You are getting a new home built to your specifications! This is so exciting! What could go wrong? You have checked out the builder. Everyone is great! You are there watching the construction on a weekly basis as your house grows before your eyes! The city or county will be doing a final inspection. They have you covered! What could go wrong?
The short answer: Lots!
Plan to get an inspection - or even several - on that new home as it comes along.
Here are five reasons why you need a home inspection - even though you may think you don't need to have.
1. The Code Inspection Only Assures Compliance with Minimal Building Standards
You know that the local municipality in which the new construction home is being built will perform their own final inspection. Once the municipality has completed their final inspection, they’ll issue what’s called a certificate of occupancy. This documents that the property is up to local building codes and is safe to live in. In other words, it meets minimal building code standards. A building code inspection does NOT take the place of a home inspection - because it is NOT a home inspection.
Keep in mind that in many localities, the government inspectors are busy and do not have time to carefully look at all aspects of the new home. That actually is not their job. They are looking for code compliance. Often, by the time the county inspector makes a site visit, your builder may have put up the drywall, thereby covering up the electrical and plumbing. There are even rare allegations that inspectors have gotten kickbacks from builders to encourage them to provide a clean bill of health.
Having said that - make sure that your contract includes language which requires that code issues must be repaired or the agreement will be terminated. In many cases, purchase agreements used by the builder will not include such protection for the buyer.
2. Inspections During Construction Are the Best Time To Identify Hidden Issues
There are common issues that are regularly found during new construction inspections. Issues such as leaking plumbing, missing GFCI protected outlets, and exposed roof nails are a few of the most common. When the dry wall has already been installed it is harder to identify the source of the problem - and then fixing the problem involves repairing not only the problem itself but also cutting the dry wall and then replacing it!
For example, a new home buyer complained that there was noise coming from the walls whenever the water was turned on in a particular bathroom. It turned out that the pipes had not been properly fastened to the infrastructure. It was a simple fix - once the dry wall had been cut in the right place - but it would have been an even easier fix if there had been an inspection before the walls were closed up!
You won’t have to deal with the dust and noise from repairs, or the inconvenience of having to stay home from work while workers are in your house. While there will likely be some minor touch-ups that will need to take place after you move in, the big issues will be taken care of.
When you go to resell this home, you can bet that the buyer will have an inspection. At that point, you might be stuck fixing issues that should have been fixed at the outset by your builder! That is a horrible thought to contemplate!
3. New Home Construction Involves Lots of Different Subcontractors Who May Not Talk To Each Other
Building a home is complex. Many different subcontractors and their employees are working on a different system of the house usually without regard to the other house systems. Each subcontractor is there to do a particular job and then move on. With all the separate activities occurring at the same time, it is nearly impossible for the builder to carefully check all phases of construction. Even the best builders will likely miss something.
Essentially, there are a number of different companies that are providing trade services for the builder: site work, masons, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, sheet rockers, roofers, painters etc. These trades people are usually on site for only a few days before moving on to the next work site. They are focused on getting the job done and moving on....often at the expense of compromising quality.
Unless you have an inspector walk the roof, crawl through the attic, pull the breaker panel and more, there is a good likelihood that mising roof tile, piggy backed breakers, and black mold will be overlooked. All of these and many more problems can be detected by your inspector.
4. You would have an inspection on a re-sale to learn how the house works -
Why not do the same on new construction?
You would have an independent inspection on a re-sale, in part so that you can learn more about the home and how it works - and in part to make sure there are no issues.
Yes the builder's representative will do a walk through with you for about an hour right before closing to explain the house to you, but is that the time that you will really be able to absorb everything? When you are walking through with the builder's rep it can be a little overwhelming to absorb all that information. Your head will likely spin like most new home buyers!
An inspection with a professional inspector before closing gives you a chance to understand how the house really works and to ask all the questions that you need answered on your time frame. This inspector is working for you so he will make sure you know exactly where the turn off valve is for the whole house or how to switch the air flow on the ceiling fans as the seasons change.
5. An inspection at the 11 month mark gives you a last chance for warranty repairs
That one year warranty from your builder probably comes with an 11 or 12 months out "punch list" opportunity? Certainly, the builder won't be your on call handyman for all the little things that happen during the period when you are just getting to know your house, but most builders will come in and knock out all reasonable wear and tear items on your punch list before the 12 month period ends.
This is a perfect time to hire an inspector. Most builders will take responsibility for almost any items that an inspector writes up. Don't miss this opportunity to make sure your new home stays picture perfect!
Won't the Builder Be Annoyed?
Some builders will try to discourage you from a home inspection, for several reasons. Some builders claim this will void their insurance policy and are afraid someone will get hurt during the inspections. Other builders don't want their employees bothered by too many questions from the inspector, while other builders just say: "We will provide you with a house that has been approved by the county inspectors, so you do not have to worry."
The good builders welcome an inspection or two.
I think it is a simple question - which builder do you want to work with? The one who discourages you from an inspection or the one who welcomes and encourages it.
What inspections should you have?
While you can have only one or multiple inspections, I encourage you to get at least some. This is an ideal and probably exhaustive list that I encourage my buyers to consider.
1. A pre-pour inspection. This confirms that the builder has installed the foundation and reinforcement to the specifications of the engineer or architect who designed it. The inspection judges the integrity of the moisture barrier, the steel placement, plumbing, and adequacy of the forms, among other items.
2. A framing inspection. The next phase of the inspection process is typically called the framing inspection, or pre-cover inspection. Once your home’s roofing material, exterior cladding, and windows have been installed, your home will be ready for the interior sheet rock and insulation to be installed.
Because the sheetrock and insulation cover some of the critical materials, like window flashing, electrical wiring, and your home’s framing components, having your third-party inspector evaluate and report on the quality of work is paramount. Once the sheet rock goes up it is too late. Many defects can lay dormant until well after the home warranty has expired, leaving the home owner responsible for any needed repairs.
3. A final blue tape inspection. The final inspection should be scheduled a few days before your scheduled walk through with the builder. This inspection will identify any defects or issues that need to be fixed by the builder. It will include mundane items like paint chips or scratches and more important ones like loose fixtures. The inspector will mark everything that needs to be repaired with blue tape and give you a list for the builder's rep to make sure all the issues are addressed.
4. Dont' forget the close out inspection at 11 months! You want to make sure that your home is in picture perfect condition for years to come. It is in fact easier for the builder to address the repairs if you have a complete and clearly stated list for him to work from.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it can be, but you won't be the one doing it. That is the whole point! You will have a competent professional inspector working on your behalf. And hopefully, you will have an equally professional Realtor working for you. If you are planning on building a home in the DC Metro area, please give the Lise Howe Group a call at 240-401-5577 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love working to protect our clients in new construction. There is so much more to new construction than just signing a contract - and we will be there for you - each step of the way.