Monday, November 16, 2009

The Great "Invisible Tree" Nightmare of 2009

I was always one of these people that assumed that the vast majority of nightmare stories posted over the internet about the games builders play were people that were expecting way too much from a spec builder and overreacting.  Apparently I was very wrong (or expecting any sort of customer service is now expecting too much).

My experience with Metricon started off fairly poorly.  I approached Metricon in Mernda for a fixed price house and land package.  I think I was sent to look at 8 blocks of land that had either been sold just before I got to them (possibly 5 minutes down the road) or had been gone for weeks or months.  Finally found a block that was in my price range and large enough for the house I wanted to build and available... it was just that I happened to ask the land sales woman if the house next door (same house same facade) would be an issue that she quickly realised the sales guy should never have suggested that block as he did actually know the people that owned the house and that it was the same facade and wouldn't fit within the rules of the Metricon owned estate.

Finally a block of land comes up at Mernda Villages and the land sales woman was incredibly helpful.  Placed the deposit on the land as I was told to do for the house and land package and went back for all the siting information at the Metricon office.  Was then informed that the facade I wanted wouldn't fit within estate covenants without about 2,000 dollars worth of changes and I would be better going with my second option which would need no changes as it already fit.  I then went through the process of quoting up the additions and changes which all seemed quite easy at the time but as I went further through the contracts I discovered the pricing was quite incorrect.  The best example was downlights... I'd been quoted for 25 downlights but he'd assumed they were 25 dollars cheaper than they actually were adding an extra $625 to my electricals before I'd even started.

Starting with my finance - one would expect a Mortgage Broker would be able to answer his phone... while it might not be in the standard training one should be able to assume it would be required knowledge.  Unfortunately mine must have skipped that day.  The deadline for my land finance started to get closer and I still hadn't heard anything back from him, so I started calling and calling and calling.  Finally I got him to return a phone call to which he informed me that my first choice in bank had declined me and that he was doing everything in his power to try and get them to have another look at my file - but I was probably going to have to try bank #2.   I fill in loan application #2 and send it back to him and go through the calling him and getting no response again.  Finally he calls me back to say that I've been declined from bank #2 and I should have a look at another lender.  I'm almost ready to give up on the whole concept of buying land when I manage to start talking to a banker friend who informs me there should be no good reason I would be declined and pointed me in the direction of the Loans Manager at bank #1.  

I call the Loans Manager, explain what has been going on and he asks me to come in and we'll get to the bottom of the problem together.  When I arrive at the bank the first thing he tells me is that the reason he asked me to come in to tell me what he was about to tell me was that if he told me over the phone I "might just drive through the front window" of the first mortgage broker.  Apparently when he looked at my loan application it was full of notes where the bank had tried to contact him for more information but hadn't been able to reach him.  The original bank approved my loan in principal on the spot and had full approval within a week.

Started the process with the with Metricon's customer service who similarly were never available when I called and managed to double book and cancel my first appointment with them.  Managed to not pass the information through to my electrical appointment at all so when I turned up they had no idea who I was or what I was there for and then managed to send me a change to my tender document via email the day before I was supposed to sign it.

There was no information, no explanation and absolutely no warning.  When I phone up they told me that the $20,000 dollars worth of changes were due to a number of factors including a tree that was going to change the soil profile and changes to the facade to deal with estate covenants (If I had have known this I would have gone with my first option).  It was the tree that really annoyed me as I'd been to the block several times and no where was there any tree.  When I called up I was promptly informed that "site costs can change" and that trees sap moisture out of the soil.  This was the start of some of the most futile arguments I've ever had - I was arguing there was no tree, they were telling me their engineers don't get it wrong and it must be there.  

All the time with a fairly threatening undertone in the conversation of... "Well you're going to have to sign the contract anyway because you're a first home buyer and if you don't you'll miss out on the extended grant".  The Customer service girl even managed to try to convince me that the 5 day cooling off period would be enough to get it sorted out and I should sign the contracts anyway.  This was when alarm bells really started ringing - no one should ever sign a contract that they know is incorrect cooling off periods don't relate to mistakes in the contract.

Finally after a month of getting nowhere and the realisation that it just wasn't worth the trauma to get the grant boost I told them they could keep their house and restarted the process to look for a new house to build on my little piece of land in Mernda.

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