New Construction - Space not outlined on plan, Builder says too bad

My husband and I are building a home (first time buyers) with a small builder in Atlanta. We fell in love with the location and really liked one of the plans, but as they are building it we've found some oddities and are not too sure what to do about it.
There is a huge nook underneath the stairs (about 5ft deep and about 3.5 ft wide) and we assumed they were making it into a closet (see pic below). We assumed this because before we signed we walked through a woman's home (same exact floor plan as ours) and specifically recall there being a deep closet there with a door.
Now the builder (actually their horrible sales guy) is telling us that it is supposed to be that way and that there is nothing they can do about it for us. He says that only the basement homes include a door which really sounds ridiculous to us. We told him that the woman's home he showed us had a closet there and he is denying it. Its basically our word against his and I'm not sure what to do about it besides just shelling out more money for something that surely shouldn't be an upgrade.
All this being said, is there anyone here that could offer any suggestions on what we should do? I've even gone as far to leave a note at that sweet woman's house with my number to ask her about her floorplan (random, I know). We haven't tried to threaten him saying we won't close until its fixed or anything like that, but I was hoping we wouldn't have to resort to that. We're so new at this that we really don't know what our options are!
If we don't end up getting our way (which we should for what we are paying), any ideas on what to do with it? The space is so deep and narrow that the only thing it seems useful for to me is a closet. Its too deep to be anything like a bookcase, and because of its location across from the dining room and main foyer, I just don't know what we'd do with it if they don't fix it. I don't want to have to spend a ton of money making it into a useful space.
Thanks everyone. Sorry for writing such a novel!
q new construction space not outlined on plan builder says too bad, home improvement, stairs, View from the dining room to the random 5ft deep nook that we think should be a closet useable space
View from the dining room to the random 5ft deep nook that we think should be a closet / useable space.
q new construction space not outlined on plan builder says too bad, home improvement, stairs, Our floor plan just shows stairs this is obviously the plan for the model with a basement which has a door where we think the closet should be
Our floor plan just shows stairs - this is obviously the plan for the model with a basement which has a door where we think the closet should be.
  47 answers
  • Maureen O'Donovan Maureen O'Donovan on Jun 11, 2013
    Doesn't sound like your builder is too accommodating. I remember several mistakes as our house was being built, such as a door in the wrong spot, what should have been two arched walls leading into other rooms, built straight, etc., and our builder always corrected them without question (also in the Atlanta area). Stand firm, you, after all, are the customer/client. With the price of houses, this should be addressed by your builder ASAP without further cost to you. Looks like this should not have been built like this given that you have no basement. You may want to go to visit some other models like yours to see if this was done. Stand your ground!!!
  • Kimberly Barney Kimberly Barney on Jun 11, 2013
    I agree that you should get the house that you agreed to pay for. However, I see that the area you are referring to is up against the stairs. Has anyone thought to add storage under the stairs. I know I can never have enough storage. Even if the builder's supervisor doesn't agree to build the storage under the stairs to make up for the trouble you have been put through, I would look into it later. Good luck!
  • What your going through is a very common issue with folks constructing a home without the assistance of a professional monitor of the work being performed. My guess you will be out of luck getting them to pay for that closet, although not a real expensive thing to build, but my guess if the builder is smaller he or she does not have the funds to be able to add things without you paying for them in advance. The plans are really not that clear in the photo you provided but if a door was to be placed in that space a door would be visible in the plans. Much like the other closets and access doors to the many other rooms within the house. This issue also raises other things that many people who have custom homes constructed are not aware of. The contract should read that you can have anyone from any trade into the home during the construction phase to evaluate the contractors who are working and building the home work. As a prior inspector myself I cannot tell you how many times we were thrown out and off of the property when the buyer requested that I came in to evaluate the rest of the home. In addition regardless of what the Model home had in it, you need to get everything in writing and not rely on what you saw or what he or she said when your were signing the contract. What you get is exactly what you paid for and the plans are the only thing that folks end up relying on when its time to settle up at the end. On the topic of plans, you should have a complete set and stamped copy with dates that are exactly as those the builder is using. Your contract should reflect the date and plan number so if an issue comes up as this had, you can refer back to the plans that you purchased not the ones the builder wants to hang his hat upon. I have seen plan changes all the time and this is a common issue with the buyer constructing their own home. If you still want this extra, I suggest that you wait until you take ownership of the house and pay another contractor whom you can trust to construct the closet. It not only will come out fine, but you will end up paying less. And on the topic of extras. As you already understand the builder is becoming a cheapskate. Its in their nature to be this way. However besides making a ton of money on your dime, they really clean up with extras. Often ones that require you to pre purchase in advance. This issue is a very common problem. Your often stuck with the home should the workmanship become lousy and the contractor becomes a you know what. Way to many people figure that they are building a new home, lets get all the things we want. Upgrades on appliances, A big mistake. The builder charges you extra to install something that they were supplying in the first place. They use the excuse that its more expensive to install a custom range so they charge you more for this. In addition, If you decided to break the deal on the home, most builders do not really care when the market is hot. They will simply sell the house to someone else. The issue comes up however when you want to remove all those extra appliances that you paid for to be installed. Guess what? Not going to happen. Once they are installed they become the property of the home, until the ownership is transferred to you at closing. All that extra money you put into the house is a bonus to the builder as he got you to pay for those items. In affect he used your money to build a home that you end up not buying. The best course of action is to review your agreement/contract to see if there was wording that stated that the house being constructed will be exactly like in lay out and what goodies will be installed as the sales house you walked into. Also remember it is not uncommon for a buyer to see something such as a closet and not see it in the final new project. Your only course of action is to seek out legal council to review your agreement of sale and to help you break the apparent stalemate that you currently find yourself in.
  • Sheryll S Sheryll S on Jun 12, 2013
    Be glad that is the only problem you have. It all stems from the lying salesman that showed you the ladies house. I went through something similar with my metal roof. I told the salesman I would NOT pay $8,000 for a new roof if my workshop was not included.... well, guess who did NOT get their workshop roof.... go ahead, yes you got it right.... me! Theses salesmen can fool you so big time. I no longer trust anyone of them.
  • NataLee Callahan NataLee Callahan on Jun 12, 2013
    this is, unfortunately, a perfect example of why everything needs to be in writing... EVERYTHING. And I would also add pictures as part of the contract in the future. I feel so bad for you, but in real estate it HAS to be in writing to be enforceable. He said, she said won't hold up in court. Bummer deal.... Sorry.
  • I know this won't sound to popular but if it is not on the plan or spelled out in the specs, it isn't going to happen. You agreed to have a house built based on the plans referenced & the contract documents, not anything you saw or heard. Strike 2 is that the drywall is already up & if I don't miss my guess already being finished today - if you might have caught this in the framing stage you might have gotten it, or at least added on pretty cheaply @Woodbridge Environmental pretty much nailed everything but I do take issue with his appliance example especially on production houses - upgraded appliances are a special order & require special handling. Generally what happens is a builder gets a sweet deal on buying 50 or 60 appliance packages up front & they store them on site. Now they have to order ones just for your unit & they basically need to do it as soon as you sign because everything is based on a schedule & they can't wait for them. Is there going to be markup for them doing this - yes. Are they going to add additional profit - yes & by all rights they should. If a company doesn't make any profit, they won't be around long or have any money to cover warranty issues.
  • Holly Elam Holly Elam on Jun 12, 2013
    I suggest making it into a storage/reading nook. Put in a bench that has storage underneath. Top it will a comfy bench pad and pillows. Add an over head light. It would be cute. It could be the place where you take shoes off and hide them in the bench. Or store kitchen items.
  • Creekwood Homes Creekwood Homes on Jun 12, 2013
    If you are dealing with a trachouse builder and not a custom builder, I agree with @SLS Construction Solutions that it is probably too late to fix something now unless it was spelled out on your original contract. If you are working with a custom builder like us, we would work with you to get it accomplished as cost effectively as possible. @Kimberly Barney suggested adding storage under the stairs going up, but you couldn't have shelves in the alcove and access to underneath the stairs. @NataLee Callahan is correct about everything in writing. @Woodbridge Environmental makes valid points. One person we know bought a track home in an 55+ community and only agreed to structural extras (basement was $10K extra) and then gutted the house and put everything in with their own contractors for much less money than the track builder would have charged for the upgrades. Best of luck to you. Come build in the Chicago Northwest suburbs and we will make sure you are making informed decisions.
  • Randi Destefano Randi Destefano on Jun 12, 2013
    i'm sorry that you're having such a disappointing experience with your first new home. And I agree with Woodbridge Environmental that if it isn't in writing and on your plans, it is probably too late. We just completed our third custom home and, thankfully, I am in the business and was able to be our project coordinator and check for quality control. In the middle of our construction, the builder became too busy and stretched thin on project managers. There were numerous issues with the interior installations. But because we had documented everything, and saved every email, issues were resolved in the end at our builder's expense. Because I hear of so many horror stories, I firmly believe that everyone needs to have a professional review your plans. Also you should have a professional visit your job sight on your behalf to make sure everything is being installed according to plans. It is more or less someone you can trust to be there for you every step of the way. I hope that you're able to resolve this issue. But they will probably charge you a large fee to make the change. You would probably feel more comfortable hiring an independent contractor after you close to take care of it. Best of luck. The photo looks like it will be a beautiful home!
  • There should be a set of plans in the municipal construction office that shows that area without the stairway. If they show that area with a door then your entitled to have it. If not, oh well. Of course, if your salesman says they are the only plans, they do show a stairway. Tell him you want the stairway. It's on the plans so your entitled to it. Now I believe that stairway is much more costly than a door and some shelves. Perhaps he'll exchange one for the other. You should also talk to the building inspector about the situation with the stairway or closet. If there is no written agreement to alter the plans then he has to inspect and enforce whats on the plans. Good luck, let us know how you make out.
  • Once again Bob (Woodbridge Environmental) has nailed it. The only thing I want to add, and he alluded to it, is we all need to pick and choose our battles. Closing off the space after the fact is relatively minor. Although situations like these make us "grind our teeth", it is best to accept it and save that "silver bullet" should a more serious concern arise. Do you know for sure the salesman works directly for the builder?
  • Bob at Woodbridge and others have given you some good information. There may be some questions because the plan you have anticipates a basement which apparently your home does not have. You need to review your contract carefully but there may be a legal argument that because the plans for your home show a basement and that was not intended that there was not a complete meeting of the mind. A viable legal argument however does not mean that it is cost effective. If the builder has built other homes, I would look at the ones without basements to see what they have done. The sales person could be covering a mistake. There may also be an arbitration provision in your contract (or other dispute resolution provision) to follow.
  • Brandy Powell Brandy Powell on Jun 12, 2013
    Try again to talk to the lady who let you tour her home and take pictures of her space. Be sure to ask if she had to pay an upgrade charge for the door. When we built our house, we had several issues like that and we would go directly to the supervisor of our home. She was not always willing to make corrections, so then we would go directly to the owner of the company. Since we also had a small builder he was around periodically. Track down his phone number and talk to him. If the super doesn't care about making you happy, he will. It is his reputation that is on the line. Stick to you guns and don't give in on something as small as a door. There are too many big compromises that you will have to make in the process.
  • Christina D Christina D on Jun 12, 2013
    Wow, I am so impressed - everyone here is so helpful! Bob at @Woodbridge Environmental, @Kevin M. Veler, Law Office of, @NataLee Callahan, @Midlantic Contracting LLC / Midlantic Electric Inc, @Hewitt Remodeling Services LLC, Randi from @Authentic Living Interiors, @Brandy Powell ...I only wish I had come across Home Talk sooner! Our builder is definitely a production builder and they are really small (5 people). They buy up a lot of distressed properties and then build spec homes on them. When I initially did my research I couldn't find any information about them (and I really dug for it...I work in digital/social media). I didn't see anything with the BBB or positive/negative reviews on them at all. The company appears to be somewhat of a family business, and the builder is actually one of the sons of the owner I believe. He seems like a very ethical and reasonable man, and I assume that the owner probably is as well. Their biggest problem (and ours) is the sales guy / project lead they have working for them (who isn't related BTW). He has been unprofessional, dishonest, and disrespectful. He even got into a heated argument with my husband one day on site and it was so uncomfortable that I had to walk over there to chill them out. We've also had some issues with their sub contractors / vendors where they have misquoted us on things (by thousands of dollars), but luckily I have been able to catch a lot of those mistakes. At first "our guy" will tell me I am wrong and that the numbers are right, so then I would go straight to the vendors themselves and tell them for example (this really happened) - that there is no way that the cabinets in our kitchen island (only) are $17,350. She went back and double checked and as it turns out that they accidentally quoted the cost for the entire kitchen plus the island in that particular door style, when the rest of the kitchen cabs were already covered in the estimate. The actual cost for the island ended up being $2,589 which is obviously a huge difference. Same thing happened with the granite...I could go on for days. My take on it is that they are great with building spec homes, but have not done much in terms of presale since it has been such a horrendous experience for us. At one point we even considered getting legal representation to get out of it, but we had already put a lot of money down on options and again, really like the home and location. The good thing is that all of the design selections we've made have been included via amendments, so I do have that. Now its only these things that we couldn't really foresee since we never got detailed plans. Based on the suggestion of @Midlantic Contracting LLC / Midlantic Electric Inc I did call the Construction Office here in Smyrna, GA to see if I could get plans, but unfortunately they said that they only take outside elevations for residential properties. I did send an email last night to "our guy" saying that I wanted a response / resolution from him aside from just "we're not doing it" which he told my husband. I told him that if he doesn't get back to me by Thursday that I would call the owner directly. We'll see what happens! Thank you so much for all of your expert advice and support, I really greatly appreciate it! I'll keep you all posted!
  • Christina D Christina D on Jun 12, 2013
    Oh and @Kevin M. Veler, Law Office of we do have an arbitration clause in our contract. Hopefully we won't have to use it, but if we do I may reach out to you since you're in our area.
  • There is no reason that this should not be a closet. As they were working off plans for a home with a basement the framer missed framing in the opening, so the sheetrock crew went to the opening that was left. It would have been so easy to have framed in the sides and top and then installed a pre-hung interior door there. The project manager was not paying attention to the details, he should have fixed the problem as the cost would be minimal. I'm curious to know who the builder is?
  • Christina D Christina D on Jun 12, 2013
    I suspect that you are absolutely right @Churchill's Home Improvement Services. The builder is Red Oak Construction / W&H Properties which is essentially managed by Harper Southeastern Properties. Not sure how well known they are and really couldn't find much on them in terms of reviews anywhere. I have had great dealings with the builder (who is one of the Harpers), and our pre-drywall inspector also commented that the construction was solid. Our project manager is at least sharing my request with the owner whom I'm hoping will find a reasonable resolution for us. If not though, I may need to get an estimate from you ;-)
  • Randi Destefano Randi Destefano on Jun 12, 2013
    I'm curious too. While we were building I learned that if the project manager misses something, they try not to mention it in case you won't notice. Then, when you do, they'll address how to handle it. I mention this to again stress the need to know your plans inside and out, and visit your job site daily...or hire someone to do it for you. At first I thought it was our builder, but as I talk with my new neighbors, I'm learning they had the same issues. To their defense, I think that as they begin to get busy, things slip through the cracks. If they're not caught soon enough, it becomes a costly mistake. I could go on and on,,,,Building our last house was a lesson in anger management! And this is what I do every day!!!
  • christina, in the scheme of things it is fairly small and one would think the builder would add the closet simply to improve your opinion of sorry to hear they are not sounding like a reputable business. unfortunately you will find that this matter is not significant enough to warrant legal action. the cost of legal action will greatly exceed the cost of the closet. further, and i know you don't want to hear this, i don't think you have a convincing case....the drawings are the contract. if the closet is not in the drawings the are not required to include it. what is in your neighbors basement is irrelevant. sorry. though it is worth mentioning here that the drawing is drawn incorrectly - it is flawed by showing the stair above on the lower level plan. im sorry you've had this issue....this type of things happens far too often, which underscores the importance of having an architect on board. we create clear and professional plans and then advocate strongly for our clients before during and after construction to ensure expectations are being met all around. my suggestion is to let them finish their job and then have another contractor come in and add the door. the existing contractor doesn't deserve any more of your business, in my opinion.
  • Larose LoganOakes Larose LoganOakes on Jun 12, 2013
    Not sure about any of the legalities of your situation but if you are unable to change it at this point I would consider making it into a small bar area or wine closet with pull out stacked shelves. They have some really nice ones these days and they are perfect for that small space. Of course a small wine/beverage cooler with or without a sink would be a perfect spot for mixing drinks.We have a fridge specifically for our beverages and it has been a godsend.No more trying to make room in the fridge for odd shaped bottles or cans.Best of luck to you!
  • Christina D Christina D on Jun 12, 2013
    Thanks @Coates Design Architects Seattle - the biggest problem is that they never shared a plan that wasn't for the basement option. The house we did tour before we signed did not have a basement. Looking back I should've demanded they give me the detailed plans, but they told me they don't provide plans (this plan was a snapshot of an area of the plan b/c - I never had them in my possession). My contract includes a basic floorplan that shows stairs going down and also a deck - but again that is for the basement plan, which mine is not. I don't think we'd seek any legal action for this issue in particular - this has really just been the icing on the cake of our experience. Definitely not worth it at the end of the day, but if we can get them to do it and cover it, that would be great. Lesson has definitely learned for when we go into our next home. Thanks @Larose D. Logan-Oakes for your suggestions. I'd thought about a small bar area, but wine closet is a good idea!
  • If you decide to enclose the area and put a door on, you can cut into the stair area and use that for extra storage. However if it remains open, you cannot do this for fire safety,
  • Karen Young Karen Young on Jun 12, 2013
    the materials to make this a closet will not be more than $150. It is the labor to get those trades back in there that will cost you a mint. I would look at he plans filed with the city. If it isn't set up as a closet, hire a handy man and make it a closet.
  • I have seen these areas turned into a small desk/phone/computer area. Small comfortable chair and you have a place out of the way to sit and play on Home Talk with the Ipad.
  • Christina D Christina D on Jun 13, 2013
    Well I finally heard back from our sales guy and they are telling me that they are too far along in the process and that they can not change the framing for the area now, but they can frame in the door within 30 days after closing for a cost of $1200. I am 99% positive that I could get this done much cheaper elsewhere, right?
  • Sheryll S Sheryll S on Jun 13, 2013
    My previous comment seems to have went into outer space... lol. I wanted to say that I would try to nicely state that it would be the right thing to do and if they don't, let it go, but... big but here. I had to put a sign in my front yard for a specified amount of time.... here it goes.... be nice and mentiong that right by that sign of theirs... I would put my own sign saying that I was not happy and would not recommend this builder.... that would really get to them.
  • Sheryll S Sheryll S on Jun 13, 2013
    Oh h*ll no, do without before paying them one more red cent.
  • Christina D Christina D on Jun 13, 2013
    @Sheryll S my husband and I were pondering that the other day! Too funny! So how long did you keep the sign up for?
  • Christina D Christina D on Jun 13, 2013
    @Sheryll S Those were my thoughts exactly!!
  • Sheryll S Sheryll S on Jun 13, 2013
    I forget, it was in the contract to keep it up for a specified time and I don't remember now. I know it was at least a month. Well, NO one in my neighborhood used them and I was the first to have a metal roof. I caught a lot of crap about "no one else has a metal roof" and then all of a sudden two, three and more further down.... they are expensive. And I also got the "why are you putting a metal roof on, you don't need a new roof". Then about a year later the costs doubled because of the new laws. Whose laughing now?
  • While revenge with a sign may sound like a good thing. I would be really careful with that. Not only do you risk getting sued by the builder to remove it, you may be in violation of your agreement of purchase, or local rules if your in a development from the home owners association. Many years ago, I was doing contract work for one of the nations larger builders. Being a very large development, Took almost 25 years to complete the thousands of homes and properties. They had set special requirements prohibiting people from putting for sale signs on the property or in any windows other then their own realtors that they were connected to. The reason was the original development costs for properties were controlled by them. They sold pre construction at higher prices then what people could get for them when they tried to sell them for used. And because of this they did not want the elusion that because people were not selling for long periods of time that the houses were no good because of all the signs that would end up being placed around the development over the years they were still there. When people placed signs of any kind they were promptly notified of breech of contract of sale and were ordered to remove or risk being sued. The story is be sure to read your home contract carefully. Although they appear to be written to protect the consumer, they are written in another language designed to protect the builder in the end.