Odenza Homes (Now Odenza Homes West)
Pros: Web site, marketing, final look to their homes, impressive designer
Cons: poor communication, sloppy administration, schedule and budget overruns, over worked staff
In 2010, when we decided to build our home, we had contemplated doing the general contracting ourselves but decided it would be much less stress to have someone else take the lead. After much searching and reference checking we decided to use Odenza homes. Unfortunately the problems started right from the design stage. The drafts person who did the plans didn’t really seem interested in what we wanted; in fact the first thing she insisted on was designing the look of the exterior of the home before we had even talked about what we wanted the interior layout to be. She neglected to include two important details; more about those later. We realized from the beginning that something wasn’t right so we started to keep a detailed log of every conversation, email, phone call etc. In the end that document ran to over hundred pages. If it were not for our designer (Kim Van der Slagt), who is a wonderful and talented lady, we probably would have cancelled our contract.
The general contractor assigned to our project was a great guy with significant experience. We were one of the first projects he was doing for Odenza as he was new to the company. In the beginning he was easy to talk to and very receptive to our questions. Unfortunately he was quickly swamped with the number of projects he was asked to do by Odenza. One day, when his workload became too overwhelming, our GC let slip that he was doing eleven homes for Odenza! Isn’t 3-5 the norm?
In the first couple of weeks of the project when I was at the site I noticed that the foundation was badly out of square so I called the GC. I was shocked that he could have missed an error so large. When he came out he couldn’t believe it had been done so badly. He apologized saying that he had been busy with other projects. It must have been some time since he was last there because the forms had already been removed. From that time on we knew that we would have to take on a much more active role in monitoring the progress.
It would take up too much time and space to list all the problems but here are some of the significant errors:
• After the walls were framed we discovered that all the windows were placed a foot too high.
• We planned to have a basement suite until the mortgage was paid off at which time we would take over the space and turn it into a media room. To do that one of the walls had to be removable. After all the framing had been completed we noticed that they forgot to put a beam across what would be the new media room opening. That would have allowed for the later removal of the wall. To fix that they had to cut back all the joists and insert a beam.
• We had planned to have a four way vaulted ceiling in the master bedroom but the drafts person decided to make it a two-way vault and the trusses where ordered accordingly. To fix that they had to back-frame to correct the problem.
• The painters were stoned most of the time and that was reflected in their workmanship.
• The basement suite laundry closet was way too small for the laundry machines we had chosen and we had to buy a special set.
• Before they broke ground Odenza gave us a step by step budget where they supposedly priced everything out. They badly miscalculated the cost of the siding saying that they didn’t realize that we wanted the entire house covered by Hardy type shakes even though it was in the final drawing. The final cost of siding was double what they estimated even though we decided in the end to only cover half the house in shakes.
• Our design included a sink in the garage but they forgot to put in the plumbing and had to dig up the back yard and chip a hole through the foundation to tie in the drainage and water lines.
Don’t get me wrong, the final product looks great. If you’ve reached this point in our review you might think that we were way too demanding and controlling but you have to consider that we had planned to sit back and relax while our dream home took shape. Believe me; we did not want to have to play as active a role we did. I have no doubt that if the GC had been on site more regularly he would have caught problems right away instead of having to play catch-up.
Our GC quit during his second year with Odenza. I have talked with him since he left. He said that, amongst other things, it was too stressful managing as many project as he did. He knew that he wasn’t providing the customers with the level of service they deserved and had paid for. The fellow that took over from him is also a quality GC but I believe that he too experienced the same over-work issues. I can only guess why someone as talented as our designer eventually left.
We eventually had to move in because our lease on the apartment we were renting was up even though the house was nowhere near finished. Within the first six months we noticed that much of the colour-matched exterior caulking had turned white so we notified Odenza. They agreed but said that it was getting too late in the year to paint and said they would address it the following spring. When spring arrived it was very difficult to get someone from Odenza to come out to fix the problem. They sent one of their ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ guys to do some, but not all of the touch-ups. A painter did eventually come out and took care of about three quarters of the problem. It took another year to get Odenza to send someone around to finish the touch-ups but by that time they couldn’t find the Benjamin Moore colour they had used. The painter re-did most of the spots but left one day and never came back. That painter said that she needed access to our master bedroom balcony to reach the final spots but we never heard from her again. Once I finally reached the general manager he said that they had done all they could and wouldn’t be doing any more with the painting. So now we have large spots of discoloured caulking and mismatched paint. He refused to send someone back even though I found the correct paint.
One of the design features we included in the house was lights in the soffits that shine down the exterior of the house. When they were put in I noticed a lot of caulking around the fixtures. I was assured that it was to seal the units. A few weeks ago one of them wasn’t working and when I went to check it I discovered that in order to change the bulb the entire unit has to be removed from the soffit but the caulking prevents them from being removed. Odenza says they are sending someone to fix them. The manager wanted me to take photos of the house and mark each light that was caulked in place! I told him that finding them was simple; just look for the lights with caulking smeared around them. It would have been easier to mark the ones that weren’t caulked in place.
Are you planning to build a new home or renovate an old one? My suggestion is to ask a prospective builder how many homes their general contractor will be supervising. Some very nice people work for Odenza homes and, under a different management style, would probably produce quality homes with a minimum of stress to the owners. I just can’t say that I would use Odenza again with their current approach to business. If you are the type of person who is fine with signing a contract and showing up on move-in day and not being concerned about what is hidden inside the walls of your home then you might consider Odenza as a possible builder for you. We may be out of line but when we pay for something like professional general contracting and construction management we expect it to be done without our needing to be intimately involved. I would however recommend Kim Van der Slagt who now is a principle at Kore Residential and Threestyling Design and Jason Hammond at Infiniti Pacific Custom Homes.
Since writing this I learned that on December 16, 2013, Odenza Homes made an assignment into bankruptcy. I understand from others in the business that they will be reborn as Odenza Homes West with the same management team. If that is the case I would urge prospective clients to use caution if considering this company. I know that we would never consider using them again.