Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Customer satisfaction, JD Power, & Pulte


Pulte makes a BIG DEAL about their JD Power’s awards for customer satisfaction. JD Power’s awards are based on surveys of homeowners taken the first few weeks or months that they’re in their new houses.

But, is “customer satisfaction” a good measure of judging the quality of a house? Is the typical homebuyer in a position to evaluate the quality of construction of a house’s structural, mechanical, and electrical systems? Within the first few weeks or months of occupying their new house?

It would be like judging the soundness of a country’s financial system based on a customer's satisfaction with a local bank within weeks of their opening a new account. The fact is that most homebuyers aren’t in a position to evaluate the quality of construction of the structural, mechanical, and electrical systems that make up a house.

Then there’s the fact that defects can take MONTHS and even YEARS to discover:
* roof trusses that are barely attached
* stucco that is defective
* a retaining wall collapses
* roofs leak
* tile floors crack
* wood floors turn black
* unsightly stormwater lagoons are discovered to be constructed FEET off in elevation
* etc.

A little research on the internet (google “Pulte shoddy”) and you’ll discover HUNDREDS of complaints and lawsuits for shoddy house construction.

So who’s right? The average customer who knows little or nothing about the structural, mechanical, and electrical systems that make up a house, or the construction experts, who tell us that:
* the roof trusses are barely attached
* the stucco wasn’t mixed or applied properly
* the lagoons weren’t built right
* the concrete wasn’t mixed right
* the soil under the foundation slab wasn’t compacted (and now the slab is settling differentially and cracking)
* etc.

Or do you simply believe your own eyes?
* The roof truss connections with one or no nails that miss their target or are driven into split wood
* The stucco that is cracked, with rusting corner bead exposed
* The musty, moldy smell coming from your walls
* The water coming from your ceiling
* The retaining wall that collapsed
* The plants growing and birds walking around in the middle of stormwater lagoons
* The dead and dying trees in wetlands
* Cracked tile floors
* Wood floors that have turned black
* Etc.

So, who do you believe? Pulte’s sales people? JD Powers? The internet? Construction experts? Or, your own lying eyes?



Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Soap opera"

A resident described goings on here as a “soap opera”. That’s a pretty fair description, except that what’s going on here is REAL. There are many subplots in this soap opera:

First, there is Pulte’s INCREDIBLE and WIDESPREAD shoddy construction (all well documented):
• Roof truss connections
• Stucco
• Lagoons
• Cracked and sinking foundations
• Leaking roofs
• Wood floors

Then there’s the INCREDIBLE ineptness of government in protecting its citizens against shoddy development
• Beaufort County Office of Building Code Enforcement
• Beaufort County Stormwater Management Branch
• Local, state, and federal government elected representatives who fail to fix government agencies that are charged with protecting citizens from shoddy construction

Then there’s the petty “enforcement” of CC&Rs here:
• Tasteful flowerpots
• Small American flag magnet on a garage door
• Tasteful holiday images displayed on the side of a house

There’s Pulte’s dishonesty, recklessness, and arrogance
• Pulte’s dishonest propaganda about roof truss connections, stucco, lagoons, cracked, leaking and sinking foundation slabs, wood floors, etc.
• Pulte’s strict control of information going to residents: self-serving articles in the community magazine Sunsations, TYSKs, lower mailboxes, community website, etc. There's NOTHING "fair and balanced" about Pulte propaganda that is distributed to residents through community channels here.
• Pulte’s failure to “make right” on shoddy roof truss connections, stucco, wood floors, etc.
• Pulte unilaterally changing CC&Rs without resident input
• “Coup-de-tat” (replacing an elected resident representative on the community association board of directors with a Pulte employee)
• The Pulte-controlled community association board of directors firing resident volunteer committee chairmen (after unilaterally changing the CC&Rs so that they could do so without violating existing CC&Rs)
• Pulte’s interference with residents’ incorporation initiative

Then there’s the INCREDIBLE apathy, gullibility, and denial of SCHH residents

A soap opera? Yeah, but it’s REAL.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

too much Power?

from :

Trendmaker's Tale of Woe

Many builders mutter in private, but few are willing to publicly accuse J.D. Power and Associates of manipulating customer satisfaction survey results. Trendmaker Homes President Will Holder comes pretty close.

The Houston subsidiary of public giant Weyerhaeuser Real Estate will close more than 700 homes this year, at an average price above $400,000. That should put it among the builders in J.D. Power's Houston market survey, but it's not there. Holder suspects the reason may be that he dropped his subscription to J.D. Power's consulting services several years after refusing to pay a hefty licensing fee to use the J.D. Power name to advertise Trendmaker's win in 2001.

"The year we tied for first, they wanted $70,000 to allow us to advertise it," he says now. "We didn't see that much value in it.

"We subscribed to their services the first year they came to Houston," Holder says, "for $30,000. We thought we'd get a different perspective from a survey of all buyers in the market, not just our own. After seeing their presentations a couple of years, I began to suspect they could use their weighting of questions to manipulate the winner."

Holder says he finally dropped J.D. Power because he believes the survey is not important to buyers: "They don't get much press anymore. Realtors put more stock in their personal experience with builders than in what J.D. Power says. They don't ask us about it."

He admits to being scared of J.D. Power. "There's pressure to subscribe," he says. "It never felt very good. When we decided not to pay them anymore, I was scared."


Monday, September 14, 2009

Pulte playbook

From the Pulte playbook:

1. When serious problems occur with Pulte houses (they do regularly): DENY, DENY, DENY.

2. Tell the homeowner:
"The roof trusses are OK", even though they're barely attached.
Tell them: "The wood floor is black because YOU, Mr. & Mrs. Homeowner, put a desk chair protector on it which didn't allow water COMING THROUGH THE SLAB to evaporate."
Tell them: "The stucco is OK", even though there are HUNDREDS of lawsuits.
Tell them: "The lagoons are 'happy and healthy'", even though there are plants growing and birds walking in the middle of them.
Give them ANY DUMB excuse that you can. Homeowners (especially old ones) are stupid. They'll believe you.

3. Cite J.D. Powers. Tell them: "If J.D. Powers says that Pulte houses are good, then they MUST be good." They're stupid. They'll believe it.

4. If all else fails, and you get one of the FEW homeowners who isn't stupid, then get the owner to sign an agreement so that they won't tell ANYONE (especially the press) about the problem. There may be 10,000 houses with the same defect; and, if the word gets out, then we may end up having to fix them ALL. This MUST be avoided at all cost.

Whether it comes to roofs, stucco, lagoons, wetlands, failed retaining wall, incorporation, golf course management, etc., you can count on Pulte’s response: deny, deny, deny.
The appropriate response from a responsible company is really quite simple: "We'll check it out". But, not Pulte.
The latest revelation that construction problems with roofs are STILL occurring MORE THAN TWO YEARS after they were first discovered, and supposedly fixed, illustrates perfectly Pulte’s dishonesty, recklessness, and arrogance.
Deny, deny. deny. And, discredit the private home inspector while you’re at it.
This is the kind of response that you expect from a little kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar: "I didn’t do it, Mommy."
Grow up, Pulte.
If Pulte concentrated on building good houses instead of concentrating on how to cover up their shoddy construction, then Pulte wouldn't need a playbook.

Friday, September 11, 2009

An update, lingering questions, and a message for Pulte

In the case of the black wood floor, I understand from the homeowner that Pulte is replacing the floor. I’m happy for the homeowner.

Lingering questions:
1. What took Pulte so long to agree to replace the floor?
2. Why did Pulte take such an obviously RIDICULOUS position for MONTHS? (The black wood floor is the HOMEOWNER'S fault because he put a desk chair protector on it, which didn’t allow water coming THROUGH THE SLAB to evaporate.)
3. Why didn’t Pulte IMMEDIATELY agree to remedy this problem, which is CLEARLY the result of shoddy construction?

Message for Pulte:

Five years ago I had no reason to believe other than Pulte builds good houses and treats their customers well. During the past 5 years I have come to realize that Pulte does NOT build quality houses and does NOT treat their customers well. In fact, Pulte’s actions over the past 5 years at SCHH are a case study in how NOT to treat your customers.

Congratulations, Pulte, you’ve managed to take some of your biggest sales assets (some of your customers) and turn them into your biggest liabilities. Based on my experiences over the last 5 years I would NEVER recommend a Pulte house in a Pulte development to ANYONE.