Is the Customer Always Right? The short answer is no, and here’s why that’s a good thing
Some custom home builders are what one might call ‘order takers.’ They do anything the custom homeowners want within the constraints of budget, timetable, and zoning or code regulations. That’s understandable: everyone wants happy customers and positive reviews.
But the best custom home builders understand that an anything-you-want approach really doesn’t serve customers. We would go further and caution people to beware the builder who never pushes back.
Don’t misunderstand—all custom builders try hard to accommodate requests. After all, they are building custom homes. At the same time, they also know that protecting customers may mean vetoing certain requests.
A good way to illustrate this is with the example of how the sizing of the HVAC (air conditioning) system for a Las Vegas custom home affects the building cost, operational cost and comfort of the home. Mechanical engineers design and size the system that is typically measured in “Tons” of air. Because many of Merlin’s homes are engineered by Nevada licensed, out of state engineers, we carefully analyze, with the help of our HVAC contractors, each of our home’s HVAC systems. We want to make sure the design works in Las Vegas’s extreme heat and twenty-four hour temperature swings. Production (track) homes in Las Vegas are often adequately heated and cooled with one ton of air per 400 +- square feet of floor space. Merlin’s custom homes can require 25% to 40% more tonnage or one ton per 300 to 350 sq. ft. of floor. The reasons for this includes, higher ceilings, more glass walls, roof overhang, house orientation to the sun and more. This is critically important for year round comfort, efficient power usage and the initial HVAC system cost. In Las Vegas, HVAC systems range between $3,000 and $4,000 per ton. Should the builder accept without question the HVAC design?
The answer is that while budget concerns are important, long-term satisfaction depends more on performance than on price. It’s the custom home builder’s responsibility to help the homeowner understand that.
The custom home builder’s HVAC contractor will calculate the optimal system needed to keep the home comfortable and healthy. The builder may then recommend a more expensive system or may limit choices to one or two very reliable brands.
Recommending the higher-priced product isn’t a sly attempt to jack up profits. It’s a sign that the custom home builder is looking out for the customer’s well-being.
Custom Home Builders with a reputation for durable, high-quality homes earn that reputation because everything they do supports it. Using cheap products that fall short of the builder’s performance standards would be like putting Hyundai parts in a Porsche. That’s no criticism of Hyundai; it’s a recognition that builders, like car manufacturers, have to deliver on their brand promises.
If the $8,000 system won’t remove enough humidity in spring or fall, then the customer will blame the builder, even if the customer asked for that system.
This is only one example. Many custom homeowners also request specific windows, deck boards, interior paints and other products. A builder’s willingness to use them depends on whether they meet the builder’s standards. That’s a good thing for the homeowner.
Custom Home Builders with great reputations put a high priority on good customer relationships. Good relationships are based on trust, and one earns trust by telling the truth.
But trustworthy custom home builders don’t leave customers disappointed. Instead, they suggest products and designs that offer the benefits customers really want from their new home.