Miscommunications and Misunderstandings with Your Modular Dealer
Miscommunication, and the misunderstandings they cause, is common in construction projects. It may be asking too much to suggest that the problem can be avoided entirely, but there are steps that customers can take to keep it to a minimum.
First and foremost, a customer should have their modular dealer and general contractor put everything in writing. “Everything” refers to much more than an order form and a contract. Many small details get discussed at sales meetings that do not always find their way into these formal documents. Read a contract and you will likely find that it excludes “oral representations,” which is another way of saying that if a detail was discussed and even agreed to verbally, but did not find its way into some form of written documentation, it has no legal validity.
Your Modular Dealer’s Responsibility for Documenting All Details in Writing
One way you can learn a lot about a modular dealer’s facility with details is to observe how he documents your conversations with him. Consistent and clear documentation is critical because every meeting between a modular dealer and a customer will generate a lot of discussion about a home’s floor plan, exterior appearance, building specifications, features, and colors. Meetings also will include discussions about the building site, scheduling, banking, and budget. The only way customers can be sure of getting the house they want, on schedule and on budget, is if the modular dealer listens, understands, and documents all decisions, and then follows through on them. Sales meetings can be a bit chaotic, with discussions sidetracked and interrupted, and decisions agreed to and then discarded after reconsideration. Putting all decisions reached during each meeting into writing is the best way to ensure that they do not get lost in the shuffle.
Your Responsibility for Ensuring All Details are Documented in Writing
The modular dealer does not, and should not, bear all of the responsibility for maintaining this written record. The customer has an even greater interest in seeing that each and every detail relating to their new house comes to fruition. Customers can sometimes send mixed messages to a modular dealer, saying they want one option one day, and a different one the next day. A conscientious customer, therefore, is one who never has to say to a modular dealer, “But don’t you remember the conversation we had about . . . ?” If the conversation was important, put it in writing.
Your Modular Dealer’s Responsibility for Communicating Clearly
A modular dealer also has a professional obligation to communicate effectively. He should not resort to industry jargon without making sure you understand it, and he should explain the important details fully. If you find yourself with a modular dealer you cannot understand, even after you ask him to clarify, you should find another candidate. If you ignore this advice and buy a home from this modular dealer, you should be prepared to believe him when he says, “Don’t you remember I told you that?”
Your Modular Dealer’s Responsibility for Managing the Pace of Each Meeting
A modular dealer needs to do a couple of things if he is to protect both of you. Obviously he needs to write down everything of importance. But as the professional, he also has an obligation to you (and to himself) to ask you to slow down and, if necessary, pause a moment so he has the time to finish recording your last point. Many a modular dealer has made a mistake in design or specification because he didn’t want to be impolite to his customer by asking her to hold her thought. You would serve yourself well if you carried a pencil and pad of paper to jot down your questions and comments so you don’t lose your train of thought. A modular dealer would serve himself well if he offered you a pencil and paper and reminded you to do so.
For more information about your modular dealer’s communications, see Selecting a Modular Home Dealer and Selecting a General Contractor in my book The Modular Home.