What should be included in our custom home contract?

Answered by Jeffrey Anderson ~ December 1, 2012 ~ No Comments

We are having a retirement home built in Belize. In our contract it reads they will supply the bathroom hinges, knobs and accessories. They are telling us now that it is 75% finished, that the wall mirrors in the bathrooms are NOT included and it is our responsibility for us to pay out of pocket. Does this sound right to you? We feel betrayed.


Jeffrey Anderson

Joan, I realize it isn't much help at this point, but your situation is a perfect example of why an extremely detailed contract is important when building a custom home. When purchasing from a builder who offers several house types in a sub-division, purchasers usually have the protection of being able to refer back to the features shown in a model home. Even though the model may be loaded with upgrades and custom design work, most builders have disclaimers posted throughout stipulating in detail exactly what is included with a basic house.

Unfortunately with a custom home, all most purchasers have is a concept and a set of blueprints. Beyond that it's often just the experience and knowledge of what to look for that the buyer possesses and the integrity of the builder. I can't speak for all custom builders, but in my experience most discuss the finishes involved in the house in great detail before construction begins. The reason for this conversation is that those phases of work can have a large impact on the total price of the home.

In many cases, an allowance is set up as part of the total contract price for each finish category. A custom builder might tell their customer that they have $25,000 for kitchen cabinets and countertops, $5,000 for electrical fixtures, and $3,000 for bathroom hardware. How they choose to spend the allowances is up to the customer -- if they select cabinets that cost $24,000, then they'll have to find countertops for $1,000 or increase the contract.

I don't know all of the details about your home in Belize. If it's just a typical retirement home without a lot of bells and whistles, the builder may not have been planning on any wall mirrors in the bathrooms other than over the vanities. If those are the mirrors you're referring to, I can't imagine them not being included in the contract price if an allowance doesn't exist. Larger full height mirrors are another matter -- I can definitely see them not being a part of the sales price of the home.

Unfortunately, if the mirrors aren't written into the contract specifically or as an allowance, I don't think you have much recourse. However, unless you want some sort of exotic mirrors that cost a fortune, I would certainly think the builder should be willing to throw them in to keep their customer happy. I have given away a lot more than bathroom mirrors - it encourages customer referrals which can be the best type of advertising.

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