Or buy my own lights/appliances/toilets… you name it! We get these questions a lot. Here’s why a “Yes” answer is seldom in the homeowner’s best interest.
For a good majority of people that we build homes for, this is not their first home. That likely means that they have done improvements or repairs on a previous home that they lived in. That also likely means they have built working relationships with their own preferred contractors – be it plumbers, electricians, or carpet installers. While it is great that the homeowners have had good luck in the past, most builders won’t agree to use a homeowner’s preferred contractor over one that has a proven relationship with the builder. Sterling is no different. Sticking to subcontractors that we are familiar with is a policy that’s in the best interest of both the builder and the homeowner. While the plumber that you’ve known since childhood gives you a great price and came over that one time that the toilet leaked on a Sunday is great – the reason that we have this policy, and many other builders do too, has to do with the business relationship between builders, suppliers, and subcontractors, as well as our ability to coordinate your project and deliver it to you by the agreed upon closing date.
Purchases from approved Suppliers
When working with Sterling, we have a Sterling representative go with you to pick out many of the parts and pieces in your home. We do this so we know what you’re interested in, but also so that we can keep track of the big picture of what is going into your home. We have had plenty of people as us to buy a mirror from some online resource, a faucet from some online warehouse, and a kitchen countertop from their friend that works at this place that can get granite for cheap. We have learned over time that the builder that agrees to use unfamiliar suppliers or owner-sourced products in critical applications most often will pay in some way or another. The reliability of these products, budget for these products, the schedule to have these products delivered, and the ability to warranty these products are all unknowns when dealing with unknown suppliers.
For example, imagine that the homeowners saw a carpet that they liked online, convince us that they “have to have it”, so we decide to go with it, after all, we want the homeowners to be happy, right? This is inevitably when we find out that the carpet needs to be shipped from somewhere in Asia, comes in widths of three meters (instead of a width of 12 feet which is what we had assumed when we ordered it), is a special order that will take an extra 8 weeks to deliver. The internet can be a great resource, but the “world-wide-web” feels a whole lot more world-wide when you are waiting for a carpet from China. At this point we will not have enough carpet once it eventually gets to the house and it probably won’t be in prior to closing. Also, as we purchased it from an outside source, our carpet supplier and installer won’t warranty the carpet. This beautiful carpet from Asia suddenly presents sizing, timing, and warranty issues.
Builder Selected Subcontractors
We have built a lot of houses, over three hundred. In that time we have built some very strong relationships with everyone from framers, painters, and tile installers, to cabinet suppliers, and roofers. Having built these strong relationships mean that we know how they work in the field, how long in advance we need to order things, and most importantly – that we can deliver a great product to our homeowners. When we look into that awesome plumber that you went to school with that came that Sunday that your toilet overflowed we end up having challenges far beyond what you might expect.
We depend on our subcontractors just like we depend on our full time employees. There are a lot of people involved in making sure that the construction of your home is a success, but the subcontractors are the ones that are actually building it. We want the guys that will work in the rain and the snow for us (and for you), and part of how we get people like that is by treating them fairly and building a relationship with them over time. These are people that have proven themselves, proven that they work efficiently, come in within budget, work well with the other subcontractors on site, and work well with our Construction Managers (looking at you Al, Chris, and Bill!)
If we are looking in trying out a new subcontractor, we will typically start them on a smaller job. For instance, we may have them add a porch or a deck on a house before we have them frame a whole house. We test them out and vet them, we put a lot of time effort and energy into making sure that we’ve got a crew that is going to deliver a great product that we will be able to stand behind and get you a quality home to live in for years to come. We evaluate them over time. It gives them an opportunity to show us that they stand by their work and do quality work that holds up over time. Developing those relationships take a long time to build up, but once you have it, it can create a better home and building process for you.
To put it another way – painting crew, for instance, that is doing just one job for us, may not be as conscientious as a painting crew that relies on us for the majority of their work. It also works that if we have a plumber that we rely on to do the majority of the work, and then we tell him we don’t need him for a job (because we’ve hired your friend from childhood), suddenly he goes to work for a different builder for four weeks, that job gets delayed, and now our whole schedule is thrown off for all the other homes. Keep in mind, you could be one of those other jobs that now doesn’t have a plumber, because by going with another subcontractor we lost some of the trust we had built with our go-to plumber. This is part of why even if you have worked with someone and loved that experience, it’s in the best interest of the builder and the homeowner to work with the subcontractor that knows our work, our expectations, and our procedures.
Many times we have had homeowners say “I don’t need you to warranty that though, I’ll take responsibility if anything goes wrong with x,y, or z.” While x, y, or z may not seem like a big thing, when it doesn’t live up to the homeowners expectations, that ends up diminishing the entire building process and the experience you have. The last thing that we want is for you to have a bad experience building a home with us.
In building a home, relationships are key. Our relationship with our clients and our ability to deliver a quality home for them is dependent in so many ways on the positive relationships that we’ve built with our subcontractors and suppliers. We do everything we can to make sure that the homeowners get the exact product that they want, and if we are saying “no” to something, it is because we are looking out for the end product – a home you will love!