I have chosen to write a narrative about my experience with Gemcraft Homes so that I can better describe my experience, but also utilize this format to send this review to coworkers, family members and several social media sites. At the time of writing this review, I am approximately 90 days post settlement with Gemcraft Homes and have experienced numerous issues which will be described in this narrative. If you would like to save yourself from reading the six pages, I can summarize this narrative in a few short sentences. If you ever decide to purchase from Gemcraft Homes, please reconsider. I have owned three new homes and this has been the absolute worst experience I have ever had with a new home builder.
It is imperative to stress the fact that without the efforts of sales representative Justin Hensley, we would have never purchased a Gemcraft Home. It is unfortunate that he has decided to pursue other ventures with another competing builder because he was an asset to Gemcraft Homes. Mr. Hensley was extremely thorough during the sales process and his professionalism was appreciated by both my wife and me.
Unfortunately our experience went extremely "downhill" from when Mr. Hensley left Gemcraft Homes. Once Mr. Hensley left the organization, we were assigned to another sales representative (and I use that term very loosely) Bob Stone. I am failing to find the words to properly describe our dislike and disdain for Mr. Stone. Mr. Stone can only be described as arrogant and smug. From my initial telephone conversations and meetings with Mr. Stone, I felt that I was never receiving information that was either correct or complete. During my interactions with Mr. Stone throughout the construction process, I was given numerous assurances that were incorrect or directly contradicted the information provided by the production manager, Joe Ruello.
Mr. Stone was not responsive via email or telephone. Most return calls/emails could take 2-3 days (not counting his regularly scheduled days off of Thursday/Friday). At one point, I had to drive 30 miles to visit the model (where Mr. Stone was that day and with a customer at the time) to interrupt him to obtain the name of the correct propane provider for the community. He had received several emails from myself and Sara Bixler who is the settlement coordinator (over a 3 day period when he was working) and had not responded to any of them. I was being pressured by Ms. Bixler to start a new account with the propane provider for the community so that my settlement would not be delayed, but the information provided on the Highland Hills Information Sheet provided to me by Mr. Stone was incorrect. This information sheet included Comcast as the cable provider and after speaking with Comcast (they were not present in the community), they estimated it would cost $100,000.00 to bring cable services and high speed internet to our community. I do not fault Ms. Bixler for this incident, but it is one example of the level of service I received from Mr. Stone during the sales/construction process.
The proverbial "straw that broke the camel’s back" was when my wife and I were sitting at settlement at Chesapeake Title Company in Forest Hill and I received an email from Mr. Stone raising my sales price of my home by $1,800.00 for custom tile that was installed in our master bathroom. This cost was included in our original contract and was listed both in the itemized options that were written by Mr. Hensley and the selection sheet that was provided to me by Mr. Stone. I am not certain whether the fact that Mr. Stone did not read our contract and see that we were already charged the $1800.00 in the contract or the fact that he had no idea that our loan had been approved and we were physically at the settlement table signing documents is most reprehensible.
I can guarantee you that if Mr. Stone had been the sales representative that we had initially met during our first visit to Highland Hills, we would have not purchased from Gemcraft Homes. To add to that point, I have referred two other individuals to Richmond American Homes who are looking in the North East, MD area. I am fully aware of the gift cards that are offered through Gemcraft Homes for referrals, but I cannot bring myself to refer ANYONE to Mr. Stone. I currently have a Gemcraft "stock" home next to mine, and have had the pleasure to speak with numerous visitors of the home and tell them of my experience. I am certain none of them will be considering writing a contract on the home anytime soon.
I had numerous issues through the construction process and would like to break them out into sections for organizational purposes. I would like to mention that all of these issues listed and described below were brought to the attention of Joe Ruello by me and were not the result of regular inspections by the production manager. These items were addressed via email and telephone call with Mr. Ruello and the majority of them required multiple follow up conversations to resolve the issues.
Framing:The framing company did not do a thorough job on the framing of my home. They were extremely slow in the framing process and did not read the plans/selection sheet prior to performing the work. They had the main level framed when I brought it to their attention that they were missing a bay window in the front of my home.
Through an addendum shortly after the contract was written, I agreed to compensate Gemcraft Homes $850.00 to glue and screw the subfloors in my home. This became a very large issue from the beginning because the framers took it upon themselves to nail the subfloor. Joe Ruello was contacted on numerous occasions that the floors were not secured by screws and I was continually guaranteed the work would be completed. Only after the luan and laminate was laid in the home that the floor had to be torn up for the framers to come back and screw down the floors. The framers had almost 45 days from the time they completed framing to the time they actually returned to secure the subfloor with screws. At this time there are several areas of my home that were not secured properly and we have both flexing of the floor and squeaks. The screws were also driven into the floor by a pneumatic nail gun and we have several areas that we can feel the screw head through the carpet and padding due to the nail not being flush with the subfloor.
In our architectural plans, it was noted that we would receive a 24" plant shelf above our dual walk-in closets in the master bathroom. This feature was originally brought to our attention originally by Mr. Hensley during the process of writing our contract and we never received this feature with our home. It was explained to us by Mr. Stone that there was a change in plans and we would only receive a 6" shelf. He explained that the Avondale model in Highland Hills did not have the shelf, and we would not receive one either. He was not willing to compromise with us on this matter and we were given a "take it or leave it" stance from him. I continually argued that it was in the architectural plans and that the framers either made a mistake or the wrong materials were ordered. Mr. Ruello advised us that the 6" shelf would not be functional and we proceeded to not continue arguing over the matter.
Siding/Roofers:As stated in our contract, the home was to be built with the Dow 3.3 Tuff board. This board was to cover the exterior of our home and the seams were to be taped so that it would increase the overall "R" value of our home and heating/cooling efficiency. During the framing process, the framers ran out of Tuff board material and left the job site for another project. When the board arrived on site, it was installed, but the seams of the board were never taped. This was brought to the attention of Mr. Ruello via phone and email and I was assured that the board would be taped. As the siding was installed, the board was not taped by the siding company and work proceeded on the home. It was brought to the attention of Mr. Ruello again that this board was not taped. After a scheduled visit to the home with both Mr. Ruello and the siding company (who had guaranteed us that the work was completed properly), the siding was removed and the board was not taped.
During the process of the installation of the siding, the side of our bump-out near our front door was covered with vinyl siding. It was stated clearly in our plans that this was to be completed with the Bucks County Rubble stone as per our contract. This siding was required to be removed for the masons to complete their work.
The bay window of our home was originally covered with shingles (matching the roof) which was a clear contradiction to our contract/selection sheet that referred to a bay window with a metal roof. The reason I mention this is because there have been an extremely unnecessary amount of holes been placed in both the exterior panels and Dow Tuff board of our home due to the sub contractors not reading the selection sheet/contract and the production manager not being on site as often as needed to guarantee the work would be completed properly.
The trim molding ordered by Gemcraft Homes which was sent to the job site was incorrect. Our selection sheet stated that we would receive almond colored trim molding, and the product that was delivered was white. This was also brought to the attention of Mr. Ruello by me, and it was resolved. The unfortunate result of this mistake was that the drip molding trim near the roof line was destroyed by the team performing the trim work. We were over 45 days post settlement before the work had yet to be completed to fix the drip molding. I was recently visited by the siding foreman (on December 24th) and he assured me that the work would be completed in the next few weeks. His roofing teams are based out of New Jersey and none of them would like to travel to Maryland to fix work that was previously done incorrectly. He assured me that on his next "roofing job" in the area that they would visit to replace the drip molding. That was not the case. For a resolution to the issue, it took several emails and calls to Mr. Ruello to convince the roofing company to repair their mistake.
Electricians:The issues with the electricians have been minor and have been resolved with calls directly to Benfield Electric. I have been missing numerous light bulbs throughout the home and it was explained to me by the representatives at Benfield Electric that they do not provide the bulbs, and only perform the work.
One of our recessed lights in our kitchen was improperly installed with a fixture that was designed for being mounted in a bathroom over a tub. The electrician removed the rubber gasket and reinstalled the fixture so that I could install the recessed light that was missing. There is a missing bolt in the electrical panel in the basement that remains to be missing, but one can only assume that it is non-essential due to the fact that I have electricity in the home and that there are 7 other bolts holding the panel in place on the wall.
Procurement: (I am referring to the department that orders all of the materials for each build)I have developed a list of items that have not been correct on my home that have either needed to be replaced or have never been provided to me at this time.
1. Stairs: The stairs from the main level to the 2nd level were not correct and installed by the framing company. I brought it to the attention of Mr. Ruello that our plans clearly stated a "waterfall" style stair.2. Trim molding: As described in the Siding/Roofers section of this review, the molding was ordered incorrectly and it created further issues that required repair.3. Electrical fixtures: At approximately 40 days post settlement, the light fixture in my pantry in the kitchen was installed. It was not available during the construction process.4. Light bulbs: I was missing approximately 11 light bulbs of different sizes/wattages throughout the home. At 30 days post settlement and no resolution, I visited the local Lowe’s and installed them myself.5. Jacuzzi tub: I was provided with a Jacuzzi tub in our master bathroom that we did not request or order. We were not thrilled about this mistake due to the fact that this tub will require more preventative maintenance in the future. At the time of our pre-settlement walk through, it was discovered and I did not want to delay settlement with additional work and delays in receiving a standard soaking tub.
Carpet:With the purchase of the Avondale model, the stairs were designed as a waterfall design that became wider as the stairs progressed down from the 2nd level to the foyer. The installation of the carpet on the stairs was a "tuck" method where it provided a very clean appearance as you walk through the front door. The remaining ½ flight of steps going upstairs were not tucked and were "waterfalled" with carpet and had a different appearance than the stairs below it. This was brought up at my pre-settlement walk through and I was advised to speak to L & L.
I also have a bedroom that has carpet which is crushed by the end of the roll. Mr. Ruello explained to me that this was possible and that I would need to address it with L & L. I called the representatives at L & L and was forwarded to a regional manager which took 3 days to return my call. He sent me information via email on the crushed carpet and asked me to wait 6 months to see if the problem resolved itself. I do not think it will, and feel this is extremely poor customer service. I feel that Joe Ruello should have seen this issue during the construction process and resolved it immediately.
Plumbing:To date, I have had no serious issues with the plumbing in my home. I had a few toilets that were not operating properly and the subcontractor was both courteous and prompt in completing the repairs. These by far are the best sub contractor Gemcraft used on my home.
Heating/AC:At 90 days post settlement, there has been no resolution to the failed Energy Star test on my home. I have requested the results of this test from Gemcraft Homes and The Fifth Fuel with no success. All I have received up to this point (February 28th) is a certificate with absolutely no data or reference to the failed test. The Energy Star test was completed with representatives from The Fifth Fuel and All Shore Heating/AC present. After the test was completed and the house failed, one of the two HVAC systems in my home failed to work. I made a call to All Shore Heating/AC reporting the issue and was treated in an unprofessional manner by their operator/receptionist. I was accused of tampering with the system after their representatives left my home. Approximately five hours after my call, a representative from All Shore arrived at my home (from New Jersey) and verified that the personnel from his organization did not properly replace the cover on the HVAC system and it would not work due to a built in interlock system.
Production Manager: Joe Ruello:Mr. Ruello cannot be described as an effective production manager. His presence on the job site (as verified by the subcontractors for Gemcraft Homes) was virtually non-existent. He travels between each job site that is within two weeks of settlement and makes all attempts to clear up loose ends so that he is not responsible for settlement being delayed. I have noticed that since their production has slowed, he is on the job sites in my community more than when my home was being constructed. I can only hope that these buyers do not have the same experience during the construction process.
At our pre-construction meeting he appeared extremely distracted. He spent the majority of the time on his mobile phone and both Mr. Hensley and I had to repeat ourselves on numerous occasions due to him being unable to focus on our meeting. At this point in the process, I should have known that it would have been in my best interest to leave my deposit and walk away.
Our pre-settlement walk through was almost completely identical with Mr. Ruello on his mobile phone for the majority of the time while I walked through the home looking for items that were in need of repair.
Mr. Ruello’s ability to return calls/emails was extremely subpar at best. He would not provide us his mobile telephone number and we were forced to call a voicemail system at the main office. Most attempts to reach him via telephone could take a minimum of 2 days for a response. I was informed by management that Mr. Ruello did not have access to email "in the field" but had seen him return emails on numerous occasions from his mobile phone during our meetings while trying to resolve issues created by his sub contractors.
From my extensive conversations with the sub contractors who performed work on my home, they did not have a strong relationship with Mr. Ruello. Many of the sub contractors made comments referring to how they were treated by Mr. Ruello and I have seen firsthand how we would address them during the resolution of minor issues. I represent manufacturers and we utilize many different sub contractors to complete production work. I can say with extreme confidence that I have never treated those individuals as Mr. Ruello treated his sub contractors who built my Gemcraft Home.
Warranty Service Team:I have had limited experience with the Warranty Department at Gemcraft Homes, but can say that my limited experience has been good to this point. Within 30 days of settlement, I had a leak in a downstairs window (around the Christmas holiday) and Mr. Davis sent out a repairman to address the window issue within a timely fashion. He made several repairs to the home while he was here and was both polite and courteous while performing the work. Unfortunately in February 2013, the leak has reappeared and Mr. Davis was extremely prompt with a return email and scheduled the sub contractor to return and evaluate the issue.
Energy Star:Shortly after settlement I was visited by representatives of the heating/AC subcontractor and the third party energy star test organization. They arrived with no prior notice and I happened to be home and allowed them to complete two required tests on the energy efficiency of my home. After the tests were complete, I was informed that one of the two tests had failed. They could not give me detailed information, but stated that it failed miserably and would need to be corrected. I have made no less than a dozen attempts to obtain this information on this failed test, and have only received a certificate from Gemcraft Homes stating my home is efficient. This certificate has no factual data and looks like something you would receive for participating in a 3rd grade spelling bee.
As explained in the section titled "Management" below, Gemcraft Homes has ignored my repeated attempts to rectify this failed Energy Star test. I have contacted the third party organization who performed the test and they refuse to provide me with the results/report due to the fact that I am not their customer, and Gemcraft Homes is their customer.
Management:The service I have received from the management staff within Gemcraft Homes can only be stated in one word: Deplorable.
Here is the definition I found on the internet of "deplorable"1. de•plor•a•ble /di?plôr?b?l/Adjective1. Deserving strong condemnation.2. Shockingly bad in quality.
Synonymslamentable - sad - regrettable - miserable - pitiable
I truly feel that this word speaks volumes. I have made numerous attempts to contact management within Gemcraft Homes in regards to my failed Energy Star test and have received absolutely no response. I have never encountered an organization that goes out of their way to ignore emails like Gemcraft Homes. With each email I send, I receive no acknowledgement or response. They forward the email to someone else, and I am required to further engage in conversation with the individuals who are not providing me the information I require.
To be extremely honest, I received excellent service from management when I wanted to perform a change order and spend more money with Gemcraft Homes. Those emails were responded to in a prompt and efficient manner. It is obvious as to where their priorities are when dealing with their customers.
In closing…..RUN, do not walk from Gemcraft Homes. If you ever consider purchasing a Gemcraft Home, please contact me first. I will give you an honest, non-biased opinion of how the process has been for my family. If I could do it all over again, I would have chosen another builder.
Review about: Sales Representative.