For the first time in my 12 years as a new-home builder, we just had the experience of an arsonist torching a new home that was about two weeks away from delivery to our customer. For me, as one of the team dealing with the customer, and helping them make arrangements as they wait for their home to be rebuilt, the experience has been rather traumatic. If, like me, you have had the unfortunate experience of being robbed, you can understand how it feels. It's like a whole area of personal security is trampled on. There's a heightened level of suspicion and concern that does take some time to ebb away. Now if that's how I feel, it's hard to imagine how shaken our customer feels.
Whenever an aggrieved customer contacts me about the concern or a demand for action, I always try to place myself in their shoes. I ask myself if the concerns are reasonable, and if the response is fair. It's very hard to do in the case of arson. The level of concern may be extreme, even a bit irrational, but it's hard not to sympathize, or to think that my own response would be similar. Other than rebuilding the home as fast as possible, and being of some support to the customer, there's really very little else that we can do. We can enhance site security, but we can't catch the arsonist.
There are a number of rather common items that come up in the building of several hundred homes a year: closing date delays, site trespassing and theft, concerns about building quality, and so on. While these things can become rather normal for the new homebuilder, it can be an acute concern for first-time home buyer. We, the builders, try to remember to respond with the same level of concern, rather than saying ”it happens all the time, don't worry about it”.
With arson, however, everything gets turned upside down. It's confusing and troubling for all of us. I'm very impressed with how well our customers are dealing with the situation, and it will be easier for all of us once we start framing the home, which should happen soon.