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Breaking up with your Builder

By Scott Hobbs

How to lessen the legal and financial consequences when your builder’s got to go.

It’s depressingly clear: You cannot let your current builder finish your dream home. Maybe he’s way behind schedule, or he’s doing poor work, or you suspect he’s dishonest, or he’s impossible to deal with. In any event, he’s got to go.


But sending him on his way is bound to trigger a contentious lawsuit, huge expenditures, and costly delays. Here are a few ways to prevent (or, if you’ve gone to contract, at least minimize) the wrong builder’s impact on your pocketbook and well-being.

A project by Hobbs, Incorporated - A result of a good client-builder relationship.

Naturally, pre-contract, you’ll check the builder’s references. But don’t ask for a list of references; ask for a list of all his projects for the past two years. That may flush out a client whose negative experience with your builder must be weighed. Pay as much attention to what the client glides over as to what he stresses. If you hear, “Things were more expensive and took longer than the builder estimated, but he was really nice and delivered a great house,” follow up with questions that clarify the extent of those delays and cost overruns. Checking in with local tradespeople (plumbers, electricians, workers at the local lumberyard) may also yield useful information.

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