Day 2 – My First Staff Meeting

Every couple weeks, all of the project managers, the head of accounting, the head of construction, the CEO, the CFO, the COO, and the head of sales get together to discuss the status of each of Comstock’s ongoing projects, their progress, milestones, sales reports, setbacks, etc. It’s about 15 people in a room discussing everything from land acquisition, to development and construction, to sales, to HOAs. And after that, those 15 people take the desired paths drawn up in the meeting and delegate their one hundred employees to forge those paths.

On my second day, I had the privelege of being able to sit in on one of these meetings. The meeting began with an overview of the Company Calendar and an update on the progress of a new website template that Comstock plans to use for all of their project websites. After that, we moved on to status reports for all of the Southern California projects. While it would take too long detail the progress of each of Comstock’s five SoCal projects, we did spend an especially long time discussing one project in particular: the Springville site.

The sales team at Springville has hit an unusual dilemma. A retired lawyer has purchased one of their townhomes, and, in accordance with California Energy Code Title 24, the home must be equipped with solar panels. However, the purchase of solar panels are not included in the price of the home, and residents are required to lease them from Sunpower, a solar energy provider. The problem is that the lawyer wants to his lease as an LLC, and Sunpower is refusing to send the lease for signature because they want him to sign it as an individual. Apparently this is not Comstock’s first problem with Sunpower; previously they refused to send the lease because one buyer was not a US citizen, and another time Sunpower fought the leasing of the solar panels because it was the buyer’s second home, and not his primary residence.

Naturally, this problem had to be solved, because Comstock can’t sell the house without solar panels, lest they be in violation of Title 24. So came the brainstorming; the first idea was to include the solar panels as a purchase in the price of this man’s home. The only problem with that is that the man bought a townhome which is attached to other townhomes on both sides. This means that solar panels on his roof would come as cluster that covers the whole roof of multiple connected townhomes, not just his own. So it makes little sense to carve out a piece of that solar panel cluster and allow this man to own his own panels. Furthermore, if the man owns his panels outright, then he will be required to maintain his panels, whereas if they were leased, then the HOA would maintain his panels. So the staff moved to uncomplicate things, and see if Pete, the head of construction, could ask the Sunpower representative in Camarillo to make an exception. Sunpower has made exceptions before in the foreign buyer case and the second home case, so it shouldn’t be a stretch, but if they refuse this time, then Comstock will include the purchase of the panels in the price of the home along with a 10 year warranty so that if the buyer has any problems with his panels, then Sunpower will be required to maintain them at least for the next 10 years.

It was also decided that for future projects, Comstock may include solar panels in the price of the home. It seems that when the panels are required as a separate lease, many buyers become confused–about both the lease and the technology–and things can turn hostile. On the other hand, GE appliances are included in the price of the home and the buyers never complain about how much more money that adds to the price. So hopefully this move will alleviate some tension between Sunpower and potential homebuyers. I must say, despite the fact that meeting ran for three hours, it was very informative and interesting. It was fascinating to see how Comstock handles dilemmas like this one, and surprising to see that this one individual’s problem was discussed for upwards of 45 minutes. It’s refreshing to see the lengthsto which Comstock goes to satisfy their buyers, I can’t wait for the next staff meeting!

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