Trust is for trust-fund kids. In any other situation, the Russian proverb of “trust, but verify” will protect your best interests. When you’re buying a new-build home, trust in the competence and integrity of your builder comes from getting an independent home inspection. A new construction home inspection by an inspector of your choice makes you aware of building flaws or errors before you close on the property for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
New construction attracts homebuyers because they believe that a new-build home will not need any major repairs or renovations for many years. Although this is a reasonable expectation, you should not assume that a new construction home is free of defects, including costly new home defects.
Why Should I Hire a Home Inspector for New Construction?
Your purchase agreement with the builder will include assurances of quality. Builders back up their work with warranties of at least a year that obligates them to fix issues that emerge after you move in.
To benefit from these contractual protections, you need to KNOW about the new home defects. Then you can report them to the builder and hopefully get a satisfactory remedy without extra expense. A new construction home inspection conducted by someone independent of the building company offers you the best way to root out new home defects before you close the deal.
If you feel like hiring a new-build home inspector would not be worth your money, keep in mind that complaints about new home defects are a perennial topic on local news stations near large housing developments. You only need to watch two or three of these reports to see that a brand new home is no guarantee that it will be in perfect condition or even built properly.
Here’s a sampling of news reports about defects in new construction homes:
From personal experience, I witnessed bad defects in new construction when my employer moved from an old office to a newly built office. I remember as the staff was moving in, the city inspector was looking over the interior. I immediately dubbed him (behind his back) Mr. Magoo, because he was squinting at everything and seemed to have poor eyesight.
His inspection would later prove to be pitifully inadequate. He missed major problems.
The whole building flooded months after completion because the ground had not been graded correctly and no drainage tiles had been put in. I actually got to witness the developer insisting that drainage had been put in while we literally had one foot of standing water touching the building. It leaked inside and soaked all of the carpets.
Additionally, we later discovered that not all the duct work had been connected to every room. The vents were in the ceilings, but the connecting ducts were simply not there.
The first time we turned on the heat, it failed. The HVAC tech we hired reported that the wiring for the furnace had never been connected. Bare wires were laying exposed above the drop ceiling. We soon learned that the original HVAC contractor was in PRISON.
Bottomline, get an independent inspection for new-builds because anything could be going on.
Insist on Your Own Inspection When Negotiating the New Home Purchase
The purchase agreement presented by the housing developer will not automatically include passing an independent inspection as a condition for closing the sale. You will have to ask for an inspection contingency that allows you to hire your own inspector and require remedies prior to closing if problems appear.
Although the standard new-build home purchase agreement will grant you a final walkthrough prior to closing to inspect the home yourself, you want an inspector who knows what to look for. Your excitement to move in can blind you to issues, or you may lack the knowledge and experience to spot a problem. Many new home defects, like moisture problems, don’t rear their ugly heads until people are actually living in the homes, running the water and HVAC.
Hiring a new home inspector will add a few hundred dollars to your expenses, but the inspection could shield you from costly issues. Your quality of life and future home value may depend on catching new home defects as soon as possible.
When to Get an Independent New Construction Home Inspection
Home inspectors recommend two inspections during the building process. They don’t do this solely out of a desire to charge you twice. A pre-drywall inspection and full home inspection will give you the most thorough knowledge of what’s going.
Inspecting a home before the drywall goes up allows an inspector to view the wiring, plumbing, framing, and HVAC ducts. Spotting errors with any of these infrastructure elements becomes almost impossible once the drywall goes up. Any problems identified during a pre-drywall inspection are easier to fix at this stage as well.
Full Home Inspection
In the days leading up to your closing appointment, you can have an inspector look over the finished product. Major issues caught at this point could motivate you to back out of the deal. What is most likely, however, is that you will negotiate corrections that the builder must pay for.
If you did not get any independent inspections prior to closing, you could still hire someone of your choice to inspect the home during your first year of ownership. By completing an inspection before a one-year workmanship warranty expires, you catch problems that you can report to the builder, who would be obligated to pay for repairs.
What Kind of Problems Do Homeowners Have With New Construction?
Building a house involves thousands of individual acts. An error can occur at any point due to inattention or inexperience.
List of common new home defects:
- Poorly sealed doors and windows that let in water
- Incorrectly installed siding or stucco
- Bath or kitchen vent fans dumping moisture into an attic
- Badly sealed ducts leaking air and causing moisture to condensate
- Poorly hung doors that stick or won’t close at all
- Cracked walls
- Gaps in trim
- Inadequate outdoor drainage
- Missing insulation
- Missing ventilation
- Scratched flooring
- Roof leaks
- Incorrectly installed appliances
- Leaking plumbing
These problems happen when builders rush to meet deadlines and skip quality assurance steps. The workers basically slap things together and do not self-inspect their work.
Sometimes the workers simply do not know what they are doing. They may be uneducated about local building codes or figuring out things as they go along with little oversight.
Both time pressure and inadequate skills can happen at the same time and result in a new-build home with multiple defects.
Protect Yourself With a New Construction Home Inspection
Although many people have a great experience buying new homes, you don’t want to risk joining the unhappy ranks of people who paid top dollar for construction failures.
You are correct in thinking that a new home should be free from defects, but in reality new home quality can be hit or miss. Even a reputable builder might fall victim to a bad subcontractor from time to time.