Does Chad Dreier (COB of The Ryland Group, Inc on 5/29/09 - Bill Jews in Feb., 2010) or Larry Nicholson (CEO) know of the Ryland Homes' customer relations and business ethics problem in South Carolina that could happen again to future Ryland Homes customers without corrective measures? I sent a certified letter to Mr. Dreier signed for on 7/6/09. Will they turn a poor "home readiness" (over 100 documented problems - some serious) and "unenjoyable customer experience" (13 months to fix) negative into a positive for Ryland? Or, will maximizing short term profits in this down economy take precedent over the Ryland Homes website claim that their "..constant aim is to deliver....an enjoyable customer experience with every home we build." (3/21/12 - Ryland doesn't say this anymore.) I never got a response from Mr. Dreier, his representative, or Larry Nicholson - Here is one possible reason why? Here is our real life story told honestly, to the best of my knowledge and with detailed documentation, under my First Amendment rights of Free Speech:
My wife successfully beat breast cancer with a mastectomy. We wanted to celebrate by moving from Texas to Murrells Inlet, SC near the ocean, and desired to have as little stress as possible ("doctor's orders") besides the sale of our TX home and the 1200 mile move, so as to try to prevent a recurrence of cancer with my wife's remaining breast. We put a deposit down in early 2007, but did not want to close escrow on the house until 1/08 to give ourselves time to sell our Texas home (Ryland's contract signed on 4/22/07, Pre-Start Meeting 9/11/07, first estimated completion date = 12/15/07, Actual "Close of Escrow" delayed by Ryland = 1/18/08, Move In date = 2/3/08). As if the stress of selling our former home in a "down market", and moving 1,200 miles isn't enough, over a year's time, we had over 100 documented problems with some serious like an inside our office wall leak with minor mold (one week of inconvenience to get fixed), and warped exterior siding on both sides caused by structural "back braces" missing on the inside that took from 1/18/08 to 10/30/08 to get fixed (see photo of one side's exterior being fixed above).
All this occurred during our first year (13 mo.) warranty even though some of my neighbors say they only had about 25 problems with their Ryland home. It was due to a series of circumstances that, I believe, Ryland Homes and all builders can avoid if they had more quality controls during construction like "What gets watched, gets done right!". They also need to detail and inspect a new house much better than they do now before they take their customer's money at close of escrow. See: "New Home Builders Deliver 'Cleaner Upper' Homes". Our new house was also a "Fixer Upper" with too much of our time needed to find and fix all the problems. Just setting appointments for all the subcontractors who, some of which, didn't show or were very late was aggravating, stressful and a lot of time and trouble. We adjusted our schedule to the sub's throughout that first year, so that the growing list of things would get fixed ASAP. Some subcontractors were coming from over an hour drive away, and that limited how often they'd make the drive to help control their costs!
If that wasn't bad enough, many times, I had to get in my car and chase down my first on site builder as a last resort, who did not return my phone calls or emails about 95% of the time. That went on for about 9 months until our second, more organized, builder arrived. The "buck begins & stops" for the first on site builder's behavior with the Ryland Homes Charleston Division management, IMO (See: "Corporate Assigned Power vs. Responsibility"). So, I lost almost a year's worth of my time in dealing with and documenting all that, when I really wanted to get a consultant business started.
Then to "add insult to injury", and after being ignored for quite some time in my effort to help make sure that the stress that happened to my breast cancer survivor wife and I doesn't happen to anyone else, the Ryland Homes Charleston, SC management responded to my 3/16/09 Better Business Bureau complaint about my almost one year of lost time by saying: "Ryland has received this complaint and appreciates the recommendations offered by our customer. Since these are recommendations and not actual problems concerning the home purchase or construction of the home no further action will be taken with regard to this complaint." I take that to mean that Ryland Homes believes that what happened to my wife and I was "normal", and that all homebuyers should expect that 100 plus problems can happen during their first year warranty! A BBB manager said to me on the phone that too many companies of all kinds (after their lawyers draw up their legal documents) follow "the letter of the law" vs. "the spirit of the law".
(8/10/10 BBB COMMENT) = In June, 2009 the Better Business Bureau of Central SC and Charleston increased its rating of Ryland Homes in Charleston, SC from about a "C+" to an "A+" right around the time that Ryland's Charleston Divisional management paid a fee to become a "BBB Accredited business"(notice disclaimer)! I was told by that SC BBB that it was due to that divisional portion of "Ryland Homes" (interesting that the BBB's web address for Ryland's Charleston Division still shows "in daniel island sc", while the BBB listing title does not?) now being recorded as having 50 employees, a larger #, as told to them by Ryland who has their Corporate HQ's in Calabasas, Ca. The BBB never would confirm to me that they verified the higher 50 employee number for Charleston, SC alone! This meant to the BBB that there were now fewer consumer complaints per number of employees. The reasoning for the increase to "A+", they said, is that the bigger the company, the more complaints it's understandably going to get, but shouldn't be penalized for. I don't think that Ryland's Charleston Division had anywhere near 50 employees in 6/09, if you don't count independent contractor laborers. Also, I just read the 7/31/10 "Better Business Bureau Credibility Fading Fast" which to me explains the current "A+" rating. 11/22/10 UPDATE = "'Pay For Play' Scandal Engulfs BBB" - "...(BBB) has agreed to stop awarding rating points to businesses that pay dues to the organization."
Ryland's Charleston, SC management may not think they need my customer and professional recommendations, but the facts, and "time line to fix" details, that are in their own records say otherwise. I also detailed them in "My Ryland Homes Initial Repairs 'Punch List'", and "My Ryland Homes Follow Up 'Warranty Service Requests'". How Ryland's Charleston Divisional management can say there were "..not actual problems concerning the...construction of the home.." is beyond me! Maybe they saved money by spreading my first builder way too thin ("20 something" homes at the same time), while contracting out to probable "low cost sub's" who, IMO, were far less than professional in many cases? I know they saved money by having me be their unpaid "Quality Control Person"! We wish Ryland Homes believed that inherent in the purchase of a new home is the right of any customer to expect to appreciate, and then actually enjoy their new home during their first year in it. In our opinion, this is a Ryland Homes potential problem which could stir more online Ryland Homes complaints and negative reviews in the future.
In fact, all tract home builders could now have the perspective that by having 13 months to fix whatever number of problems, complaints, and grievances (valid or invalid) the new home customer has after close of escrow, the pressure and additional cost it takes to deliver a new home as problem free as possible ("home readiness") is taken away. Also, I believe the tract home building industry is now set up more to financially reward "cost savings" by their employees, than it is to reward both "cost savings" and "customer satisfaction levels" equally. The current down economy has made things even worse for both buyer and seller! This "short term thinking" could backfire on the tract home building industry as buyer Internet usage increases for research on perspective builders. One upset new home buyer said in a comment to me on another Ryland Homes blog post of mine: "Once we move out is when I will write reviews on our builder."
I believe that many national tract home builders save money by not caring, so much, about the "attention to detail" of how well a house gets put together initially. By that I mean that the builder delegates/communicates, sometimes ineffectively, the responsibility of doing the actual work to subcontractors who need to be watched more closely and followed up on. Builders, also, sometimes hire the lowest cost sub's, and then make them fix the problems that they create, with little, or no additional, direct extra dollar expense to the national tract home builder.
Some new home warranty problems are to be expected (maybe even up to 25 of them in the first year), but over 100 problems is not acceptable to me, and should not be to the building industry, in my opinion. Certainly, no new tract home buyer expects to have to get in their car to find their tract's builder, who appeared to me to be "hiding" at times, while always having the excuse of being overloaded with work. I'm sure the National Association of Home Builders agrees, since it has a National Housing Quality (NHQ) Certification that Ryland Homes and all home builders should adhere to. The stated benefits to builders are: "Reduced warranty calls, Shorter cycle times, Increased customer satisfaction, and Improved profitability". That certification is definitely better than just saying "Close on your house and your builder disappears. Unless of course, your builder is Ryland Homes." like in this proposed Ryland print ad from Rodney Rogers (Creative Director & Copywriter).
Also, what would have helped is the Ryland Homes Division manager in Charleston accepting my offer, and coming up to meet with me in person near his Creekhaven tract to discuss how and why things went so bad for my breast cancer survivor wife and I. This would have showed genuine concern on his part, but I never got an answer to my emailed offer on 3/30/09. What would not help anyone, in my opinion, was the 3/24/09 Ryland Charleston Division offer to have a three way conference call between them, myself, and Joe Sabella, the Regional VP of Operations who works for Keith Bass (President of the South Region of Ryland Homes since 2008). The Ryland Charleston Division had not yet answered my 3/16/09 BBB complaint, and I strongly felt that I was only going to get "facile corporate words", as it says in the Cluetrain Manifesto, along with the "..no further action will be taken with regard to this complaint." that I later got from them in their 3/30/09 response to my BBB complaint. While I may not have a legal claim, I feel I have a legitimate ethical claim with Ryland Homes in wasting so much of our valuable time while stressing us over 13 months.
As a Ryland Homes "customer/partner" now who has forgiven Ryland, I'm also concerned about Ryland keeping a good reputation, because the quicker they sell all of the lots/homes in the "now on sale" final phase of my tract the more my property value will go up from its current depressed value. Improved quality controls of all kinds could help avoid much of the negative word of mouth about Ryland that is on the Internet (DISCLAIMER - I have not verified the total truthfulness of the following complaints about Ryland or other builders). Negatives like Fecamacho of Orlando Florida's 4/21/08 posting on Ripp-Off Report.com saying Ryland used high pressure sales tactics, and that he "..found problem after problem during the building process..". Negatives like "Amomymos" of Indianapolis, Indiana's 8/26/08 posting on Rip-Off Report.com saying there were so many problems with their new Ryland home that "we are contacting a Lawyer to see what our right are to have them buy our home back!!!" "Amomymos" may succeed, since here is a 7/11/09 Dallas Morning News online article regarding a poorly built Ryland house. Ryland Homes did buy the house back after attorneys got involved. Keep in mind, many other builders/developers are complained about on ConsumerAffairs.com, so it's not just Ryland.
Our house, over 13 months, had all things fixed except for an "undiscovered from the start" plumbing problem that we paid about $70 for after the first 13 months was up. Even though it was a slow and hidden "not seated properly" toilet leak, Ryland said that they have to cut off fixing problems at some point in time. True, but it seemed "cold" to us after all that we'd been through. To be fair to Ryland Homes, here are some of the unique factors( but not excuses) affecting our negative customer experience, as I see them:
1. My house was left to near last in 2007 at my request, as a Ryland manager agreed to put off the start of my house for about 5 months, so my first local builder was overwhelmed with many other homes (and homeowners) that started before mine, 2. That same builder who, I believe, got a raw deal, needed better organizational skills IMO, and needed to be trained better to eventually return customer emails and phone calls no matter how busy he got, 3. IMO, local tract builders don't have enough power to quickly replace poorly performing sub's on their own, 4. All the homes in my tract were newly designed homes that Ryland had never built before.
These things, and others, spur me on to make many constructive suggestions. The biggest one is that all tract home builder upper management should give the local, on-site builders more power to be able to terminate subcontractors who continually cause follow up problems for the customers and the local builders. It wastes everyone's time. Replace those ASAP with new, more "quality from the start" sub's that are located in the nearest local market vs. further away. The short term "cheapest" subcontractor may wind up "costing" more in the long term when it come to "word of mouth" advertising. I have a friend in NY that will now, never buy a new tract home when he's ready to move down here. He's telling others. Some other suggestions are in:"Ryland Homes Sales Policies (Problems & Kudos)" = Better disclosure of "upgrades" in model homes. "Ryland's Verbal vs. Written Sales Incentives" = Better disclosure of incentive details in writing. "Ryland Homes Air Filter Constructive Suggestion" = After construction, change clogged air filter with a new and better one.
I gave my not so good "customer satisfaction" feedback to Ryland through their survey company, Eliant who they started using after being with J.D. Powers who gave Ryland's Charleston Division an "About average" rating in 2008 for 5 of 10 categories. I heard nothing back except that "three way conference call" offer I described above that I would have preferred be a "three way email". I find it interesting that Bob Mirman, founder and CEO of Eliant, was quoted in this 4/06 BuilderOnline article entitled "Service Magic - You can't pull great customer service out of a hat—it requires constant diligence". He said: "..it makes no sense to promise a defect-free home. Especially when you consider that even consumers who purchased homes from the top 20 ranked builders in the J.D. Power survey still had, on average, 10 problems per home. You are better off making promises that you can keep, such as a realistic closing date, how long it will take you to respond to warranty requests, or that you will repair every item listed on presettlement walk-throughs. Keep in mind that the second most important factor in the weighting that J.D. Power uses to compute scores is home readiness." "Home readiness" does not mean having about 60 things wrong on my initial "Punch List", and my expectations would have been met if I got some things fixed quicker, and I only had about 25 things wrong during the first year warranty instead of over 100!
While I have Christian forgiveness for Ryland Homes, here are my three, mostly unselfish, requests that I hope will result in a "Win - Win - Win" (Ryland Wins with more & happier customers - My Community Wins with fountains - My Wife and I Win by helping others):
1. Preferably, a face to face meeting with Chad Dreier (COB of The Ryland Group, Inc.), as I want to humbly suggest to Mr. Dreier my many improvements for customer service and customer relations that may affect Ryland's "cost to build" budget in the short run, but more than make up for that in the long run with increased sales based on good "word of mouth" online and offline advertising. Chad Dreier is on record as saying he wants Ryland to be more "Customer friendly", but he probably doesn't know what is going on "where the rubber meets the road" in every local Ryland development.
2. I believe that Ryland would sell more homes in the Creekhaven development if there were fountains in every pond. In fact, word has it around the tract, that prospects are now going away saying that all other tracts in the Prince Creek Development have fountains except for Ryland. So, I am requesting that Ryland buy and install in a minimum of 5 fountains (one for each pond) which would cost about $10,000, in total, according to a quote my neighbor got.
3. I am requesting that Ryland give my professional "Punch List person" neighbor, Mike Sipio, full time benefits even though he only works part time. He works, right now, for Ryland Homes without benefits, and was our ultimate "diffuser #1" (peacemaker), when so many things were going wrong. We would have gone "nuts" without him. If possible, put full time/employed people like him in every small tract, who live in the tract and are neighbors instead of just an independent contractor working part time. A neighbor is more conveniently located and feels more long term "accountable" than any sub, and usually more friendly."