Why won't builders build what people want?

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In the town where I live (and the surrounding area), builders do not like to build basements. They also don't like to build one-level houses. Apparently, the most profit is to be had from a 2-story on a slab foundation. Because that's all they want to build. Never mind that a couple of years ago, the local newspaper conducted a large survey of home buyers to find out what it is they want in a house. Overwhelmingly, the answer was "a one-level house with a basement." The two-story on a slab was not even on the radar.
Presumably, the movement away from ranch houses is due to the ever- shrinking lot size. I remember when a quarter acre was a postage stamp. Now a quarter is considered a "large lot" by the builders. A lot size of 0.11 acre is quickly becoming the defacto standard around here. And for obvious reasons, you can't build much of a house on that unless it's multi-level.
And presumably, they don't like to build basements because the basement adds nothing to the heated living area, and when they're figuring their profits, they have to figure price per square foot of HLA. So to maximize profit, they simply don't build basements.
I sure looks like like home building has become simply an optimization problem. It's disappointing that builders (at least in my town) don't seem to care what home buyers actually want. They build what they want to build.
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JohnV@nn wrote:

No, they build what sells. You can take all of the surveys you want, but all that matters in the end is what people actually buy. Trust me, if what is being built stops selling, then it will stop being built very quickly.
And if you have a house built, you can spec it any way you want. That is what I did.
Matt
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wrote:

As long as you have a signed contract. This is very important. And if you have a professional architect / structural engineer and express your desire to match the home as designed with no changes unless your professional designer gets your permission from you to make the change. CID...
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Chuck wrote:

Well, if you engage a builder and don't have a signed contract, then you aren't smart enough to even own a house. However, if you don't have a contract, then if you don't like the house you don't have to pay for it.
Matt
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wrote:

That is not easy to do. If you don't have contract I think that you really don't have any control over the construction of the house anyway so you can't dictate anything related to the house construction or the architectural elements and plan layout.
CID....
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Well, what they can build CHEAP.

People buy based more on location that what the house actually is. In days past, they were homes, now there merely crash pads that people expect to occupy for no more than three years. Hell, notice how many people without basements park a $40,000 car in the driveway and store all their crap in the garage.

That mindset work for the "Big Three" automakers for a generation or so, then when it petered out, Japan cleaned their clocks.
People are so inured to the cookie-cutter homes, they'd buy anything that's new. I've seen some real verge-of-falling-down crap that was scarfed up like a shark frenzy.
I'm appalled by the builders of $300K+ home that use Wal-Mart quality fixtures.
Matt Barrow
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Matt Barrow wrote:

Say what you want, but the bottom line is that it is not the builder's fault; it is the consumer's fault. If a builder doesn't build what people want to buy, somebody else will and the market will shift. If the market in a given area is staying with cheaply constructed homes, then it is because the area has people who are willing to buy cheaply constructed homes. And, no, I'm not a builder, but I know a little bit about economics.
Matt
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Matt Whiting wrote:

    The average consumer adjust their wants very quickly to what is available. They quickly become drones who openly think they ARE actually buying quality and equally try to deny the repercussions of their actions with a litany of retorts. As posted in this thread, and others, this is clear by they boom of Wal-Mart type stores and big box home centers. It is brutally clear in our political process where the current mantra (post bush) is "stay on message" because eventually you will "drill" it into the masses heads and they _will_ begin to follow. It is a proven method for success. People, in a short period of time, become numb to what is actually quality and what is not. No different than feed lot cattle, they eat what they are fed, period. Show me a cow in a field who will stroll up to a dead cow and start munching, it will never happen. Yet when some vunderkind came up with rendering, vualah.     The masses are no different, and Matt, you are _not_ an average consumer. Thinking because you took a class or two in college and know a bit about economics means you have seen inside the minds, or are in touch with, the masses is utterly naive. I have personally been working in the homes of the "average consumer" daily for almost 20 years now. I see first hand the way they raise their children. The way they rationalize minor and major purchases. I often times see first hand why they actually make the buying decisions they make. It is often times for far different reasons than any they would outwardly confess in a poll or in social circles. I also see, with them, first hand the repercussions of their actions on a regular basis.     This is not solely a consumer driven problem and if you think it is you owe it to yourself to witness it first hand for a few months out of the year. Start a small business doing something in the average consumers home.     I too assign a major portion of the blame to the consumer however the average consumer is not the sole problem. I would say it is moreso the fault of the middle-high end consumer. The one who knows better but does it anyway.     It is a joint problem of those who dish out the food and those who consume it. A fat child is not responsible for their fatness when the mother continually feeds them french fries because of her own reasons.     Personally I would say in today's climate the blame is steadily shifting towards those who dish out the food rather than those who eat it meaning less consumer more retailer. There could easily be an economic revolution causing a reawakening of consumers forcing builders into a return to quality but I dont know what that would entail.
Mark
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M&S wrote:

You need to move to a place with smarter people. :-)
Matt
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Matt Whiting wrote:

Heh, perhaps.
I have lived/worked in the land of Harvard, Yale, MIT, cash galore, and now live in the land of many who did not even get their diploma's and now farm, raise cattle, hunt for food, and do whatever they can for a living. Oddly, its very much the same in both locations.
You can see in the media regularly "Jennifer Aniston seen shopping at Wal-Mart". It is not an issue of wealth or location. Its greed and human nature. Although those two things are virtually one in the same.
Mark
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Think: demographics, now and a generation ago.
A generation ago, people bought a house expecting to live there for 10, 20 years or more. Today it more like 2-3 years. In a way, a basement is for long term storage, and moving things in and out every couple years is not desirable.
In many areas of the southwest, garages are a recent feature. Prior to about the 1980's, carports were considered adequate.
Surveys show people want basements, but they also show people are unwilling to pay the premium required to build them. This is more a matter of tastes and demographics than any form of "greed".
In short, people pay less attention to the WHAT of a home, than the WHERE (closer to work, schools) and basements are wayyyy down on the list.
Build a house with a basement and, say, 1800 sqft for $340K, and a house for $300K, and 2000sf, and the $300K house will sell first, often by weeks or months, especially in the dense cookie-cutter developments.
Custom homes are quite different.
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buck?
BTW, why is someone WORKING to make a better/more secure life "greedy", but politicians and parasites demanding more in taxes "benevolent public interest"?
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Matt Barrow wrote:

Main Entry: greed Pronunciation: 'grEd Function: noun Etymology: back-formation from greedy : a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed
In the context of my my posts this would mean throuh greed people are solely looking to pay as little as possible regardless of the total costs. These are mostly people who know full well there are serious short, long, global, and local, negative consequences linked directly to their actions yet they do it anyway for personal benefit. Its called a lack of social conscience but it is manifsted through greed.
Sticking with the Wal-Mart/Anniston model, many who shop there are not ignorant to Wal-Mart's well established business model with regards to human resources, employee compensation, global market practices, vendor practices, its in the news daily. Yet people like Jennifer Aniston, who by far has the resources to shop at far more conciencious outlets, shops there by choice.
With her bajillion dollars in the bank she smiles cutely at the cashier as she hands the cashier her gold card knowing full well that the cashier likely has no paid vacation, no paid sick days, may full well be intentionally held at weekly hours _just below_ full time in an well publicized effort by Wal-Mart to not pay full time benefits, barely exists on their wages, on and on. Forget about the global ramifications of Wal-Mart bankrolling manufacturing overseas where they dump waste straight into the river, in holes in the ground, child labor, and the like. For 20 years now we have been bickering back and forth that what other countries do to their country side should be no concern of ours. Yet now atmospheric studies are showing clearly that the waste plume leaves Chinese air space within hours and is over the west coast of the US in days. Western China has, and will continue to have, some of the cleanest air on the planet. Ironic that the very waste plume from our low cost goods is actually raining back down on the rockies. So much for the outa sight outa mind philosophy.
The Jennifer Aniston's of the world, and the vast majority of the rest of us, are well aware of these issues and have the means to shop elsewhere but choose not to. Forget about the fact that the consumer is willing to accept low quality (or dilludes themselves into thinking it is quality), thats fine. You can buy junk all you want. Where will the the social conscience of the worlds major retailers, and the customers who gobbled up the low cost goods, be for the numerous cancer pods 50,000 strong and more each caused by effluent outflows from manufacturing facilities constructed to feed our greed for more. Multiply China by what 20, 30, or so other countries where we are doing the same thing? We already did all this to our own country and have been cleaning it up for 75 years. Now, because lord knows we cant act responsibly and learn from our mistakes, we are doing it elsewhere but we sleep soundly because we arent actually "doing it", they are doing it to themselves.
These are the exact reasons why the very politicians and taxes you whine about exist, because we are too selfish, greedy, and irresponsible, to police ourselves and behave in a responsible manner. We cant even manage that locally, forget about globally. You are the very reason these laws and taxes exist, we all are. Its why there are laws about beating your children, chaining your dog, speed limits, drugs, dumping trash, murder, j-walking, sending your children to school. Christ! We have to make it _a law_ to send your children to school! People have to be TOLD to send their children to school and you are wondering why we have politicians and laws?!?! Hell, there ARE people out there who believe(d) that chaining your children in the basement should be an acceptable form of punishment. These people have to be told otherwise by the government and the laws it creates. After that vast amounts of taxes need to be collected to pay the dog officer, cops, EPA, DHS, DHHR, BATF, NEA, and so on.
Its very simple, if you want less government just make the EPA go away. Companies should have been smarter and not polluted rivers, lands, and air. The EPA wouldnt even exist if we were a responsible lot. There would be no need for the EPA. But greed makes people dump into the river rather than go through the expense of proper disposal hence an enforcement agency is born out of the citizens irresponsibility. The same for Unions, OSHA, Labor Laws, Corporate laws, NEA/Education, DHHR, on and on. Dont force miners into the mines without safety equipment and a law wont have to be created that mandates it for you. But greed prevails. It always does. Its human nature. Laws, and taxes to enforce them, soon follow.
Mark
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Take that elitist/collectivist "social conscience" crap and stick it where the sun don't shine.
[rest of PC blather snipped to prevent someone losing their lunch]
--
Matt Barrow
Performance Homes, LLC
  Click to see the full signature.
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says...

Big snip

Builders use "Wal-Mart quality fixtures" because the "Wal-Mart quality buyer" will not pay another penny for better fixtures.
On the other hand the Rodeo Drive Buyer will pay 10K for a warmer toilet seat.
Successful Builders sell what the Buyers in their market want to buy.
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I live in central Indiana & most houses are 2 story on slab. The reasoning is simple. Its very difficult to put in DRY basements when the water level is almost at grade. Frost is only 30" so footers are no where near basement elevation like further north where you have to dig 54" anyway. the added cost is substantial. You could get a 2 story for 20 grand less than the ranch with the basement, & no headaches to deal with when it starts to leak.
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longshot wrote:

Where do you hide when the tornado comes through?
Matt
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we don't hide we go outside to see what all that noise is. It's a Darwin thing. :-)
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for a basement due to the soil conditions. People will build the basements anyway, of course. This leads to a lot of problems including wet basements, shifting foundations, and the damage that goes along with those things. Could be the reason local builder don't like basements is because their soil engineers and lawyers don't like them.
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wrote:

That's only a factor in a (very?) few areas.
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