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Homebuilding horror stories: We've all heard them, but is quality actually dropping?

Last Updated Oct 9, 2019 at 11:51 am PST

A worker is seen working on a construction project at UBC in Vancouver, Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Everyone's heard a homebuilding horror story, but is quality actually on the decline? Opinions in the industry vary

One builder says he's noticed quality of finishings decline, adding it's important for people to do their research

Interim chief of the Homebuilders Association of Vancouver insists there isn't an endemic problem with the industry

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – From cabinets falling apart, to wonky finishings, it seems many of us have heard quality concerns about new homes in recent years.

But what’s the view of people in the industry? According to one builder, the situation has gotten so bad that his company has been asked to go in and essentially renovate newly built homes by other companies and bring them up to a higher standard.

“Things just not being put together right,” says Troy Van Vliet with Tavan Developments. “First of all, from framing all the way through … things aren’t straight.”

And if the framing doesn’t start off straight, he says it sets off a domino effect.

Van Vliet says he’s also seen improper waterproofing membranes used on some homes, and notes “so much of the quality depends on the builder.”

“We try to rely on … city officials coming out and doing inspections, but they’re not really quality inspectors. They’re just kind of inspecting whether or not homes have been built to code, so therefore it leaves a lot of room for lower quality builders to cut corners. It’s really quite sad, actually, because there’s a lot of product on the market today that’s not built up to what should be proper standards.”

He believes there are a few moving parts to the decline in quality he’s been seeing, including the cost of housing.

“With the downward pressure on the cost of homes, there’s a lot of pressure put on subtrades to do things for cheaper, even though construction costs, relatively speaking, are high,” Van Vliet explains. “People are still trying to do it for as low as possible, so a lot of the subtrades or builders end up cutting corners, and you do see that in the quality of the finishings of the homes that are being built today.”

Despite some of these concerns, Interim Chief Executive of the Homebuilders Association of Vancouver Ron Rapp insists there isn’t an endemic problem with the industry.

On the quality of materials and techniques used today, Rapp says they’re “in fact far superior than they were 20 or 30 years ago.”

“There’s always the question of installation and relative workmanship, but that cannot be mandated, per se,” Rapp explains. “But there are minimum performance standards that are required by both the consultants who are usually assigned to a job and by the home warranty provider.”

He admits quality can slide a bit when demand rises and tradespeople’s ability to keep up is tested, however, he says that’s not the norm.

“For the most part, I would say that the quality has been relatively consistent, and actually relatively high,” he tells NEWS 1130.

The advice from experts is to do plenty of research on who you’re hiring.

“I like to say you got to really scrutinize the builder,” Van Vliet says. “Whether you’re building a custom home for yourself or whether you’re looking at purchasing a production-built home, really look at the reputation of the builder as best as you possibly can.”

Once the home is built, Van Vliet suggests hiring an inspector to walk through it with you before you close a deal, to point out anything that may not be up to snuff.

-With files from Lasia Kretzel