Tobey tells Builder that since the company opened on April 22, 2005, it has typically asked its field superintendents to handle warranty issues. “We believe there’s value in them doing this, at least part of the time, because it does affect their decisions about how they build the homes.” Chesmar, the industry’s 49th-largest builder in 2011, currently has 14 superintendents overseeing construction activities in the Houston area. (It also builds in San Antonio.) This year, that’s working out to be about a dozen houses under construction per super, on average. Tobey concedes that giving them more responsibilities “takes away from their work week” in the field. “It’s a constant balance” that sometimes requires pulling supers off of some duties.
One thing Chesmar hasn’t run into is a manpower shortage. “We still value bringing people in and training them. There are a lot of people out there [with supervisory experience] looking to get back into the business.”
Graves says the responsibilities Drees hands off to its superintendents (whose title is “builder”) vary by market. “Cincinnati is our home market, and we have a larger presence here than other areas. So we have a warranty department. Builders here are helping out geographically but we haven’t given warranties over to them entirely.” In Drees’ other markets, its builders handle warranty issues “100 percent.” The plusses, he explains, are that “the builder will do a better job up front” managing the house’s construction and can generally sustain rapport with the customer through and even after the closing. The downside is “these guys only have so many hours in the day. Where they used to be involved with 10 jobs in one community, now it’s 10 jobs in five communities, and there’s a lot of driving around.”
Graves hasn’t seen a diminution of field talent as a result of the recession. “We have qualified builders who are the cream of the crop of who’s left.”
Breland has nine superintendents in Huntsville, Ala., and another seven overseeing its construction in the coastal areas of Alabama and Mississippi. It, too, is using its supers to handle warranties, working with the company’s warrant coordinator whose primary job is to schedule appointments. “We’re paying our supers hefty bonuses for completions and zero defects,” says Alford. “So if there’s a callback, we want them to be the ones who deal with it. They are responsible for the house, from bow to stern.” Alford also notes that everything is documented by emails, “so there’s a running tally” of what gets done.
He concedes that superintendents “push back” from time to time “because none of them wants to deal with the customer after the house is built.” But having superintendents handle warranty issues has cut down on the number of callbacks Breland is receiving. “And it’s stepped up our quality. We like it this way.”