The Fat Lady Sings

Over a month in to our new house purchase from Persimmon and I feel relatively safe in now bringing to an end my running commentary on the process of buying (and waiting) for a home from Persimmon. I’d say its been enjoyable but I’d be lying (badly). The house is still standing and the majority of snagging issues we’ve discovered so far have all been resolved. We have working broadband, a turfed back garden and working solar panels. The majority of this has only been made possible by the people on the site who through the dogged determination of their head office to cock everything up still managed to build our home and fix problems we had.

So in summary what have I learnt over the last 12 months?

  • Never, ever, ever (Cannot emphasise this enough) purchase a new build property
  • If you are silly enough to ignore the above point then please make sure you never, ever, ever (Don’t think I’m joking here) purchase a new build property from Persimmon Homes
  • If you ignore both of the above points then prepare yourself for the worst levels of customer service you are ever likely to experience
  • Take anger management classes. These classes will give you some level of preparation with how to deal with idiots when you undoubtedly have to start speaking to Persimmons head office department
  • Take a creative writing course. This will aid you when constructing the many complaint letters you will end up writing to Persimmons head office once polite phone call discussions have gotten you nowhere. Always remember to send two copies as they are guaranteed to ‘mislay’ the first copy
  • If you are concerned at having to do all these extra things then don’t worry. Its not like you’ll be moving into your new home anytime soon…
  • Purchase a good phone package with extra free minutes. This way when you have to start doing Persimmons job for them when it comes to returning promised phone calls you won’t end up with a large phone bill at the end of each month
  • Consider growing a beard. I managed to produce an impressive set of face fuzz over a two week period whilst I waited by the phone for a call back from persimmons head office. This was of great comfort to me when I woke up in the local hospital from malnourishment as I hadn’t ventured to the kitchen for a fortnight whilst I waited for the phone call that never came
  • See the funny side of things. I took pleasure in the simple things in life, like watching a multi million pound company ably manage to cock up basic common sense situations, like placing solar panels on the wrong side of our house, or constructing a loft hatch halfway over a wall and expecting this to be acceptable. You’ll laugh through some of your own experiences with Persimmon, after you’ve gone though the other emotions. Like pain, suffering, stress, depression and grief
  • Ensure you are on good terms with your current landlord or mortgage lender. So when you tell them repeatedly that you are moving out and then ask to extend your contract or mortgage they are understanding of your plight. Better yet tell them you are buying a property from Persimmon. At which point they will give you at least a 12 month extension to your contract just in case.

Serious stuff I’ve learnt…

  • Stuff gets delayed, deal with it, but when stuff gets delayed repeatedly and you end up having to do a company’s job for them, document it, keep a diary and a record of every single call and letter or email you’ve had to send and where you feel it should have been the responsibility of said company
  • Get them to agree in writing. No excuses that way
  • If you feel you’ve suffered a financial loss then the chances are you have, so claim compensation for your lost time and earnings from the company who have made the mistake. A company suddenly becomes very willing to do stuff once you start suggesting invoicing them for your lost time and effort
  • Don’t accept the first offer and don’t take no for an answer
  • Big companies like this behave and act in the way they do because they believe (Rightly in many cases) that customers are too scared to take them on. Don’t be. You have a ridiculous amount of legal rights available to you that companies like Persimmon hope you don’t know about. Visit your local CAB or find a friendly solicitor who offers the first hour free for advice.
  • Use social media. Large companies hate looking a shower of the brown stuff in front of other customers who haven’t made up their minds on whether to spend their money with a company. By making your issues public and ensuring potential customers of said company can see it you are more likely to get the resolution you want and quicker
  • Read the small print in everything you sign from a company
  • Try and see the funny side of the situation, if you can’t, write a blog about it. It’s a cathartic experience doing this

So there you have it. Practically 12 months after reserving and paying a deposit and six months after the completion date we are in our home and settled. I may occasionally revisit this situation if and when the after sales support from Persimmon requires it.

As for the rest of this blog I plan on continuing to write about the good, bad and ugly of customer service and the companies that get it right or badly wrong. Keep reading and commenting

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Post Moving Day

I’m writing this on a hastily assembled table of packing boxes from my mobile phone (No internet yet). Its been 3 days since we moved into the property and for the most part its been fairly smooth going. The build team on the site have been fantastic and on moving day when we still had a few things outstanding we literally had a packed house of builders and plumbers rushing round fixing bits and pieces. In summary its fair to say the guys on the site here have done a top job and I’ve found very little so far that I’ve had to list for them to resolve in the new year, mostly typical new home things (Which I’ve listed below)

The difference in dealing with a head office and the actual guys on the site doing the work is markedly different. Head office (Prior to us moving in) didn’t have any firm idea on dates, plans or even the good sense to pick up the phone. The guys on the actual site have regularly knocked on the door to check if things are okay and in particular the site manager has continued to check in on us to make sure things are being resolved as promised. It honestly feels like dealing with a completely different company.

As I mentioned above there are a few issues outstanding. The most problematic one isn’t even to do with the structure of the house. Our broadband (Which I expected to have issues with before we moved in) now looks like it won’t be installed until at least the new year. Which is pretty annoying as we were made to jump through a bunch of hoops before moving in date to get it all set up. After we did we found the ducting for the broadband hadn’t been installed and the engineer sent up from London had a wasted trip. On calling the supplier after we moved in I found that Persimmon had given us a random date based on absolutely nothing of substance. The broadband supplier is so concerned with wasting their engineers time that they now won’t conduct any further work on the estate until their own project manager has visited to check all outstanding work is completed. So it does leave us in a state of not having a clue when the broadband will actually be installed. Not great, but also, not surprising! The promise of a dongle for us to use if the broadband wasn’t installed by moving in date was also a misnomer as it appears the expectation is on us to buy the dongle (You normally have to sign up to a 12 month contract for these) and then claim it back from persimmon. Call me a cynic but as it took them 6 months beyond completion date to finish the house I’m not confident I’d be seeing my cash anytime before June next year if I did this. It also doesn’t explain who pays for the monthly cost of the Dongle…

Other bits and pieces are very minor:-

  •  The front and back doors are very difficult to lock, likely to just be a bit of loosening of the doors needed to fix it
  • The garage guttering down pipe currently misses the pipe going into the ground by a good 5 inches which means when it rains the back garden gets flooded with water
  • The back garden hasn’t been prepared (Mainly due to the wet weather we’ve had recently) which means we can’t lay turf yet
  • There are a few minor touch ups on walls that need doing

But in summary its not a bad piece of work they have done to the property to get it into a liveable state. None of the above are showstoppers to us living here and we’ve been promised that they will all be resolved within the next few days, which I’m inclined to believe as its come from the site manager rather than the head office team.

Our little close is quiet at the moment as our next door neighbors don’t move in until the new year and all of the properties opposite are still being finished.

So this post brings to an end my blogging for 2014. What started as an outlet for my frustration at the level of incompetence of one company has transformed into a useful exchange for like minded individuals who have also been severely let down by Persimmon. Its been extremely helpful to me to know we have not been alone this year in our experience but also extremely concerning that one company can continually let down so many customers with one of the most important processes they will go through in their lives. Buying a house is a massive commitment that requires long term investment. This process is not helped by a house builder who cannot deliver to dates and provides shocking levels of customer service on repeated occasions. As I said in a previous post, tread very carefully when dealing with Persimmon. Although our property appears to be sound and the service we’ve received from the people on site has been top notch its taken a hell of a lot of complaining and stress to get to this point.

I hope all of the readers of this blog find a solution to their issues over the next few weeks and months and wherever you are living during Christmas I hope you have a peaceful and enjoyable time.

I’ll be back in the new year to continue my blog.

Thanks

You want to see your house? What a ridiculous request to make!

3 days out from legal completion and my concern that Persimmon seem to be desperately rushing to finish/hide any problems in our property seems to be pretty close to the truth. The reason I say this is that we were supposed to be able to inspect the house on Monday (Prior to legal completion on Friday) in order to check the outstanding issues/any other issues have been resolved.

The annoying thing about all of this is just how broken the communication seems to be between the site manager and the senior management of Persimmon. Each time we’ve had an issue with the build we’ve tried to resolve it with the guys on the ground at the build site as it only seems fair to give them an opportunity to put it right. Each time they’ve failed in a spectacular way to do this. This results in us having to speak to their bosses to get stuff resolved. Making them look incompetent and probably driving a further wedge between their guys on the ground and their senior management. I know from my own job that if I had a customer continually going above me to my boss that it would piss me off. Initially I’d be annoyed at the customer for not trusting my judgement, but then I’d question why the customer feels they need to do this. Am I not doing my job right? Don’t they trust what I’m telling them? Maybe a period of reflection is needed for Persimmons staff at the site??

So for the last week we’ve been told by the site manager that the earliest we can view the property would be Thursday (That’s less than 24 hours before completion) and all week I’ve been telling them that this isn’t acceptable because there is no way that gives any of us contingency to resolve anything that we find wrong (Because I know we will find things wrong). This has gone back and forth like this for a while. I asked what the reasons for this were and was told that they were arranging access to the front of the property. This in itself seems completely contradictory as access to the front of the property wouldn’t stop us, you know, using the backdoor to get into the house would it? That and the fact I’ve popped round a few times to show the kids the front of the house and it really didn’t look like the lack of paving stones would have stopped me in a pair of grubby boots from getting to the front door.

So yesterday I went to the site managers boss to ask if we could have access before Thursday. Unsurprisingly he said after viewing the property for himself he could see no reason why we couldn’t go and see the house before Thursday…

Its this sort of miscommunication and stepping on each others toes that we’ve had to deal with the entire 12 months we’ve been dealing with Persimmon. One person says something, another one contradicts them and the customer stuck in the middle of all of it wonders what the hell the builder is doing and why they can’t just front up on what the actual issues are.

So today we get to view the house. I’ll report back here tomorrow on the state of it.

On a side note I went to see my eldest sons school play yesterday and afterwards was talking to the secretary of the school. We got onto houses for some reason and when I mentioned we were moving she asked whether it was Persimmon homes building it. When I said yes she gave the typical response of a Persimmon customer ‘oh no, you need to be careful with them, we have a Persimmon home and had countless problems with it after moving in’…

I rest my case

Less haste and more speed OR one step forward and two back

We finally have a legal completion date for 19th December. Amazingly Persimmon appeared to have dragged victory from the jaws of defeat. However regular readers of this blog will know nothing is ever as simple as this with Persimmon. So whilst we appear to have at least now received an exchange date, we continue to suffer at the hands of what can only be described as institutionalised incompetence on a grand scale. Some of the joys we’ve had to deal with this week include:-

Broadband installation. The Pastures development will (Eventually I guess) have fibre to the door (FTTP – Fibre to the property) broadband which means much faster, more reliable broadband speeds. Having been contacted by Persimmon last week and told we absolutely must contact the broadband supplier by last Wednesday at the latest in order to guarantee installation before Christmas I made sure I paid and signed our contract with the supplier on the Tuesday (Just to be sure). The actual supplier seems to be pretty good, cheaper than BT and Sky and pretty decent customer service (They are called See the Light if you are interested). We agreed an installation date for Monday 8thth December as this was when Persimmon had informed the supplier that they could have access to install the broadband to our house. Unsurprisingly I took a call from See the Light on the 9th December to say that the engineer they had sent all the way up from central London to install the fibre found that a whole heap of work that Persimmon should have conducted had not been done which meant he was unable to connect our property (And many of our potential neighbours properties) to the broadband supply. When he asked when this work would be completed the construction team replied that they had no idea and that they’d probably have to dig the road up again (Advanced warning for all the non Pastures Brundall residents right here – more traffic lights to look forward to, makes that about the sixth time they’ve had to dig up the main road now…). I’d say I’m surprised by this situation but you know as well as I do now that the only thing that would surprise me is Persimmon managing to do something they said they’d do correctly without me as the customer having to arrange it for them.

 

  • Our final bill. As I’m sure long term readers of this blog will be aware I have a bit of an axe to grind with Persimmons business model of trying to extract the very last penny from their customers for little or no benefit. Ridiculously priced items in their ‘extras’ – read required, catalogue (Luxury goods such as TV points in bedrooms and TV aerials and outside taps…) have left me feeling a little bit annoyed by this. Needless to say it appears Persimmons inability to price fairly and realistically also carries across to their habit of charging customers for things they have already paid for. Our final bill came from our solicitor late last week and contained no agreed discount (We have had £1000 reduced from our final bill due to all the issues we’ve had) nor any reduction for the (expensive) carpets we have already paid 20% of up front. This equates to around £1400 they’ve ‘forgotten’ to take away from our final bill they sent our solicitor. Its only because I’m now going through everything Persimmon do with a fine tooth comb that I spotted it. So I’d suggest anyone who is buying a property from Persimmon checks their final bills for any ‘unexpected’ extras suddenly appearing.

So this week has been a mixture of relief that we finally have a date to move in that is before Christmas and also continued annoyance with Persimmons inability to get anything right the first time. The children are excited about moving in (And to be honest why wouldn’t they be, its an exciting time for them). But for me and my better half this excitement is mixed with a 100% acknowledgment that moving in will be just the start of the problems we are more than likely to have with the house. As I’ve said before you need not search for longer than 30 seconds online to see the countless annoyed and let down customers of Persimmon who remain in broken properties with repairs running at incomplete for years into their time in their properties. So although this battle has (slightly) been won against Persimmon the war certainly isn’t over.

So what can we learn from the above?

  • Persimmon cannot do basic maths or paperwork properly – check your final bills carefully for any iffy figures. I can assure you Persimmon won’t be checking when they send the bill to your solicitor!
  • Despite already having to pay us a fairly large reduction of our final bill (That they then forgot to reduce) Persimmon continue to rush and miss things which will just lead to me claiming further costs from them later. It’s a vicious circle of failure because if Persimmon had been half as apologetic as they now are with us I would have given them the benefit of the doubt with these sorts of things. If we’d been kept up to date throughout the build and not had to do all the chasing ourselves I’ve have let them off missing the installation of broadband and lived with it for a few weeks. Instead because of how rubbish they have been throughout the process and how they continue to make basic mistakes I will pursue them vigorously and log every little thing that goes wrong and detail it on here as a warning to other potential customers. Needless to say I’ll also be charging them for my time and effort to find and rectify their mistakes.
  • Just because you receive a completion date don’t assume everything is suddenly going to resolve itself. You’ll see from the above that Persimmon have now had to legally provide us a completion date (Otherwise we could have walked away from the purchase at this point) but are continuing to make silly mistakes, which tells me they only have a little confidence they’ll hit the actual date, meaning corners are going to be cut, things will be done quickly and mistakes will be made, remaining undetected until we move in probably – which is why I’ll be making sure we have someone independently do the snagging for us.

7 days to go now to completion, lets see what else they can mess up…