Get a nice beverage, this could be a long one. I think this is realistically the only means for catharsis and a tiny measure of justice.
For context, I've bought and owned pre-construction homes before, so it's safe to say that I'm familiar with how this is supposed to proceed. I'm not some self-entitled 50-year-old nutjob raging behind a keyboard either.
I suppose if you've got scads of money and/or don't have any knowledge or opinion on how your pre-construction home is going to be built, you won't have too many issues with the decor experience. We'll see how the rest of the process pans out once I've taken possession.
I bought a detached home from Fernbrook a year or so ago. Our salesperson, while amicable and polite, ended up providing us with either incorrect or very misleading information - Errors and omissions worth well in excess of $10k. Things you'd think were obvious-to-mention items, like up-charging you $2k to select anything other than the 4-5 standard coloured bricks or floor height upgrades that didn't include an "architecting fee" that was almost as much as the upgrade itself. Why am I getting charged an architecting fee for drawings of a home in the configuration you've sold more than a hundred of? No chance I'm the first person to ever want this upgrade. Even if I were, does it really cost THAT much to draw the exact same home but with the first floor a foot taller? I'll omit my gripe about them being sneaky around undesirable lot features for now, that's at least partially on the homeowner to investigate prior to purchase, but boy, the smoke and mirrors.
This then brings me to the meat-and-potatoes of my compendium, the decor portion. From the get-go, there is absolute pandemonium, lack of proper process and procedures, and a general disregard time. You'll see that my attestation is not the only one indicating this. The business seems to be run more like a mom-and-pop shop. Everything is hand-written, details given can barely be called scant, not to mention that unless you're going top-shelf upgrades, the finishes are very very outdated and of poor quality. For reference, the stuff being offered as 1st level upgrade in a $1.5m home is the same stuff I got STANDARD in a starter home in Milton (the big M builder).
To be fair, my grievances are largely tied to policy/procedure/process break-downs, so it seems to point to the builder as a whole. My assigned-consultant is not completely devoid of faults, mind you. Some generalities to pick on:
* Who writes quotes and upgrade prices by hand on templated forms? Human error, handwriting interpretation difficulties, omissions, spacing constraints, scribbles, information inaccuracies... You're not writing up a bill for 2lbs of meat at the butcher, this is a home in excess of a million dollars.
* The very first thing we were asked when we began the decor/structural process: "So what do you want?". I haven't been given any information, prices, or options. How would you like me to tell you?
* Devil in the details. You go into this transaction without a full knowledge of all options and typical upgrades, good luck, there's no list. You don't ask, you don't get it.
* Upgrade pricing. I mean, see above comment about re-architecting fees. Moreso despite decor finishes being grouped neatly into tiers, there is no set pricing on anything. You want pricing on all tier 3 tiles so you can choose a nice one that is in your budget? Nope. You have to pick a tile, then I have to contact some remote office and get a price for it. Different tile in the same tier? That's another interaction with the remote office. Your 3hr consultation quickly evaporates when most of it is spent getting quotes instead of making choices.
* Electrical gremlins. Not really (yet?). Good luck finding out where any electrical outlet or fixture is. Apparently pre-approved mechanical and electrical layout diagrams necessary to gaining a building permit, are treated like taboo. Nobody has 'em, nobody see's em. You "think" you need a light fixture somewhere? Pay for one in that room "just in case" it doesn't have one. Need an electrical outlet somewhere specific? Better fork out for the outlet, just in case. Want to know where a light fixture will be placed? "Dunno", but pay over a hundred bucks to move something that could have already been slated to be placed there, just to be sure.
* Shady backroom deals. as if all of the above didn't raise enough eyebrows, this one smacks of kickbacks and back-alley deals. Fernbrook does not employ their own electrician subcontractor when it comes to network drops or conduits (and security-related items). Nope, they refer you to an entirely separate business who has zero affiliation with Fernbrook. If there are any issues with these items post-closing, you deal with this 3rd party, not Fernbrook. Meaning if this company installs shoddy security equipment, you don't have the luxury of documented and enforceable dealings with your builder and/or Tarion. No, you chase this small business on your own. Ditto, if you buy a home, despite potentially closing more than a year later (4 years, as I've come to hear from other owners), you're expected to have bought your appliances right off the bat. But don't worry, if you haven't already bought the appliances and can provide exact measurements immediately, come shop at my buddy's appliance store nearby. They'll provide all the measurements so you're hands-off, and your deadline to provide measurements is magically gone. No pressure this way. Great right? Except the buddy's store is one that is consistently reviewed horribly for skipping delivery dates, delivering damaged or downright defective appliances, then denying any accountability for the issues, demanding that newly-delivered appliance owners contact the manufacturer for warranty service.
At the end of the day, let's be realistic here. This review, assuming it gets approved and stays online, will hopefully reach a few perspective home buyers as a "buyer beware". In the GTA, homes are still selling with reckless abandon, so business will likely not be affected. If you take my notes into consideration, assuming you want to buy a Fernbrook home, you should be much better off than I was - At least you're not blindsided by a train and forced to run a mile-a-minute to compensate for the builder's lack of proper protocol.