February 16, 2008

Here's the ugliest truth about those millions of new homes that got built these past few years

The new homes are crap.

* They were slapped up as fast and as furious as possible, with every imaginable corner cut to save time and expense (Energy-efficient concrete block construction? No way - we're using cheap 2x4's! Nobody cares!)

* They were built by an illegal unskilled labor force from Mexico. (Ever been to Mexico? Ever check out the building standards? Well, that's what we now have to deal with in the US.)

* And the builders built in places that for hundreds of years nobody ever thought of building homes (Gee, those power lines aren't that bad. Hey, let's build next to that dump!)

Meanwhile, good luck suing the builders. Most will be bankrupt and gone by the time the defects rear their ugly heads. Good luck suing the people who built them - they'll have high-tailed it back to Mexico. And good luck getting anyone to buy one of these crap shacks with cracked foundations, leaky roofs and paper-thin walls.

It's not just location, location, location. It's quality, quality, quality, and these McMansions are plain and simply crap.

If you buy one, at any price, it's simply your fault, and you'll have nobody to blame but yourself.


keith said...


I forgot to mention, the quality of the sawdust furniture bought to fill these crap homes is also crap.

Go compare the construction of quality furniture, or antiques, vs. the crap put out (and overpriced) by the likes of Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, IKEA and more

It's crap. It's disposable. Just like the houses.

My last few places in Europe have been 200+ years old. How many of these homes built in America in the 2000's will be around in 200 years?

None is my guess. None. Zero.

And that's pretty sick.

Anonymous said...

They were built by an illegal unskilled labor force from Mexico.

But I thought illegal Mexicans were such "hard workers!"

>>> Ya, maybe when it comes to committing fraud!

Anonymous said...

The same thing happened during the 80's real estate boom. The builder inspectors couldn't keep up and corners were cut drastically. In SoCal, many of the condo projects that were built ultimately sued the developers for construction defects. A whole cottage industry sprang up from this and when it was all over, they moved on to Vegas. Now they will spread to all the bubble areas.

My buddy has a 250 year old house in France and it is really built well. Give me a 70 year old house in the states anyday.

someone said...

well keith, how do we found find a decent home? I mean most people will buy a house when the time is ready, but how do we pick the good ones out of the bad ones if they are all crappy?

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with you regarding the quality of construction.

However, in Mexico much of the construction is concrete block.

Funny to think that Mexico has better construction than us.

keith said...

I lived in a house in Boulder Colorado in the early 90's that was built during the 80's boom. When the wind blew it actually moved the curtains inside the house. Our electricity bill was almost as much as the rent, so we burned wood to heat the house.

It looked great, probably was a show home when it was built.

And it was crap.

History reapeats itself I suspect. Especially since these houses were slapped up by unqualified and untrained illegals.

The true scope of the problem won't be known for some time, not until the homes start falling apart.

I'd be REAL careful if buying a home today. Might have looked great on a brochure or website, but don't be deceived by looks. Just like many things in life.

keith said...

Homes are like wine vintages - there are some good years and some bad ones and everything is local.

Power bills are a good clue. Don't buy any home made with 2x4's. Don't buy any mass-produced home. Stay away from homes built 2001 - 2008. Don't buy homes built by illegals. Have the home inspected. And ask yourself - will this home still be here in 100 years?

In other words, it's probably slim pickings if you're looking for a quality, well-built home out there in America today.

I'm not a tradesman or expert so anyone in the business please chime in.

Meanwhile, marvel at this mansion I'm living in right now in France, built in the 1800s. The construction is SOLID. This thing will be here in 500 years I'd guess.

My flat in London was built in the 1800s and felt new.

And the place I rented in Croatia, a stone house built hundreds of years ago (and recently refurbed), it'll be there for hundreds and hundreds more.

Now go to Phoenix, drive out to some of the new suburbs, and just laugh. They'll be lucky if they're there in 40 years. The US would be better off if they just bulldozed these cardboard houses and started over.

Anonymous said...

In my area the old pioneers stayed away from exposed ridges when they built homes. The new pioneers are building for the view and finding out that the wind blows relentlously 365 days a year. I'm seeing some houses that can only be resold to people new to the area. By the way, the suicide rate in my area just made the number one list. Coincidence?

Anonymous said...

My sister's old house, which she sold to some marks from California for a nice profts, was on the verge of collapse after 6 years. It was built by Grand Homes. There were so many defects that she gave up on trying to get the builder to fix them all.

Anonymous said...

Here's my 2 cents...

Most homes over 30 years old have many problems:

* Functionally Obsolete:
- no first floor bath
- basement low ceiling / dirt floor
- electrial not designed for modern loads / not GFI protected
- closets too small
- doors / door hardware old style and modern replacement hardware won't fit without major renovation.
- design/ floorplans are not functional with today's modern living requirements.

Want a few examples: There is an old city (Bexley, Ohio) that is full of this junk. Most homes are over 70 years old. During the housing boom, folks there were taking on 2nd mortgages for making $150K additions to $200K homes, so that they could get a functional family room and 1/2 bath on the first floor. Even with the additions, these homes could only be resold for no more than $250K resulting in at least a $100K loss for the sheep. But until such time as the prop was sold, the county jack the prop-tax up to the artificial appraised $350K-$400K range.

This area, like many others like it are now suffering from large FORECLOSURE rates.



Buy a new house and what Keith said is 99% TRUE. By that I mean that you have a 1% chance of getting a well built new home.

I have personally inspected thousands of homes in the mid-west U.S.; this is what I found.

The only homes that are well built are very high end homes built by small custom builders for TOP DOLLAR.

I have seen a few track homes that were purchased by a TRADESMAN (a person who possessed many construction skills) who literally gutted out the trash installed by the builder, and then custom installed high quality fixtures resulting in very high quality housing. However, given the fact that such tradesmen almost never move out of such custom built homes; they tend to only be found at estate auctions.

So, If you want a high quality home that will stand the test of time, either: (a) find a small high-quality custom builder and be prepared to pay TOP DOLLAR (typically 20% to 30% more per sq. ft. vs. a typical track home), or (b) purchase $50K to $100K of your own construction tools and spend years learning how to: DO-IT-YOURSELF!


edd said...

Sign up for Angie's List, and
look for the recommended
inspectors (prefer ASHI).

Also check to see if the builder
has a local/state/federal court
docket presence as a defendant.

And then there's blogs/forums/etc.
If it's a duplex or row condo, and
there is no wall rising above the roof,
check out the type of subroof to see
if the infamous fire-resistant plywood
that crumbles in hot weather was used.

A screening mold/radon test is good.
A longwave-uv lamp helps find
problems in basements.

Anonymous said...


ConsumerReports: Housewrecked

Serious hidden defects plague many newer homes. Here's how to avoid trouble.

Last year, consumers bought more than 1 million new homes in the U.S., a near record. Average sale price: $250,000. But a CR investigation has found that increasingly, buyers are discovering that their new dream home has serious defects and that they have more consumer protections for a fickle $20 toaster than for a flawed investment-of-a-lifetime.

Why the problems? Many experts point to the country’s 10-year housing and real-estate boom. The top 100 U.S. home builders together sold an estimated 1,000 new homes a day in 2002, or one-third of all new-home sales.

That pace strained production. While home builders nurture the image of painstaking traditional craftsmanship, most new homes today are produced as if on an assembly line. Building affordable homes means being acutely aware of time and costs. Those builders that are public companies have the added pressure of shareholders to satisfy, industry executives and former employees say. Builders are completing homes in 90 to 120 days. A decade ago, the range was 120 to 200 days, according to one industry study.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Remember REALTORS are paid to NOT point out bad construction so you're on your own

Gabor said...

I live in south Florida and I heard that the towers in Miami are so bad that the elevators don't even go up in a straight line. The people have to walk to their floor. I can't verify this, it's just something someone told me.

Ed said...

I rent a house built in 1967. Windows are crap. Insulation? What insulation? My heating/cooling costs are probably twice what they would be for a similar sized new house.

There's that saying...they don't build houses like they used, and that's a good thing.

TM said...

I just relocated to the Midwest and am renting a "brand new" house that is complete trash. It has granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, not to mention a cracked foundation, paper-thin walls, loose fixtures, poorly hung doors (or maybe it's the foundation doing that) and nails poking through every inside cabinet.

I don't really care, since it's just a warm place to sleep until my duties are done in this town, but I can't imagine that anyone bought this piece of crap.

Anonymous said...


I am a builder in So.Cal, this is an understatement!

Untrained, unskilled labor is only the beginning!

Just look at where these laborers came from and how they lived.

They may be hard workers but their knowledge is non-existent!


They come from various countries with NO construction standards!

Look at the hovel's they live in, the tar paper shacks, the extremely poor construction......and these are the people building your homes!

Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Diego, Orange county...and a town coming near to you soon if not already!


carpet bagger said...

Europe is the exception Keith. Yes there are are many finely-crafted homes in Germany, France, and the UK. But the rest of the world literally lives in shacks. Build quality in the U.S. housing market is, by and large, not bad compared to the rest of the world. Visit Korea, Brazil, China, India, Africa, and you will see some truly shoddy houses.

Lost Cause said...

Don't forget that use of advanced materials, and all of the compounds which have not been tested, that will be discovered to be toxic in the future. It is enevitable.

Carnap said...

Note, that building houses out of wood (2x4) makes the most sense in some areas with earthquakes. Most of the brick houses built in the 1800's would be gone if they were built in California. In fact I remember from the Northridge earthquake of 1994 that most of the buildings that were destroyed were brick etc.

Also, people like to pretend that the building standards were so much different in the past, but in reality they have improved. The only buildings from the 1800's that are still standing are the best built ones, all the crap is long gone.

Anyhow, a house doesn't need to last 200 years. A wood built house can easily last your lifetime though and that is all that matters.

Oh, and I'm sure that the "illegals" can do just as good a job as the high-school drop out hillbillies that were doing the construction before them.

Cow_tipping said...

My neighborhood in charlotte NC is actually one of the better ones IMHO. I had it inspected and I am a civil engineer by education, not current occupation. Anyway, I will not buy a very old house. Over 30-35 years = lead paint and asbestos. No way. However, 1975-90 is not a very good time for design. 90 and up, I am good.

Anonymous said...


If you were building a home from scratch in the USA today. What basic construction design and materials would you use.

Curious since I've always thought a trip through Europe should be mandatory before building a custom home.


Anonymous said...

Why don´t you build houses with bricks and concrete over there in the States? Bricks aren´t that expensive (altough i know that labour is).
My apartment (built with bricks, stone and concrete) is over 50 years old and i´ve never had a water leak, moisture or mold... Also, i don´t need air conditiong in the summer (30ยบ+ C) or heating during winter.

I dont understand why the richest nation in the world builds houses out of sticks. No wonder a stronger wind razes an entire neighbourhood.

PJ, Lisbon PT

yes they're crap said...

Yes, new homes are for the most part complete crap construction quality wise.

However, there's a rather large selection bias there. Sure those 200+ year old buildings are still going strong, however, chances are there were a bunch built in 1800 that have fallen apart in the meantime.

Of course, everything that is still around is built well, that's why it is still around. Selection bias.

DOPES said...


"Summary: Wood I joists, a type of engineered lumber that resembles steel I beams, are excellent building materials. Some come with pre-cut holes or can be drilled into. However, in fire conditions having wood I joists can be disastrous."



"By the year 2005, it is expected that engineered wood I-joists will be used in over 50 percent of the residential homes built in the USA and Canada."



Anonymous said...

Not a problem. When you're negotiating the purchase of your lot just be sure to include the demolition costs when you're reducing the asking price. Heck, the fool paid to build that pile of rubbish, he shouldn't mind paying to have it removed.

john r said...

We went to Houston two years ago to look at houses because the prices were relatively cheap. We went to one upscale housing development, and the sales person took us on a tour about a block away from the sales office to look at some of his houses being constructed. Observations: 1) a 2X4 that was used on one wall was about 75% missing. When I mentioned that the sales person said it would be caught and corrected during inspection. Yeah, right. 2) the entire construction crew was Mexican and they were speaking Spanish. When I asked one a question, in English, I might as well have been speaking Russian. Quality Control in my opinion was totally missing. We gladly left that development, and Houston.

Anonymous said...

Here in Phoenix one problem that has been written about in the local paper is building on unstable soil. This results in excessive settling that causes foundations and slabs to crack, walls pulling away from floors and moisture problems. With all the growth the easy to build on areas with stable soil are gone and unless the builder properly compacts the soil in these unstable areas you will have big problems.

Ruprecht said...

Here is the homebuilders website;


And here is one of their buyers websites;


happy homeowner in the stix said...

Keith, I actually got some really nice furniture from Restoration Hardware about eight years ago. It still looks terrific even after a couple of cross country moves.

Ikea stuff though is the most disposable crap imaginable.

beebs said...

My thought is to buy a house that is 30 to fifty years old.
My wife and I bought a starter home that is 50 years old.
The construction is solid. yes, the wiring needs to be upgraded but I had two new grounded outlets installed for my entertainment room. It only cost 200$. Plus they put in a new 20 amp circuit breaker.

Anonymous said...

I had clients from India and they couldn't believe the low quality of homes here. They called our homes flimsy cardboard boxes.

Anonymous said...

If you are thinking about buying a house, my advice is to make sure it was built by Union Tradesmen.

My Dad was a Union Carpenter who took his job seriously, and when there was a problem he made sure it was corrected and built the right way.

I've personally worked on Multi-Million Dollar Homes that made us laugh when we came in to do the finish work.

Drywall is one thing, the rest is nothing to play around with.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Old houses have good construction, but they need a lot of improvements to improve their energy efficiency. McMansions are disgusting... but with today's technology we can build much more energy efficient houses than in the past.

Anonymous said...

First off let me say i've been a long time reader and love the site. but it just dawned on me when i saw the remax video advertisement...
I know you have to make money too, but to accept cash from those you despise and talk so much trash about?

That's just like realtors lying their way to make that next commission...

I don't know what im trying to get at here but it seems like the ones you hate so much also help feed and pay your bills...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

hope one does not find out that the money changers have you paying 10 percent a year of the houses true value in taxes every year in long terms without sales posible long term

Anonymous said...

bought a made in china toaster that did not last 50 uses....

Anonymous said...

What in the world ever led anyone to think of concrete block construction as energy effecient. They have little more insulating value than aluminum cans.

Anonymous said...

"Remember REALTORS are paid to NOT point out bad construction so you're on your own"


Anonymous said...

and....they dont usually have mortgages in mexico. they build the house as there is money to build it, one room at a time.

no mortgage. what a concept.

Anonymous said...

You guys are charitable to call them "Homes". I call them houses. Anywhere I happen to live is my home.

Anything built out of particle board is crap. I live in an old brick house. If I built another house, it would be to commercial standards. Have you ever noticed that virtually NOTHING commercial is built out of particle board?

Particle board houses have been an inferior scam from the day they started building them.

resisting husband said...

1. dont buy a house made out of 2x4s?? Check this out, my dad worked for a construction company and in th 80s they built apartments with 2x4s, but the normal doug fir, they used the cheapest one you buy made out of wet balsa or something. anyway, they put the sheetrock up, and these 2x4s were twisting up so much in the walls they shot THROUGH the sheetrock in a bunch of the apartments.

2. The key word is UNSKILLED. Most of the illegal mexican workers are very hard workers, the problems is that most of the time they have no clue how to anything. Worked for a construction company and this crew of illegals came out and framed a house, but since they couldnt read the planes, the entire house was built one foot shorter than it was supposed to be!!!

3. I had friends come from Jerusalem where everything is built out of stone, and we drove by a housing tract...they were shocked that the house were built out of "sticks" and a little weary when i told them the house they were going to stay in was built the same way.....

4. Sue a homebuilder?!?! good luck! If you read the sales contract from a homebuilder it is almost laughable how many disclaimers and exclusions etc are included. The contract basically says "this thing is crap so we have to do all this to cover our asses."

keith said...

I agree that even in Europe most of the homes are crap - pretty much anything built after 1950

But what I am inspired by are many of the homes built 1500 - 1900. Brick and stone. Built to last.

You want to see a great comparison right next to each other? Visit Croatia. Solid stone homes built hundreds of years ago, next to falling apart communist flats built 30 years ago.

The communist flats reminded me of Phoenix. The stone homes reminded me of Boston.

When I build in the US, I'm building with brick or block. Plus energy costs will have soared so much by then that anyone who owns a wood home is going to regret it.

For the commenter who said "a home should only last your lifetime" - if that's not a joke, it's still funny, and shows exactly what the problem is with America these days. The majority could care less about future generations. That's sad.

Frank@Scottsdale-Sucks.com said...

I'll never forget in 2001 when I moved into a 3000 square foot McMansion near Troon in north Scottsdale. The build was so bad, you'd turn on a light switch in one room and a light would come on in another room. I'd wake up in the morning a find cracks in ceilings that weren't there the night before. Absolute joke.

"Go compare the construction of quality furniture, or antiques, vs. the crap put out (and overpriced) by the likes of Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, IKEA and more"

What's funny is I bought furniture several years ago at Ashley Furniture which is the low-cost leader of furniture (except for IKEA). And guess what - the quality of this stuff blows away what Pottery Barn and the rest are peddling. One of my gf's friends is a self-absorbed Scottsdale chick who will only buy Pottery Barn furniture and I can't believe how fast the crap falls apart, vs. my Ashley stuff that cost 1/4 the price and is rock solid years later.

carnap said...

"The majority could care less about future generations. That's sad."

No, its reality. But really, having to rebuild houses built of recyclable and renewable resources every 60-100 years isn't going to negatively effect future generations.

Also, its a bit cute that you think that "brick or block" are energy efficient.

Ed said...

re: Ashley vs. Pottery barn

It is all the same shit made in the same Chinese factories. Pottery barn puts their label on a couch and sells it for $3000. Ashely pus their label on it and sells it for $1000.

Best place to buy furniture is estate sales and antique stores. Estate sales often have the real good stuff at Ashely prices and antiques, well if they're still around 100 years later, you know they were well built.

happy homeowner in the stix said...

If you are going to ever buy a house in Phoenix, go for one built out of concrete block. The house I grew up in (built 1961) is still going strong. No foundation cracks, no cracks in the walls, probably could withstand a hurricane, and the walls were square (good luck finding that in new construction). The rest of them in the neighborhood were the same way.

And yes...there are some problems with lead paint on occasion, and the wiring might be out of current code. But guess what? You can fix that a hell of a lot easier than you can a cracked foundation on one of those homes out in Anthem.

Make it more energy efficient with some insulation on the roof and installing double pane windows, and you're set. Your commute is shorter, your house isn't gonna be cookie cutter, and the damn thing will last.

True story: One of my old coworkers was always going off about how great her new construction/HOA neighborhood out in east Mesa was, and how superior it was to an old house like mine. Blah, blah, blah. I'll never forget the time when she found out that I was getting a doggie door installed. She told me that because she had a new house, she didn't have to cut through her door like I did. No....she grabbed a serrated knife from the kitchen and cut through one of the walls next to her patio door, and installed it there. Saved her money on getting a new door.

I kid you not.

She was quite proud of that, too.

LauraVella said...

The best homes built in any subdivision is always the models.

When they go up for sale, most times they are advertised as such because typically, the models are more carefully built than the rest of the subdivision.

And remember, never ever, buy the last homes built in a subdivision!

Haste makes waste!

Anonymous said...



I can testify to both accounts. many family memebers in the biz came from Europe 120yrs ago bringing ancient skills... since 1990s illegals alien labor has almost destroyed the business...

these mexicans/guatamalans etc are braindead and have no pride. they couldn't care less about the GRINGO HOUSE they build...that are their words they use.

i heard them say things like, "F this Gringo and his house...we make it real nice for deez gringos"

you stupid liberal yuppies feel sorry for these scum and then you want to sue your builder.

and then you vote for McCAin or Obama..

you idiots..

Amnesty = 20mm x 5 family members each = 100mm from south of the border.

good bye usa.. hello United STates of Mexico..

you idoits.

this is like ancient rome.

go drive around LA or IE, or MIAMI..that is the future thanks to you morons voting in traitors.

Anonymous said...

Need a link to that pic.
Is that REALLY in the US and built with the approval of the relevant local gov.???
Looks either like Mexico or some illegal immigrant shantytown in the US.

HOUSE2008 said...

This is why I'd like to build a Log home one day. Went to this persons house one day & the now retiered engineer built his log home. I kid you not, the upstairs floor were made of 12" diameter cut lenghtwise. I Jumped up & down yet could not make a sound on that floor. The walls were 8" logs with drywall inside. The house must of weighed 40 tons! The neat thing was the many advances that have been made in Log home construction such as self tightening screws on corners setteling issues ect. Some other alternate homebuilding techniques are interesting too such as straw built homes. Believe it or not there almost "fireproof". But like a blogger stated you'll pay TOP DOLLAR for these type of homes.

Anonymous said...

Homes built after WW2 up to the mid 60s are the best value in America. If you can find one with brick that does not have foundation problems it is a keeper. Gut it down to the 2x4s and upgrade all of the electrical/plumbing/HVAC/etc...then use modern insullation that is sprayed in while covering with 5/8 inch thick dry wall. DO whatever you wish inside...granite, new hardwood floor, etc....just keep the exterior like it always was.

Maintain a low profile and if you drive an expensive car keep it parked in the garage so you don't stand out.

These yuppies moved in a few blocks down from me that did the opposite of this. They put pillars and travertine walkways outside and park 2 leased luxury cars outside. It screams "please do a home invasion robbery".

The bubble popping has lead to this trend of idiots who would otherwise have bought in the boondocks where it is all new construction built by illegals to come to the inner suburbs of the 50s and 60s....=( I am troubled by this.

edd said...

When I am presidente, all new
homes must have basements with floating post-tensioned slab floors 8" thick of composite-fiber concrete on 16x24 footers, then insulated poured 12" thick walls of that concrete, which must settle undisturbed for at least 30 days.
Then the first floor must have steel beams every 16 feet, and walls of 12 inch concrete blocks filled with ping-pong balls and concrete.

This is not affordable,
but let them rent.

Anonymous said...

I am an appraiser.

Stop throwing tomatoes.

On my reports if it's a new homebuilder, I will describe this home as being STICK BUILT - if it is wood frame. I've done this for years.

The biggest problem with new homes today is:

1. the slab never cured properly and 2. crap for windows. Water intrusion in the biggest problems. Same with WF (wood frame)condo conversions.

I've seen windows removed in condo conversions with nasty mold growing 2 feet around the windows.

These NEW homes will ALL be crap in 6-8years.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but the homes in Europe are worse because they were built by Muslims not Mexicans. (sarcasm)

Anonymous said...

Why on Earth would I care if my house could last 200 years like *some* houses in France? (As one pster proudly declares.) I will be dead. Should we all hire master craftsman to cut every beam and mount every section of drywall? I guess if you have $2,000,000 for an 800 square foot house it might work.... The quality problems are way overstated on this blog. Even 200 year old houses in France have problems- a friend of mine owns one with his French wife actually, and he is constantly replacing parts of the house.

You want cinderblock instead of drywall? Try fixing that after an earthquake. You build houses out of rigid materials like brick and cinderblock when you don't expect the house to be shaken.

Anonymous said...

"Remember REALTORS are paid to NOT point out bad construction so you're on your own"

So true.