How to get a home developer to make a small change to the plans?
June 26, 2014 3:47 PM   Subscribe

I've purchased a new home from a developer. I want to make a small change to an interior item. They are telling me a cannot. How do I get what I want?

I've purchased a new home from a developer. The home hasn't been built yet. I went to the interior design specialist chosen by the developer to make selections, e.g., floors, countertops, etc. I told them that I wanted a larger bathtub installed. They said there were no options in that category. I contact the developer and requested that I be offered the option of installing a larger bathtub. They claimed they contacted corporate and that this is not an option.

There's room in the plans to fit a larger tub. Since I'm paying handsomely for my new home this seems like a reasonable expectation. How do I negotiate this.

Side note: there's a therapeutic reason why this tub is necessary. It's not just for show.
posted by quadog to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you just have them leave the bathtub out and then put the one you want in yourself/hire someone to install the one you want?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:50 PM on June 26 [11 favorites]

You can negotiate anything, call the corporate offices and ask to speak to someone in the President's Office. They can sort it out for you. The real estate people and the lady at the "design center" don't know shit.

The issue may be a permit, but you can sort that out with the plumbing contractor, etc. You just have to get to the right people.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:02 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

You can't get past inspection occ-cert without a tub there. In my experience, when looking at and purchasing new homes "no plumbing changes" were always standard disclaimers.

When the neighborhood was approved, a combo of the house configurations were approved en masse. Corporate doesn't see any decent return on investment of making that kind of change, requiring re planning and approval to sell you that tub.

Take the tub, but before you move in, remodel. Sell or donate the tub to your local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 4:05 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

It is definitely easier to get a tub, especially a large tub, into a bath room at the rough in stage so keep working at this until you get what you want instead of having to change it afterwards. Realistically the only difference a different tub should have at this stage is slightly different plumbing locations (IE: a wider tub moves the drain and taps over half the difference in width between the builder tub and your tub). Squeeky wheel this until you get what you want.

Buttons Bellbottom: "You can't get past inspection occ-cert without a tub there. "

This is only true if you have only the single tub or shower. If there are two full bathrooms then leaving one at the rough in stage won't prevent occupancy. Still it's better to get the large tub in before all the interior walls are framed.
posted by Mitheral at 4:12 PM on June 26

There are 2.5 baths in the house so there would still be functional showers/baths elsewhere in the residence. The tub is also located on the second floor of the residence. Getting a larger tub up there after full construction might be impossible. Thanks for your advice, everyone.
posted by quadog at 4:18 PM on June 26

This might be a bigger request than you think, especially since it is on the second floor. A larger tub is probably a heavier tub, and will be heavier still when it is filled with water. It might require fairly substantial upgrades to how much load the floor can bear, as one example that readily comes to mind.

So, with that and previous comments in mind, I would start with trying to find why they are denying it and what it would take to get accommodation based on "medical need." Look into disability laws for where you are.
posted by Michele in California at 4:21 PM on June 26 [14 favorites]

I am not a developer, but I live in a subdivision that is being built-out and where there is a limited number of home design/layouts/options on offer.

Your developer has carefully calculated his costs - and, by extension, his profits - for each model and option package. It's likely you're getting the answer you're getting because it's seen as too much trouble to re-do the calculations. Plus, it's easier to simply say no across the board than to work out all the various possible combinations once he opens the door to exceptions.

Michele in California makes a good point about the load-bearing capabilities of the second story floor. Her suggestion to focus on medical need sounds like a good one.

There's no harm in following Ruthless Bunny's advice to escalate your negotiations to the top. Keep in mind, however, that successful developers have years of experience saying "No".
posted by John Borrowman at 4:28 PM on June 26

rockindata posing from juliapangolin's account!

Yes, a change in tub size is going to require very significant changes in the house, from structural changes (water is HEAVY!) to plumbing changes (moving things around to accommodate a non-standard drain location ) to possibly an upgrade in hot water heaters and even the gas meter and feed line.

These houses are built in a production line. Most of the components have already been purchased or ordered. The plans have been engineered out (years ago) and probably already approved by the local building inspector.

A request like yours is a very expensive one, and I would be pretty surprised if you could get it approved, even from corporate.
posted by juliapangolin at 4:47 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I would give corporate a call.

We are living in a house that we had built in a development. The firm had "stock" plans and several houses on the road match them. We had the entire design changed to include an en-suite bath connected to the MBR. We also requested and got a slop sink the utility room and a spigot at the back of the lawn. I bring these up because all of these are examples of plumbing changes made to the design and we had them done up front before the foundation was dug.
posted by plinth at 5:13 PM on June 26

Besides the issue of the extra tub & water weight Michele mentions, there's also the physical size of the thing: you say it'd be a minor change, but are you positive? Even if it's the same length and width, is it also the same height? That would make a difference in the wall construction and tiling. If it IS longer and/or wider, then that might mean changes in the wall framing, which in turn might mean OTHER areas of framing or supports would also need changes.
posted by easily confused at 5:21 PM on June 26

If there are two full bathrooms then leaving one at the rough in stage won't prevent occupancy.

Good point that this may be a decision at the municipal or county level.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 5:36 PM on June 26

The problem with a larger tub isn't putting it in. The problem is supporting the weight. They've designed the house so that it can support the weight of the tub they installed when it's full of water. Putting in a larger tub would require them to add additional support beneath it to handle the additional weight of water that the larger tub could hold.

I'm sure that's the issue. And if you, once you are in the house, replace the tub with a larger one, you may someday have the floor collapse on you.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:48 PM on June 26

The problem with a larger tub isn't putting it in. The problem is supporting the weight. They've designed the house so that it can support the weight of the tub they installed when it's full of water. Putting in a larger tub would require them to add additional support beneath it to handle the additional weight of water that the larger tub could hold.

This most likely true. There's also the very slim possibility that upsizing the tub from a standard bath/shower type will increase their calculated water draw from the city enough that they'd have to install a larger meter or something. However, it still comes down to that it's something they don't want to do rather than something they can't do, although their reasons for not wanting to may be quite good. Getting a permit change, even on a house already in construction, is a pretty simple thing, but with the way they roll it might be a large logistical nightmare.

Even solving the structural issue isn't that huge of a deal. You may need stronger support in the wall and floor framing, but probably not enough to make it impossible or require steel. It's extremely unlikely that the weight will overburden your foundation - if they're fast-tracking your whole development, they're likely using a concrete with a final strength much higher than necessary so that it reaches the required strength for them to build on much sooner. If it's taken care of early enough, the structural issues aren't a big deal.

Their main issue is that they'll have a crew of guys for each trade going down every street in the development and doing the same thing over and over. You're asking for every crew to have to remember "oh, THIS is the house with THAT one thing". If anyone screws up, it opens them up to lawsuits, and developers are highly averse to those.
posted by LionIndex at 7:17 PM on June 26

Another potential issue: putting in a larger tub would probably force the location of other fixtures to move down the wall. On a second floor bathroom that wouldn't be an issue as far as plumbing, but there are code requirements for how much space a toilet is supposed to have and things like that; the larger tub may compromise those. Solving that may require putting in a smaller sink vanity cabinet which, again, would be a special thing for your one house in the development, and they've probably already bought the one that's supposed to go in. At that point, you're still at the level of them just not wanting to do it, but if the issue can't be solved by reducing the vanity size, you're looking at moving interior wall locations and revising a lot of the 2nd floor layout - that still may not be a huge issue, but it is opening another can of worms for them.
posted by LionIndex at 7:43 AM on June 27

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