There is an ongoing debate about whether new homes should have home inspections or not. This debate goes on with buyers who wish to save money where they can, with realtors and with the builders themselves. I think it appropriate to make a few comments. I am sure that it can happen but I do not believe I have ever inspected a new house where those concerns I noted resulted in the deal not closing. Obviously, that is not that uncommon with older homes. That said, I have supplied buyers with some valuable information, and a list of essential repairs required, on new homes.
Does that mean the newer homes really do not need to be inspected? I would say that is not the case because, although it is rare to find "deal-killers" I have found concerns and conditions that a buyer would certainly want to know about. Some of the common, more minor things as long as they are caught before they lead to bigger problems, include crawl space vents below grade; condensate and TPR drains routed under the home; the pressure test cap left on the main sewer vent; gutters with inadequate slope; doors and windows that do not operate; appliances not hooked up; gas fireplaces not hooked up; whirlpool tubs not wired in; missing or failed GFCI outlets; missing door stops and out of adjustment cupboards or closet doors.
Some of the more significant things found, while still easy for the builder to fix in most cases, are absolute must repairs that would be best completed before anyone moves in. Common here (and one of the most common problems in the wet Pacific Northwest) is standing water in the crawl space. As we need more homes for more people, some lots people would not have built on 30 years ago are coming into play. When these are sloped lots, adjustments need to be made for drainage. I have done, just in the past two months, a couple homes where standing water, at the low side, was 6" deep in the crawl space. While it can be remedied prior to the sale, this condition will damage the home over time if it is left that way. And, since the problem is in the crawl space, probably nobody will know about it - the builders did not and they were still present at the job site. Other, related, but common problems of a more serious nature include plumbing drains, including toilets that are not hooked up by subcontractors. Needless to say, this is nasty if missed. Another problem is missing, or incorrectly installed, flashings; concrete poured over wood; heat ducts that are damaged or not hooked up, dryer vents (especially bad with gas dryers where the exhaust gases are also vented through the dryer duct) are loose or terminated in a crawl space or basement area. Another common one, in this region, is builders pass the municipal code inspection and then dump the excavated soil back in the crawl space to save on hauling fees. It ends up all around the posts and structural wood. Over time, this will rot the wood and it is not fun or clean getting down there and digging it back out again, so the builder and his crew should be doing that, not the buyer. Some municipal inspectors often do not pay much attention to railings and safety precautions either. I have seen steps and decks, 7' off the ground that did not have guardrails or handrails yet the homes had passed the "final" inspection.
Basically, my take on it, is that seldom does a realtor need to worry that a good quality new home will have so many problems as to kill a deal. But counting on a warranty inspection in the future, or a builder to make everything right, at some point in the future is not as good for a client as having a good inspection prior to moving in. We all know that a buyer is in a stronger negotiating position prior to paying for the property. It seems to me that many builders are good people, but they are so busy doing numerous projects, and relying on subs, that many things are likely to be missed. And it is better to have those problems repaired promptly, by the professionals than to expect an overwhelmed homeowner to have to deal with something that should not have been that way in the first place.
Thanks for reading,
Steven L. Smith
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