Friday, October 1, 2010

My Slow Home

Have you ever had a customer service experience that left you feeling violated? I am in the middle of one. This is the story of my painful experience with Housebrand.

The drama starts almost three years ago. After a long debate as to whether to renovate or rebuild, Erik and I settled on renovate. The next decision was with whom we would take on the project.

We came across Housebrand after seeing some of its finished projects and thought that the signature style fit with our needs. In addition to that, I was a long time fan of John Brown's Slowhome philosophy, which advocates improving the quality of space rather than increasing the quantity; urban living and short commutes rather than urban sprawl, and tailored homes rather than what he labels McMansions. Even the name Housebrand was chosen to reflect the ethos of escaping excess. "A well designed reasonably priced alternative to the cookie cutter world of suburban houses".

Everything seemed to line up.

And now, almost three years after initiating the project that was estimated would take under one year, the house is finally almost ready for occupation (a slow home indeed). I say almost ready because, although I was handed the keys today, every door of the house is obstructed by scaffolding, which makes occupancy a bit of a challenge. At least it is a start, as the move-in date has been 'a month from now' since the summer time.

The project is more than 50% over budget, despite a soft labour and materials market. So much for responsible cost control and escaping excess.

To add insult to injury, Housebrand has been challenging to communicate with. Emails and questions go unanswered and we are left having to follow up, sometimes several times, in order to maintain any momentum on the project. The question of why the project has been delayed by so much remains a mystery that Housebrand seems determined not to address.

Fortunately, all signs so far indicate that the finished product will be lovely, even if it was very slow, expensive and frustrating (Erik having carried the vast majority of this burden).

My hope is that, eventually, I can come to call this overpriced slow home, just 'home'.


Blogger BikingBakke said...

They are slow. In a mild degree of fairness, some of the over budget is due to doing things different,if you're referring to the original starting budget.

Overall, they're not competent process managers. They're designers and architects.

Worst consumer experience of my entire life, bar none. Took a big chunk out of me that won't come back... hate to say it.

November 24, 2010 at 8:21:00 AM MST  

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