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Residential War Stories – Dig Deeper, into Customer Concern!

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

“We have got you a consent based on the building we have priced. But your site has unsuitable material below the hard-fill line and there is an “extra” to be agreed before we will start.”


Dave bought a section in a large established subdivision. A number of builders where offering design and build packages in the area. Dave called for proposals and selected Generic Home Builders. The contract was a Generic form, full of Generic design and build terms, and a standard specific term that the price allowed for a 100mm concrete slab to be founded on 300mm of hard-fill.


The day the Consent is granted, Generic contacts Dave;


Generic: “We have got you a consent based on the building we have priced. But your site has unsuitable material below the hardfill line and there is an “extra” to be agreed before we will start.”


Dave: “This is news to me. How can this be so?”


Generic: “We went out to site and drilled some test bore holes and discovered your topsoil is much deeper than designed for and is unsuitable to build on. We have to dig out the additional unsuitable material and then bring in additional hard-fill to replace it with, before we can start with the 300mm of hard-fill we have allowed for in the contract price.”


Dave’s story came to us after he had settled his final account, leaving some unanswered questions;

[1] Was there a Geotech report available to Dave when he bought the section?

[2] What representations did the builder make to council, about ground conditions, when

lodging the consent?

[3] Did the consent application include a geotechnical report?


Dave went to site and took a good look around, but could not find any disturbed soil, no evidence of the recently drilled test holes carried out by Generic. The site looked like a pristine outdoor bowling green.


IMPORTANT: It is common knowledge that Generic Home Builders is regularly building houses in the subdivision, in competition with rival’s.


The accusations are that;

[1] Generic and others knew, from first-hand experience, about the subdivision’s specific

foundation qualities;

[2] Generic, either inserted, or chose not to alter, a Generic standard specification clause, to;

(A) present a lower face value proposal, to be “perceived” as the best price proposal;

(B) establish a specific contractual basis to secure the extra money needed to actually

build the project on the selected site.

[3] Generic planned a deception for their advantage, to secure work, with the lure of an

unrealistically low price.


Dave and Generic Home Builders may have settled contractually, but the matter will ALWAYS be open for debate in the court of customer opinion.


The customer is ALWAYS telling their residential war stories, to everyone, whether they won or lost. Every Builder is deemed to have satisfied ALL customer concerns fully, because when they cease to deal with customer concerns, they are left with the reputation, they are prepared to settle for.

Q: Are you paying enough attention to your customer’s concerns?




“If you enjoy this blog, please share it with your like minded colleagues”


“Celebrating 50 years of New Zealand Building Economist 1972 to 2021”


By Matthew Ensoll

FNZIQS. Reg.QS.

Editor New Zealand Building Economist.



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