Ex-construction supervisor discusses why some Las Vegas new-build homes lack quality

Building problems, former construction supervisor shares why local home construction lacks...
Building problems, former construction supervisor shares why local home construction lacks quality(FOX5)
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 11:50 PM PST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - New home construction boomed in the Las Vegas valley in 2021, a former field supervisor reveals why homeowners are discovering problems barely a year in.

In the first part of our series homeowners across the valley reported problems they discovered in their new homes built in 2021. One couple had to move out for two weeks while the builder repaired a 35-foot crack that stretched from their kitchen to their living room.

A woman who moved into her new home built by a different builder said her heater wouldn’t turn on properly. Turns out the builder or the contractor did not install a gas line to the furnace and they’re not the only residents to experience this.

We sat down with a field supervisor who worked for a builder in the valley in 2021, well into COVID. Field supervisors or superintendents oversee construction in all stages. They’re the main contact for the homeowner, sales team, city inspectors and the trades - like lumber or tile installers.

“These homeowners at the end of the day to upper management they’re just a number- they are a sale,” this former field supervisor said.

He didn’t want to reveal who he was but he did share why some homeowners in newly constructed homes are experiencing issues, large and small.

“Ideally you would have about 20-25 homes that you were overseeing most were getting up to 30, 35, 40. My highest number was 42 at one point at all different stages of construction,” he said.

He said quality seemed to be the first thing that started to go with global supply chain issues and labor shortages.

“We had to delay one house two months because the framers somehow built the entire second story incorrectly with a bathroom that wasn’t supposed to be there,” the field supervisor said.

Historically the trades worked for the builders, but in 2021 this supervisor said the complete opposite happened.

“So much work was available the trades weren’t relying on the builders to bring in work for them so they were able to pick and choose which jobs they wanted to do and you know there were multiple instances where different trades at different stages of construction throughout the months would be short on labor, or short on material and just not show up for a few days or a week or multiple weeks,” the field supervisor said.

He said builders were at mercy of the trades and the trades determined quality.

“The labor shortage got so bad that trades essentially were able to increase their prices and start demanding more money and the companies didn’t want to pay more or revise contract and all of that. Basically started getting service less by those trades,” the field supervisor said.

At the same time he said they had to work with homeowners who were being pressured by loan lock dates or interest rates rising.

“Homeowners debt to income ratio had fluctuated and if we didn’t close by the end of their loan lock and they were going to have to re-evaluate their credit they would actually no longer qualify for the home that’s been delayed construction for months,” the field supervisor said.

He said the big challenge was getting the trades to respond. He said trades have two stages, installers and a pickup crew. Once the installation is done they get paid but it was different for the pickup crew.

“When an installer is being pushed to install as quickly as possible, they’re going to leave worst quality and more work for the pickup crews. The pickup crews however are paid hourly and they weren’t allowed overtime so they were limited when they came out to the job site for how much work they were able to do so when more work was being given to them, at the end of an eight hour day they would have to leave they were not allowed to work anymore,” the field supervisor said.

He said at the end of the day it felt like more work needed to be done than what they had available. Delivering an incomplete house then became standard.

“We were not allowed to ideally close a house if it had any items but that became the normal, was to close houses with items and then to tell homeowners that they would be fixed after they had moved in,” the field supervisor said.

It got to a point where he couldn’t deliver another house he called of ‘low quality.’

“That actually became the reason I quit was I you know called my boss and just told him I couldn’t do it anymore I couldn’t walk another house with a homeowner because I knew the issues we were having were not going to be resolved,” the field supervisor said.

“It felt terrible, it was soul-sucking. No superintendent ever wanted to deliver a house of low quality it looks bad on you, it creates more problems for you, you know this is generally a great job because you are participating in one of the generally best moments of people’s lives,” he said.

This field supervisor said the business of home building became a rat race.

“You had to get as many sales in as possible and hope that the trades could keep up with the work,” the field supervisor said.

“They you know can compliment themselves about how many houses they close every month and every quarter because to them that’s success but to us out there in the field every day it was a failure,” he said.

We asked a former build field supervisor what would he recommend for people purchasing or about to close on their new construction home. He suggests hiring a third party inspector.

“I think a good decision is getting a third party inspector, I dealt with many of them. I used to be a third party inspector back in the day. Someone who can do a building inspection can give you a very in depth report on what could be fixed in the house that’s not going to be covered by you know city inspections because they’re just trying to make sure that the house can qualify for the certificate of occupancy,” the field supervisor said.

He also suggests homeowners should not get themselves in a time crunch where they feel pressure to close on a house that’s not ready.

Are problems in new build homes part of a trend? FOX5 sat down with Paul Rozario, the Director of Investigations at the Nevada State Contractors Board. The NSCB investigates complaints against licensed and unlicensed contractors.

“Mistakes are made, the question is are the builders being responsive to the concerns of the homeowners? And we’re finding that they are,” Rozario said.

He said the overwhelming majority of complaints regarding license contracting is dealing with workmanship complaints, but not from new-home builds. Mostly remodeled homes.

“It’s only to a point when we get involved is when last resort the homeowner feels like they need to have an advocate for them they reach out to the board and we encourage that,” Rozario said.

He said Nevada residents have four years starting from the day they move in to file a complaint against a contractor.

“The statute under the Nevada state revised code is four years for the board so we can order a contractor it’s been four years since the last time that work order was done within that four years and we validate that there is a workmanship issue we can direct the contractor to fix that problem if we validate it,” Rozario said.

Rozario said it’s important Nevada residents know about the NSCB’s Residential Recovery Fund. Under certain conditions, it can provide monetary compensation to homeowners if a licensed contractor failure to appropriately execute a contract.

“If there’s a problematic builder out there that we think is not doing what they’re supposed to be doing and has continued workmanship issues or is not you know paying their subcontractors or is falling short of anything within the statute, you know we would hold them accountable either through administrative citation or through a disciplinary hearing. I can’t recall the last time we had a major builder that rose to that level within the board and I’m just being honest with you about that,” Rozario said.

If you are a homeowner that would like to speak to FOX5 on camera about major problems in your brand new home or have already filed a complaint against the NSCB, please email our desk at desk@fox5vegas.com.