Home Warranties for Your New Home

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In Washington state there is no law that creates a home warranty.  Many people mistakenly think there is.  This legislative year that ended in Olympia included debates and attempts to create a law that would have placed many new legal liabilities on home builders, including the ability for lawyers to get rich by suing builders for up to 10 years after the home was completed if the homeowner did not “reasonably enjoy” the home.  Fortunately, the legislation failed to pass.

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Lest you think that this writer is against home warranties, and lest you think this writer is not in favor of holding builders accountable for fraud and misrepresentations, let me be abundantly clear.  I am most certainly in favor of consumers getting what they were promised and what they paid for.  I dislike misrepresentations and cheap sales tactics that suck innocent people into a contract that ends up being a nightmare.

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The point is not to let the politicians come up with answers, because their answers are  not going to prevent con men from doing their thing, but more than that, the new laws can actually create a whole new set of negative consequences and problems for good builders and good customers.

What is the answer to holding builders accountable?

The first answer for all consumers, whether you are having a new custom home built from the ground up or hiring a contractor to put a new deck on the back of your home, is to do your due diligence by filtering through those contractors who are good and those who are . . . shall we say, not so good.

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That alone would put most of the dishonest companies and the less-than-professional folks out of business.  If you are seriously considering having a custom home built in Sequim or Port Angeles, why guess?  Why shoot in the dark and pick one out of the Yellow Pages?  Picking a home builder should not be like picking the short stick out of the hat.  Why hire one because he looks good and smells good?  “Gee, he seemed like such a nice guy,” is the comment I heard many times as a real estate lawyer during the litigation process.

As a practical matter, most every builder offers a one year warranty in the contract.  Here’s something I’ve been saying to clients for years, “A contract is only as good as the man who signs it.”  In other words, a written contract with all the relevant clauses is important, but the key to getting your home built right and on time is to hire a great home builder.

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Great builders who are honest and build quality homes, don’t take short cuts to increase profits, and don’t misrepresent the true costs in the beginning to get you to sign a binding contract.  They don’t need legislation to hold builders accountable to you.  You need to find out who they are, and avoid the ones who are not of the highest caliber.

I should point out that buyers can purchase a home warranty from a third-party vendor, which is really an insurance policy against defects in the construction of the home.  This usually is a one-time fee paid at closing, and the policy has a time limit as well as numerous weasel clauses.  Rather than rely on remedies for defective construction, why not just hire a builder with integrity who makes sure your home is built correctly?

If you can’t find your perfect home in the existing inventory of homes for sale, perhaps its time to have your own design built rather than live in someone else’s dream.  If you do decide to build, may I suggest you put serious time and effort in your search to select the best home builder for you?

[All photos courtesy of Rick Anderson of Anderson Homes, LLC, builder in Clallam County since 1981.]

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