Constructing or remodeling a home is a complex, expensive endeavor. Ideally, everything goes as planned, and when the dust clears, the homeowner can settle in and enjoy the new home — and never think about the building process again.
But what happens when, nine months after the owner moves in, the floor develops a crack, the dishwasher begins to leak or the shower water won’t run hot? Or when these things happen three years later? It’s time to refer to an all-important piece of the contract: the warranty.
What Is a Warranty?
The purpose of a warranty is to protect both the homeowner and the builder — homeowners from shoddy work with no recourse; builders from being liable for projects for the rest of their lives.
A warranty may be included in a contract, or it may not be since it’s not required. There is no standard length of time for one. Rather, a warranty is a negotiable portion of the overall agreement (contract) between a homeowner and a contractor.
The laws that relate to warranties are somewhat vague and vary by state, so the advantage of having one as part of the contract is that everything can be clearly spelled out. However, by agreeing to a particular warranty without understanding its finer points, owners may inadvertently limit the protections they would have otherwise had under the law.
“A warranty describes the problems and remedies for which the builder will be responsible after completion of the project, as well as the duration of the warranty and the mechanism for addressing disputes,” says David Jaffe, vice president of legal advocacy at the National Association of Home Builders.
At least in the ideal case.
The Law Governing Warranties
Before homeowners agree to a particular warranty as part of their contract, it’s important to understand what protections they already have under the law. In the U.S., we have a legal concept of an implied warranty — which is a warranty that does not have to be spelled out in the contract but is simply understood to exist thanks to the law. There are two important implied warranties when it comes to home construction.
The first is the implied warranty of good workmanship, which is the reasonable expectation that a home will be built in a workmanlike manner. The second is the implied warranty of habitability, which is the reasonable expectation that the home will be safe to inhabit.
The implied warranties, however, have limits in the form of statutes of limitation and statutes of repose, which essentially are time clocks that determine for how long a homeowner may sue a contractor.
Statutes of limitation in each state dictate how long an owner can invoke various types of legal claims — for example, a breach of contract claim.
Statutes of repose apply specifically to construction projects and set the time for which builders and designers are liable for their product. These also vary by state. In California, the statute of repose is four years for most defects, but 10 years for latent defects (those that aren’t observable right away, such as a faulty foundation). In Georgia, the statute of repose is eight years for all claims related to the design or construction of the building.
Finally, most states also have a right to repair law, which means that before homeowners can sue a contractor, they need to notify the contractor of the problem and give him or her a chance to come to see it and repair it.
To find out what the laws are in your state, simply do an online search for “statute of repose” and “right to repair” in your state.
The One-Year Warranty
The key thing to understand about warranties is that many builders offer their own warranty in lieu of the implied warranty. Additionally, many contracts specify that homeowners are giving up their rights to the implied warranty by agreeing to the builder’s express warranty. Also, builders will “often try to shorten statutes of limitation and statutes of repose. Some states allow you to do that. Others don’t,” says Anthony Lehman, an Atlanta attorney who advises homeowners.
Though there is no industry-wide standard, many residential contractors have adopted a one-year warranty for their contracts. The practice likely trickled down from commercial construction, where a callback warranty is typical. A callback warranty means that within one year, a building owner has the right to call back the contractor and expect him or her to repair work, Lehman says.
The downside for homeowners who agree to a one-year warranty is that they likely trade away their right to the implied warranty, and they may also agree to limit the time they have to discover a defect and sue. Obviously, this is a plus for builders because it limits their risk.
But there is no real reason a homeowner has to accept a one-year warranty simply because that’s the builder’s first offer. “It’s a negotiated point, and people can negotiate warranties that are broader — and they often do,” says Robert C. Procter, outside general counsel for the Wisconsin Builders Association. “If you don’t ask for more, you won’t get more.”
Pros and Cons of a Builder’s Warranty
Though a one-year warranty may seem like a poor deal for a homeowner, a contract with details spelled out does provide an upside: some degree of clarity in the process. Ideally, a warranty includes not only the time period that the warranty covers, but also the standards by which various materials will be evaluated, and the steps to follow when a problem arises.
In a minority of states, the legislature has codified what a warranty is and how long it lasts for a variety of materials, Jaffe says. They are California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. If you live in one of these states, you can refer to the state-set standards.
If you do not, one option is to refer to the NAHB’s publication Residential Construction Performance Guidelines. “It’s broken down by categories within the home: foundations, exterior, interior, roofing, plumbing,” Jaffe says. “If there’s an issue that comes up, you look in this publication, and it tells you what the observation is — what’s the problem.” The guide then spells out what the corrective measure — if any — should be.
If you decide to use this guide as the standards by which problems will be judged, be sure you read it first and are comfortable with its terms. Sometimes having the terms spelled out is simpler than relying on the implied warranty because the implied warranty is so vague.
“The implied warranty doesn’t have a fixed time; it’s a reasonable period of time,” says Jaffe, of the NAHB. “If you’re a homeowner, and you call your builder up in year five and say, ‘There’s a crack here, and I think you should come out and fix it because it’s a defect,’ well, at that point, it may or may not be related to something that the builder did or didn’t do. Is it a defect? Who is going to make that determination? What is the fix? Who is responsible for it?”
Relying on the implied warranty means that these sorts of questions would need to be resolved in court if the parties aren’t willing to, or can’t, come to an agreement on their own. Open for debate is whether an item is a warranty item, and for how long it’s covered. Having these issues determined in court can be an expensive, time-consuming headache for everyone involved.
Still, some attorneys say owners might be better off with the implied warranty than giving up their rights for a limited one provided by the builder. “You build a house, and you expect it to be there for a long time. The buildings in Europe have been there a long time. The pyramids have been there a long time. The question is how long is it reasonable for you to expect it to last,” says Susan Linden McGreevy, an attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, who specializes in commercial real estate work. “If it has to get before a jury, the contractor has lost already. What I mean is, the jury will always find in favor of a homeowner — unless they’re a real flake.”
Going Beyond Warranties
Despite all this talk of legalities, there is an important caveat: Many good builders will continue to be helpful even after their express warranty has passed. Anne Higuera, co-owner of Ventana Construction in Seattle, provides a one-year warranty to her clients. Nonetheless, Ventana has made repairs and fixes even years after the one-year warranty expired. Higuera says the company does so because the builders want good relationships with their customers, and because they feel as though it’s the right thing to do. “Warranty issues come up very rarely if you do things well in the first place,” Higuera says. “Just finding a contractor who does the right thing on the front end helps you avoid issues with warranty.”
More Ways to Protect Yourself
So what should homeowners do if a builder is offering only a one-year warranty? One option is to negotiate for a longer period of time. “You might want to say, ‘I’ll take a one-year warranty for everything except latent defects,’” McGreevey says. (Reminder: Those are the kind that take a long time to discover, such as foundation problems.)
Another option owners have is to ask builders about insurance products. Many builders offer products with an extended warranty — as long as 10 years — that is backed by insurance companies. These are typically paid for by the builder, with the cost passed on to the homeowner.
Third, homeowners would be wise to consult an attorney to make sure that they’re not giving up rights unknowingly. Given that owners are spending thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction, paying for five to 10 hours of an attorney’s time (at $300 per hour, $1,500 to $3,000) to ensure that the contract is sound is probably a good investment. “Would you buy a car for $50,000 and not read any of the financing information?” says Lehman, the Atlanta attorney. “And then people do that for a home construction project.”
Finally, the most important thing is for both contractors and owners to screen each other carefully. “Ninety-eight percent of the homeowner-builder relationships, when there’s a disagreement, most parties reach a reasonable conclusion, even if they’re not 100 percent happy,” says Procter, the Wisconsin attorney. “The contracts matter more when someone is not being reasonable.”
Source: Windermere Blog, Kenady Swan, 3-20-19
There are a number of things that can trigger the decision to remodel or move to a new home. Perhaps you have outgrown your current space, you might be tired of struggling with ancient plumbing or wiring systems, or maybe your home just feels out of date. The question is: Should you stay or should you go? Choosing whether to remodel or move involves looking at a number of factors. Here are some things to consider when making your decision.
Five reasons to move:
1. Your current location just isn’t working.
Unruly neighbors, a miserable commute, or a less-than-desirable school district—these are factors you cannot change. If your current location is detracting from your overall quality of life, it’s time to consider moving. If you’re just ready for a change, that’s a good reason, too. Some people are simply tired of their old homes and want to move on.
2. Your home is already one of the nicest in the neighborhood.
Regardless of the improvements you might make, location largely limits the amount of money you can get for your home when you sell. A general rule of thumb for remodeling is to make sure that you don’t over-improve your home for the neighborhood. If your property is already the most valuable house on the block, additional upgrades usually won’t pay off in return on investment at selling time.
3. There is a good chance you will move soon anyway.
If your likelihood of moving in the next two years is high, remodeling probably isn’t your best choice. There’s no reason to go through the hassle and expense of remodeling and not be able to enjoy it. It may be better to move now to get the house you want.
4. You need to make too many improvements to meet your needs.
This is particularly an issue with growing families. What was cozy for a young couple may be totally inadequate when you add small children. Increasing the space to make your home workable may cost more than moving to another house. In addition, lot size, building codes, and neighborhood covenants may restrict what you can do. Once you’ve outlined the remodeling upgrades that you’d like, a real estate agent can help you determine what kind of home you could buy for the same investment.
5. You don’t like remodeling.
Remodeling is disruptive. It may be the inconvenience of loosing the use of a bathroom for a week, or it can mean moving out altogether for a couple of months. Remodeling also requires making a lot of decisions. You have to be able to visualize new walls and floor plans, decide how large you want windows to be, and where to situate doors. Then there is choosing from hundreds of flooring, countertop, and fixture options. Some people love this. If you’re not one of them, it is probably easier to buy a house that has the features you want already in place.
Five reasons to remodel:
1. You love your neighborhood.
You can walk to the park, you have lots of close friends nearby, and the guy at the espresso stand knows you by name. There are features of a neighborhood, whether it’s tree-lined streets or annual community celebrations, that you just can’t re-create somewhere else. If you love where you live, that’s a good reason to stay.
2. You like your current home’s floor plan.
The general layout of your home either works for you or it doesn’t. If you enjoy the configuration and overall feeling of your current home, there’s a good chance it can be turned into a dream home. The combination of special features you really value, such as morning sun or a special view, may be hard to replicate in a new home.
3. You’ve got a great yard.
Yards in older neighborhoods often have features you cannot find in newer developments, including large lots, mature trees, and established landscaping. Even if you find a new home with a large lot, it takes considerable time and expense to create a fully landscaped yard.
4. You can get exactly the home you want.
Remodeling allows you to create a home tailored exactly to your lifestyle. You have control over the look and feel of everything, from the color of the walls to the finish on the cabinets. Consider also that most people who buy a new home spend up to 30 percent of the value of their new house fixing it up the way they want.
5. It may make better financial sense.
In some cases, remodeling might be cheaper than selling. A contractor can give you an estimate of what it would cost to make the improvements you’re considering. A real estate agent can give you prices of comparable homes with those same features. But remember that while remodeling projects add to the value of your home, most don’t fully recover their costs when you sell.
Remodel or move checklist:
Here are some questions to ask when deciding whether to move or remodel.
1. How much money can you afford to spend?
2. How long do you plan to live in your current home?
3. How do you feel about your current location?
4. Do you like the general floor plan of your current house?
5. Will the remodeling you’re considering offer a good return on investment?
6. Can you get more house for the money in another location that you like?
7. Are you willing to live in your house during a remodeling project?
8. If not, do you have the resources to live elsewhere while you’re remodeling?
Source: Windermere Blog, Kenady Swan
Giving back has always been a big part of who we are at Windermere. In the early days of our company, it was pretty simple; we would see a need and help any way we could. But as we grew, we realized we could accomplish much more if we had a common purpose. That’s how the Windermere Foundation was born.
A big idea
We started with an idea that would give every Windermere agent the ability to make a difference. Housing is our business, so helping homeless families seemed like a natural fit. We later expanded that to include low-income families, with an emphasis on helping children.
Every time a home is sold
For the past 30 years, a portion of every Windermere agent’s commission has been donated to the Windermere Foundation. Having 100% participation gives us a common purpose and sends a powerful message about our commitment to the community.
Who we help
Last year alone we provided funding to more than 500 organizations throughout the Western U.S. Homeless shelters, food banks, schools, hospitals, community centers, parks; the list goes on. The main thing that they all have in common is a deep devotion to helping our neighbors in need.
How we help
Our agents have proven time and time again how committed they are to making their communities a better place to live. Their generosity funds backpacks full of food so school kids don’t go hungry on the weekends. They help keep families in their homes by covering housing costs. And their donations make sure the homeless are getting their most basic needs met, and the dignity that goes with it.
If at any point during the past 30 years you’ve bought or sold a home using a Windermere agent, you are a part of the Windermere Foundation too, and you’ve helped make a positive difference in your community. And for that, we thank you on behalf of everyone at Windermere.
If you would like to learn more about the Windermere Foundation, please visit windermerefoundation.com.
When I was growing up, my family must have moved a dozen times. After the first few moves, we had it down to a science: timed out, scheduled, down to the last box. Despite our best efforts, plans would change, move-out and move-in days would shift, and the experience would stress the entire family out. Despite the stress, we always managed to settle in our new home and sell our old one before the start of school.
With a lot of planning and scheduling, you can minimize the stress of selling your house and moving. Here are some tips:
Know when you want to be moved out and into your new home and have a backup plan in case it falls through. Before you sell your home, familiarize yourself with local and state laws about selling a home so you’re not caught by surprise if you forget something important.
Lists and schedules are going to be your new best friend through the process. Have a timetable for when you want to sell your house when you have appraisers, realtors, movers, etc. over. Also, keep one for when your things need to be packed and when you need to be moved into the new place. I suggest keeping it on an Excel sheet so you can easily update it as the timeline changes (and it will – stuff happens).
First time selling a house? Check out some great resources on what you need to know. US News has excellent, step-by-step guides on what you need to know to sell. Appraisers and realtors can also be good resources, and since you’ll be working with them through the process, be sure to ask them questions or have them point you to resources.
Have your house appraised before you sell so you know your budget for your new home. This will help you look for an affordable home that meets your family’s needs. It will also help you maximize the amount you can receive for your old home. You can also learn useful information from an appraisal, such as which repairs need to be made, if any.
Does your house need repairs before you move? If so, figure out whether you’ll be covering them, or whether your buyers will (this will be a part of price negotiations, so factor it in with your home budget). Will you need to make repairs in your new house, or will that be covered? Either way, make sure you know which repairs need to be made – and either be upfront with buyers about them or make them before you sell.
Prepare to Move
If you’re moving to a new town or a new state, you need to prepare more than just a new home. Research doctors and dentists, places to eat, and what to do for fun. If you have school-aged children, look at the local school district or private school options – not only to learn how to enroll your kids, but also to get a feel for the school culture, see what extracurricular activities your kids can do, what standards/learning methods your kids’ new school will implement, etc.
Think: how soon are you moving, what will you need to use before you move, what can get boxed and what needs to stay out? The sooner you’re moving out, the sooner you need to pack, but if you have time, just take a day per weekend to organize a room, pack what you want to take and arrange to donate what you want to get rid of.
Moves are a great time to purge old, unwanted and unused stuff from your home. Sometimes, it’s necessary if you’re moving into a smaller space. Either way, as you pack each room, think about whether you use what you’re packing to take with you. If you do, pack it to go. If not, put it in a separate box to go to your local donations place. You can also call some organizations to have your unwanted things picked up, no hassle.
If You Have Kids
Moving with kids can be extra stressful. Be sure to include them in the process. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach younger children about moving and prepare them for the changes it brings. Older children can help out with responsibilities, like packing their room or researching their new town.
Your New Place
Moving into a new place takes some planning as well. Once you’ve bought your new home or condo, design at least a basic outline for where your stuff will be set up. Make necessary repairs and decorate (painting, for example) before you unpack. Ideally, you should have some time to do these things before, but if you don’t, don’t be in a hurry to unpack everything – it can be a hassle to paint if you have all your furniture and bookshelves up!
Staying In Touch and Making New Friends
Finally, moving can mean good-byes with family and/or friends. Social media is a great way to keep in touch with people after you’ve moved, but distance can still weaken these old relationships. Make some time to call or message your old friends to keep in touch. Pair that work with a concerted effort to meet new people. See what hobbies or groups are in your new area and start there. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it can make your new house a home and make your new town a community you can enjoy.
Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. Patrick is currently a writer for Mountain Springs Recovery as well as on his own blog.
2018 concluded with another great year of fundraising and giving for the Windermere Foundation, thanks to the continued support of Windermere franchise owners, agents, staff, and the community. Nearly $2.5 million was raised in 2018, bringing our grand total to over $38 million raised since the Foundation’s inception in 1989! During the past year, nearly $1.9 million was donated to non-profit organizations throughout the Western U.S. that provide much-needed services to low-income and homeless families. In 2018, the Windermere Foundation fulfilled 689 grant requests and served 507 non-profit organizations.
A portion of the money raised every year is due in part to our agents who each make a donation to the Windermere Foundation from every commission they earn. Additional donations from Windermere agents, the community, and fundraisers made up 68% of the money collected in 2018. Each Windermere office has their own Foundation funds, which enable them to support local non-profits in their communities.
One organization that received Windermere Foundation donations from several Windermere Real Estate offices in the Seattle area is Treehouse. Treehouse’s mission is to give foster kids a childhood and a future. Their goal that they have set to achieve by 2022, is to see youth in foster care graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers across Washington State. And to provide them with support and a plan to launch successfully into adulthood. Donations from the Windermere Foundation have helped Treehouse clients like Ashley, get the support she needed to turn her life around.
“I didn’t have a childhood that all kids should have–like making friends my age or playing sports. I changed the path that I was on because I wanted to give people a reason to believe in me. You have to want to change and speak your truth, but you can’t do it without people believing in you. You can get through the darkest situations, you just gotta look for a little crack of light. Treehouse is that crack of light for me,” ~Ashley
2018 also marked the third year of our #tacklehomelessness campaign with the Seattle Seahawks, in which Windermere committed to donating $100 for every Seahawks home game defensive tackle to YouthCare, a non-profit organization that provides critical services to homeless youth. While the Seahawks didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs, they did help us raise $31,900. When added to previous seasons, the total donation for the past three years is $98,700! We are grateful for the opportunity to provide additional support to homeless youth thanks to the Seahawks, YouthCare, and the #tacklehomelessnesscampaign.
Thanks to our agents, offices, and everyone who supports the Windermere Foundation, we have been able to make a difference in the lives of many families in our local communities over the past 30 years. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click the Donate button.
To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit http://www.windermere.com/foundation.