that UBH was just as disconnected with their contractors as they are with their customers.
On December 7th I sent another email, this time to Mr. Kruse, Mr. Tinney, and Mr. Glass about the lack of communication. We are almost 3 months into the contract, and all I have is a slab. Mr. Tinney called me and apologized, and promised me he would call me every week after the construction meeting to update me. As of this writing (April 11, 2018) I have yet to receive another phone call from Mr. Tinney. Mr. Glass called me on December 7th as well, also promising better communication from his people. This did not help either.
December 27th, the framing is complete but the roof is not. It is now 3.5 months since closing, and my house is still not dried in. The weather was predicted to be bad, with snow in the area. All week I was told the roofers were on the way, yet they never showed up. I called, I texted, yet all I got were assurances. I spoke with Mr. Glass on Saturday, telling him of the weather situation and wondering if there was anything that could be done. He managed to arrange roofers for a Sunday afternoon before the storm. In retrospect this was a bad decision on my part. The job was rushed, done poorly, and not completed. Water continued to get into the house around the chimney, and continues to get water in the house. On April 7th, 7 months into the contract, and nearing completion of the build, a rain storm came over and water showed up on the floor around the fireplace. I sent pictures to all four the gentleman mentioned, including Mr. Evans.
Thomas Evans was brought on board by UBH in January 2018 to help Mr. Kruse. The reports I got from Mr. Evans and from several contractors was that Mr. Kruse was in over his head. He had never worked as a UBH superintendent before and was overwhelmed by the amount of houses of which he was in charge. One contractor told me the story of how the previous UBH superintendent had walked off the job with no notice and left Mr. Kruse in a position he was not trained to do. Mr. Evans spoke of having to train Mr. Kruse in how to schedule a build. This was not surprising to me considering how many delays we have encountered. Mr. Evans brought many years of experience to the job, and promised a much more involved presence. He mentioned how he likes to visit all his projects every day, but since my property was so remote he could only make it 3 times a week. Today I am lucky if he shows up once a week, and that's only when I call him and ask him to come.
Today I am 7 months into this build, I have paid two months of a construction loan that is significantly higher than the conventional loan I will get once this house is built. I keep getting statements from Mr. Evans that finishing quickly will not be an issue, and yet we are still weeks away. The house still gets water in around the chimney, there are several small items to be cleaned up, painting needs to be finished, electrical trim outs to do, and general cleanup of the house. If these items drag on another couple weeks, I will have to pay a third higher interest payment.
This is the first house I have had built from the ground up, and the last house I will ever live in. This is my retirement home. I went into this with such excitement, and the whole experience has been ruined by the people employed by the United Built Homes office in Cleveland Tx. Overall, the house itself is ok. I expected better quality, but I guess you get what you pay for. However, all the issues with the house could have easily been overcome with a little effort and communication from UBH. I got neither. Instead, I got broken schedules, delays, and excuses. The lack of attention to detail in the building of this house has been enormous, and it has forced me to compromise my expectations of what I want this house to be, and instead just expect (hope) the house gets completed and doesn't leak water onto my floors. As of right now, this may be asking too much.
Update: The issue with water coming into my house around the fireplace has not been resolved. Mr. Kruse and Mr. Evans were given a directive from Mr. Glass on April 13th to resolve this issue asap. As of April 18, no word on what was done if anything. As far as completion of the house, I asked when the painters would be on site. Mr. Kruse had told me they would be here this week. Mr. Evans told me my house would be complete this week. He is pushing me to sign a "Substantial Completion Statement" that lists the final details, but no schedule to get them done. I am very leery of signing anything until the work is complete. I have spoken with two other UBH customers, and they gave very similar advice - "Don't sign anything until they are done. Once you sign, you will never see them again". One is a customer whose house was built in this area, the other a trusted friend and colleague whom I have known for 20 years. As I continued to push for a completion schedule, I was told the painter would be here Saturday pending any schedule conflicts. This is an obvious escape route in case they do not follow up on the statements of Mr. Kruse and Mr. Evans that the house would be finished this week. I vented my frustrations to Mr. Evans and Mr. Glass. Mr. Glass' response was to threaten me with walking off the job without completing it. ("If you continue to make threats, we will be done much sooner." - Mr. Glass in an email on April 17th). During a previous discussion regarding completion, he threatened to quit the job ("We will stop construction and let our attorneys handle ". - email on February 2nd). Now I'm stuck in a very uncomfortable position - I am being pressured to sign a document before the work is done, but if I don't sign, I am being threatened that the work will never get done.
The entire incident has made me very fearful. I am scared to sign a document that might end UBH's involvement in my house, and I am scared that my house will not hold up over the long term. Mr. Glass often speaks of the UBH 10-year warranty, but all my dealings with the UBH employees of the Cleveland office and Mr. Glass, coupling with the experiences of two other UBH customers leads me to believe that warranty will not protect me.
Update #2 - June 22 - Water continues to leak in around the fireplace. I informed Mr. Evans and Mr. Glass of this issue, and they said they would get a warranty claim on it. It's now August 1st, no one has contacted me about the claim, and water continues to leak in around the fireplace when it rains. As before I get no responses to any voicemails I leave.
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