Ten Things You Don’t Know About Your Texas Homebuilder

Aug 2, 13 • Texas Home Builders

1. Your builder is unlicensed. Homebuilding is an unregulated industry in Texas, and always has been. Considering how complex the homebuilding process is, how serious the consequences are if it is done incorrectly, and how much of the consumers’ money is at stake, you might expect Texas homebuilders to have to answer to scrupulous regulatory authority. But, Texas homebuilders are not regulated by the state.

2. In order for your Texas homebuilder to build the large houses with all the amenities the home buying public is demanding, corners must not only be cut, but mangled. Low-quality and substandard construction techniques have always plagued the production Texas homebuilding industry, but the recent collapse of the homebuilding market, combined with the ever-increasing costs associated with construction have greatly exacerbated the problem. Now that the Texas real estate market has begun to rebound, labor and material shortages are even further decreasing the quality of new homes.

3. Your Texas builder will build your house on land that is, in the words of the United States Geological Survey, “not suitable for urban development”. The burgeoning North Texas population and consequent urban sprawl means that all of the best land for building houses has already been taken. The highly expansive nature of the North Central Texas soils makes them useful for some agricultural applications and practically useless for the building of homes.

4. The municipal Texas inspectors will not protect you from your builder’s substandard work. City inspectors in Texas are tasked with enforcing the minimal building codes adopted by their cities. They are basically tax collectors in disguise, collecting their permit fees while performing often less than thorough inspections. Your Texas builder often dictates what the municipal building inspection department enforces. Through political pressure on high the builders and developers mold the enforcement of the adopted building codes to suit their bottom line. The result is what is referred to as selective code enforcement. This is where the building official arbitrarily decides which portions of the adopted building code to enforce and which portions to let the builders slide on.

5. Your new Texas home third-party warranty (that’s right, your builder farms these warranties out to others) is not worth the paper it is written on. Texas builders really hard-sell their 10-year warranties, as if they have considerable value. Read the fine print. Did you know that your structural warranty will only actually cover anything if the distress causes the house to become uninhabitable? One of the most popular warranty companies lists over 70 exclusions.

6. Your Texas builder is not selling you a custom home (99% of the time). True custom homes are designed by architects and constructed on property already owned by the person having the home built. All the rest are off-the-shelf production houses that bear little, if any resemblance to their custom cousins.

7. Your Texas builder’s “Builder of the Year” award is a farce. There are too many organizations to count that award these bogus titles. Most are either Texas builder organizations or subsidiary companies formed just for the purpose of distributing phony awards to their members. Much like the “(Your City) Magazine” top-10 lists, the awards are voted on by the members who paid to advertise in that issue.

8. Your Texas builder does not hire skilled craftsmen to build your new home. Most construction crews working for production builders are hired on a low-bidder basis. Many are crews headed by one quasi-knowledgeable tradesman and populated by laborers picked daily from the local taqueria parking lot or labor pool gathering place.

9. Your Texas builder does not know the building code. Along with all of the other negative aspects of being unregulated, your builder is not required to be certified in the adopted building codes. He relies upon his unskilled subcontractors to know how to perform the work at hand.

10. Your Texas builder will often attempt to convince a buyer that his own independent third-party inspector will be inspecting your new house in an attempt to prevent you from hiring your own Texas inspector. Say what? How independent can the builder’s inspector be if the builder is paying him?

Books About Houses

Aug 1, 13 • Books to Read

The following is a list of books that may interest you: 

Bad Move – Linwood Barclay (Read this first if you ever had the urge to do away with your less-than-talented Texas builder . . .)

Walden – Henry David Thoreau

At Home – Bill Bryson

A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder– Michael Pollan

Poetics of Space – Gaston Bachelard 

Experiencing Architecture – Steen Eiler Rasmussen

The Ten Books on Architecture – Vitruvius Polli

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction – Christopher Alexander

The Timeless Way of Building – Christopher Alexander

The Production of Houses – Christopher Alexander

Home: A Short History of an Idea – Witold Rybczynski

House As a Mirror of Self: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home – Clare Cooper Marcus

House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live – Winifred Gallagher

Tiny Houses – Lester Walker

A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf

Books by Christopher Alexander

Home: American Writers Remember Rooms of their Own, Sharon and Steve Fiffer

Thoughts of Home: Reflections on Families, Houses, and Homelands, Elaine Greene 

The Experience of Place: A New Way of Looking At and Dealing with Our Radically Changing Cities and Countryside, Tony Hiss

A Place Called Home: Twenty Writing Women Remember, Mickey Pearlman

Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values, Yi-Fu Tuan

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine Benyus

Vaastu: The Indian Art of Placement, Rohit Arya

Vastu Living: Creating a Home for the Soul, Kathleen Cox

An Introduction to Vaastu Shastra, P.N. Ramachandra

The Vaastu Workbook, Talavane Krishna, M.D.

The Practical Encyclopedia of Feng Shui, Gill Hale

Feng Shui Made Easy: Designing Your Life with the Ancient Art of Placement, William Spear 

Feng Shui: Step by Step, T. Raphael Simons 

Feng Shui: Arranging Your Home to Change Your Life, Kirsten M. Lagatree 

Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, Karen Kingtson

Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter, Howard Mansfield

Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild, Lyanda Lynn Haupt

The Forgotten Room, Lincoln Child

House, Tracy Kidder