The Ryan Homes Dilemma

One year ago when you did a search for "Ryan Homes" on Google one of the top hits was  Today it doesn't appear in the first two pages.  Ryan Homes is trying to clean up it's image.  Perhaps somehow they got Google to change the ranking.  I've even read speculation that they gave clients incentives to write Pollyannish blogs about their building experience to try and pad the Google results.  Seriously... I've never seen so many blogs devoted to a home builder... and they are all pretty cookie-cutter.  I don't know if any of that is true.  That's why I wanted to give my take on Ryan Homes.  Not to complain, but hopefully to give you a little more balanced opinion other than the 2 extremes I mentioned above. I am a Ryan Homes condo owner in Dublin, Ohio (actually it's WE, but I'm gonna leave my partner out of this blog entry -- so I'll refer to everything as I).  I was the 4th house to be built in a complex of 53 detached units.  I love my floor plan (Chantilly Place).  I love being closer to work.  I love all the options and upgrades I had to choose from.  I love that there is a community pool, that the condos are detached, and that there are good sized backyards, that we are on the back path, and that there is a huge park just to the west to take the dog for walks.  I fell in love with the model (also a Chantilly) the moment I saw it and knew it was what I wanted to build.

I didn't know much about Ryan Homes at the time.  So as we all do I typed it into Google, and as I said I stumbled right into the ryanhomesnightmare site immediately.  I freaked out.  But of course, the internet is pretty much filled with negativity and plus this was some whack-job who had a dispute many years ago and was still holding the grudge.  I discussed it with my salesperson, who also was familiar with the site, and she assured me that none of the horror stories were true and that Ryan Homes did a nice build.

So I signed the contract and the hole was dug shortly after July 4th 2012.  I am anal.  My father was a builder.  My grandfather was a builder.  I know what quality is suppose to look like.  I know how ethical a contractor SHOULD be.  So I expected a lot.  And I made this clear to my project manager.  So I was over to the construction site at least every other day.  I had built 2 homes previously and I knew you needed to keep on top of things, especially when lots of subcontractors are used.  The build went well and my project manager was patient with me and took the time to explain anything I asked about.  He really treated me with respect.  Unfortunately... towards the tail-end of my build they had SO MANY houses trying to beat the year-end deadline, that I think he started to get overwhelmed and let some things slip.  He has since left the company (some people said he was fired).  I had no problem with him.  In fact I was sad to see him go.

The last 2 weeks of my build he was really stressed.  He actually asked me to stay away because there were just so many details and I was getting overwhelmed and taking too much of his time.  I respect that he asked me to do that, although I wish I had been there for a few items to verify (like the missing support post I will talk about later).  Finally we reached the closing date and the final walk-thru.  My list of uncompleted or unsatisfactory items was HUGE.  There was paint all over the vinyl windows outside.  The stairs squeaked in multiple places.  I can't even remember how many issues there were, but there were lots.  I went ahead and closed with the agreement that they would come and fix all the items on the list after I moved in.

And they did fix everything, but in the meantime, the list kept growing.  I suppose at one point there was at least 30 items outstanding.  This might be entirely typical for a builder that mass produces houses.  When I mentioned things during construction (squeaks or crooked walls) they said they'd hit those items later at "knock-out" time.  In other words, they have a tight schedule and the train keeps on moving and it's more cost effective for them to send in a crew later to tear down walls and fix them than to fix it at the moment the problem is discovered.  Yes... that seems backwards, but I kind of understand their reasoning (no... not really... I was just saying that... I still really can't figure it out).

I'm not singling out Ryan Homes either.  I think any mass-production builder that hires out to the cheapest subcontractors will experience these issues.  My expectations were just set a little too high.  The good news is, that one night after I made a snarky comment on the Ryan Homes Facebook page they called me up directly and asked what they could do to make things right.  BTW... they've since blocked me from posting any comments on their Facebook page (LOL).  So I got specialized treatment and I've had them out to my house probably a total of 5 or 6 full days to fix things.  And the crew that has done the repairs has been exceptional (except when they bring in subcontractors -- then things start to fall apart again).  The lead guy has shown me nothing but respect (if you want to see disrespect -- see my earlier blog entry on Artistic Concrete).  He has listened to all my requests and gripes and been patient.  He has shown a true concern for the entire community and was visibly upset on one visit when the neighborhood was a mess with construction debris (it looked like a war zone).  He has assured me the issues we've seen in our neighborhood are pretty typical and he knows what things to look for.

So I just reached my 10-month review.  The list is down to 4 or 5 items.  I'm feeling more comfortable in my own home.  The floors don't squeak as much.  The water-pressure still sucks.  The kitchen is friggin' awesome!  The morning room is beautiful in the morning (and in the evening).  The sunken landscaping has been fixed.  The gutters don't leak.  But damn it... I'm still anal... and I find things to worry about... to the point that I make myself sick sometimes.  But I did spend a chunk of change on this place, so I don't think my demands or expectations are unreasonable.

Recently we started a community Facebook page.  I'm a huge contributor to it.  Perhaps I've gotten too involved (our HOA isn't very active yet).  But the Facebook page has helped a lot.  I've posted about what issues to look out for, we generated a community-wide issues list we sent to Ryan Homes, and I've learned from other people's building experiences what to look out for.  And that's where the missing support post comes in.

During the build I asked the project manager about these 2 posts in our great room.  I didn't like them and asked if we could have them removed.  He said they were facades and that after the build I could remove them if I really wanted to.  Turns out... no they aren't facades... the woman down the street had some issues with hers and come to find out there was suppose to be a metal support post inside one of them.  They fixed hers and told her they would correct all the others in the neighborhood.  I was never told.  It wasn't until she mentioned it on Facebook that I asked Ryan Homes about it and they fixed mine as well.  I am baffled where the inspector was in this process.  In fact, Ryan Homes has a class-action lawsuit against them in Pennsylvania right now for not putting insulation in an outside wall that had plumbing in it.  Number one, where was the inspector again?  And number two, what drywaller doesn't realize there is no insulation and goes ahead and drywalls over it anyway?  I'm pretty sure my Dad never would have done something like that.  But a subcontractor?  Hell... why not?  It's probably something the Project Manager should have been on top of as well, but again... he was probably trying to manage too many homes at one time.

Alright... so.... you might think I'm complaining.  But this is actually meant to be a positive critique on Ryan Homes.  Our home is lovely.  Our neighborhood WILL BE lovely (once the construction mess is out of here).  I look forward to the day my repair list is complete (and new stuff stops breaking).  Ryan Homes has some terrific floor plans.  In my experience they have terrific customer service.  Our salesperson was outstanding (in fact she is moving into the neighborhood... if that tells you anything).  I think the real problem is middle of the road building materials and poor quality subcontractors.  Hopefully that's something Ryan Homes can work on rather than making sure no more snarky comments are left on Facebook (well... they should probably still block me).

If you're thinking of building with Ryan Homes and you don't have the money for a custom builder... then go for it.  Just keep on top of things and demand perfection.  Are they the best builder in town?  Nope.  Are they the worst?  Nope... I think that belongs to Fischer Homes (well... in Columbus that's what I hear anyway).  But if your looking for affordable, well then probably a good option.  I hope this helps you if you stumble across this site in your searching.  Heck... maybe someday I'll show up in the first page of results for Ryan Homes.