It''s a new house, I don't need an inspection, right?

By
Home Inspector with Aspect Inspection
https://activerain.com/droplet/x4

 

As an inspector I’ve often heard "I don't need to get an inspection, it’s a new house."  Big mistake, made by the inexperienced,most often young couples.  New construction is where the biggest problems exist.  The problem is not 'glue verses wood' or any other technological innovations.  Each technology selected is a working durable system and as long as it is fully implemented and integrated into the home construction it's fine.  The knowledge is there.

The problem arises from lack of supervision both in the architectural decision stages and the on site management.  It used to be the norm that a building was erected by a general contractor who put a full time supervisor on site and directly hired (on payroll) all the required manpower and tradesmen.  Only materials suppliers were subcontractors.

Now there are no general contractors like that, they are project managers, and everyone working on the building is a subcontractor.  So there is no supervision, or very little, and no one has detailed responsibility for any given building.  Developers are often the project managers themselves and are having sections of a development or series of condo structures being erected at one time.  Typically they are concerned with managing contracts, controlling costs, and making sales at the same time.

Any given tradesman may be 90% finished his work at quitting time Friday, and then be sent to another building site or condo come Monday morning.  These gaps in work completion are expected to be noted at later inspections and be completed with final punch lists (deficiency lists).  Work proceeds, walls get closed and gaps and errors are not seen till problem symptoms show up in occupied dwellings.  If an apprentice has made mistakes or a tradesman is less than competent with a new technology, then errors and defects will be present.  Too often when such errors are found, they are corrected at that point, but rarely does anyone go back over the previous construction work for correction.

 

For example, there are many (16 to 18) new ‘engineered flooring’ systems that have replaced the old wood joist - cross-braced traditional floor framing.  They are great.  They don't squeak.  They are stronger.  They are lighter.  They can span greater distances.  Etcetera.   But detailing at rim zones, stair openings and passthroughs for electrical, plumbing and HVAC equipment is different and specialized for each system.  Additionally there are code-mandated reinforcements required at perimeters, openings and above (and below) bearing partitions.  The specifications are different for all of them.  They are not standardized and they cannot be mixed with traditional floor framing.

Even for a floor framing contractor it would be nearly impossible to know all of it and the other tradesmen who come later to install or pass their systems through the flooring, they know even less of such detailing and reinforcement requirements.  This is where knowledgeable supervision and coordination through the course of the site work is valuable.  Ask any inspector how many times he's found framing badly compromised or weakened to pass plumbing, wiring or air ducts.

That's only one example.  I could easily talk about similar problems with insulation and vapour barrier systems, building framing ventilation, attic ventilation, fire blocking, access panels & hatches, framing protection at windows and doors, window wells and foundation drainage, plus building envelope and roofing flashing-counterflashing systems.

There are lots of new materials / products available that offer improvements or lower cost / labour installation.  They have benefits but equally their use and installation has new detail requirements.

You might be lucky.  Some systems may be overbuilt and minor deficiencies never cause a problem (roof trusses in the 70s for example).  The symptoms of some errors may never show up for years and be hard to diagnose.

Certainly the builders never see them and can't relate  to something they may have missed.  Once the walls are up and the finishes installed that’s all you can see, the finishes.  That's usually what sells the house, but the value is in how well it is built.

“New builds” are not automatically inferior.  As a matter of fact all eras had similar standards problems (or lack of), poor workmanship and rushed construction concerns.  Those buildings either got replaced or corrected over time, so now all the ‘old’ ones are ‘good’ ones.

Just like antique furniture, the well crafted and well maintained remain.  The substandard got renovated or replaced.  There are relatively few ‘dogs’ around and even they are usually modernized, at least in part.

There are lots of houses build before the Civil War (and WW1, WW2, etc.) that are no longer seen.  Some are gone because of fires and random acts of nature but many because they weren’t as well built as the ones that do remain.

That doesn’t meant that new houses are categorically ‘ not as good’.  They just don’t have enough history yet.

So unless you've commissioned the construction of a new home and paid a professional to supervise that construction you can't know what you are getting.

If you are buying a new home, condo or town house, under construction or soon to be built by a developer, then hire an inspector to do a new construction series inspection for you.  This will be multiple visits and photo documentation through all stages of construction with periodic or phase reports and comments from the inspector.

The previous two scenarios are your best options but at the very least have a newly built home inspected at the time of purchase.   A Pre-Purchase Inspection.

The final walk through inspection at the time of property turnover with the builders’ inspector may be presented to you as your inspection.  But that is not the case.

That inspector is usually on contract with the builder and is working for the builder, and the purpose for them is to establish a list of items or details that remain to be completed as their final obligation to the buyer.  That list is usually minor finish defects, paint, hardware or some exterior items that cannot be done now due to the season or supply delays.

But that is not a pre-purchase home inspection and that means you have not done your ‘due diligence’ with regard to the purchase of the property.  What that means is that you may not be able to get resolution from the courts if a problem manifests later.

Once you sign that list and the other paperwork, you are on your own but for the good will of the builder.  To be fair, most of the time you’ll be OK.

The best you can do to protect yourself is be represented by your own real estate agent (no additional cost here) and to have your own inspection done on the property, regardless of type or age. If you can have your construction series inspector checking for you through all the phases of a new build, so much the better.

 RB

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Rainer
30,328
Carrie Trotter
National Property Inspections - Dayton, OH
Home Inspector

Well Said, Robert. It's a small investment to have an unbiased party inspect the property for you. Additionally, inspectors can point out maintenance items that don't necessarily need focus right now but will need attention down the road.

Jan 04, 2011 06:36 AM #9
Rainer
66,205
Ken Speer
Alpha Global Associates - Phoenix, AZ

Robert ~ this is great insight and commentary on new builds.  Anytime I have a buyer, I insist on an inspection.  Many times I've heard of issues from other people on new builds, even after the punch list has fixed the obvious.  Thanks for the insight.

Jan 04, 2011 06:39 AM #10
Rainer
171,030
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Thanks for bringing that up Barbara;

Public awareness of radon is not very high here in the Montreal area. There hasn't been a high incidence of occurrence reported to date.

This is likely due to the prevalence of sedimentary silt (clay) soils through the region but it is not a uniform condition so the recommendation is to have the testing done.  It's not expensive or invasive and it's the only way to know.

Where there are laws governing radon testing, new construction is not exempt and the predilection for finished basements in this climate means more people spending significant time in basements, sometimes sleeping there.

That makes radon testing even more important.

RB

Jan 04, 2011 06:49 AM #11
Rainmaker
622,210
Morgan Evans
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY
LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON

Here in Manhattan, new construction condominiums is a pretty big part of the market.  Knowing the reputation of the builder and if they have had major problems in the past is an extremely useful piece of information to have along with the ability to inspect the property if need be.

Jan 04, 2011 06:50 AM #12
Rainer
101,829
Dave Leiderman
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Ocean City, MD
ABR, SFR - Realtor - DE & MD Beaches

I've always suggested a home inspection on a new home but until a few years ago it never became apparent why.  A former co-worker of mine, a Realtor, bought a new construction home from a well known builder.  She figured for $300 it was worth the peace of mind.  What she found was so much more than that.  The builder and subs made glaring mistakes including no insulation in an entire wall!  From that point on I have strongly recommended a home inspection, referencing my friend's experience.  I'm glad you brought this to light!

 

 

Jan 04, 2011 07:01 AM #13
Rainmaker
131,333
Karen Pannell
Real Living / Home Realty - Owensboro, KY
Owensboro KY Real Estate -270-903-2167 Homes, Cond

Amen and Amen!  How about a house that had been issued a certificate of occupancy (C0) when there was no natural gas running to the house - the major source of heat - and it's January!  Last year, I had the county building inspector (not Daviess County) call me to "inspect" a home I had listed for sale.  He said the purpose of his inspection was to issue the CO!  What?  So, again I say, amen and amen - NEW CONSTRUCTION NEEDS A HOMEI INSPECTION!

Jan 04, 2011 07:06 AM #14
Rainmaker
563,893
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

ideally, one should have multiple inspections throughout the process, but that can be difficult for several reasons: builder approval, many won't acknowledge it even if it is done, etc. It is a very good thing to do.

Jan 04, 2011 07:33 AM #15
Rainmaker
571,668
Bill Gillhespy
16 Sunview Blvd - Fort Myers Beach, FL
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos

Hi Robert,  Yours is an exceptionally well researched post.  An inspection is cheap compared to most problems they reveal.  Best of 2011 to you !

Jan 04, 2011 07:57 AM #16
Rainer
27,869
Ken Land
Fairway Independent Mortgage - Weddington, NC
NMLS#108157

Very good post!  Personally I could never buy a house - new or old w/out one.  I saw years ago a top producing Realtor I work with buy a house.  She walked me through it before we closed and I found out then she had opted not to do inspections.  Later she was dealing with foundation issues.  Turns out the back corner of the house was sinking and needed to be fixed immediately........other minor issues that all came with a very big price tag. 

Found it odd - she always told her clients to get one.......

Jan 04, 2011 08:12 AM #17
Rainmaker
205,372
K.C. McLaughlin
RE/MAX United - Cary, NC
Realtor, e-PRO, Homes for Sale - Cary, Raleigh NC

I have heard many stories about how horrible some of the new houses were being built especially when everything was booming and new home building was booming. I always recommend that my buyers get a home inspection (almost insist) to protect themselves and make sure that everything was built right and is up to code. I always go to the inspection stages as the new home is being built as well.

Jan 04, 2011 08:20 AM #20
Rainmaker
528,208
Karen Feltman
Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group - Cedar Rapids, IA
Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

This is great information!  I always recommend home inspections for new construction as well as pre-existing homes.  You are right that there can be issues that are not discovered until it is too late.  Thank you for sharing your knowlege!

Jan 04, 2011 08:32 AM #21
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Robert, Nicely written. I particularly like your points on older construction. I have always thought the same, the poor quality homes are gone and only the well built remain. It just makes sense.

Jan 04, 2011 08:35 AM #22
Rainmaker
1,244,485
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Robert,

You are exactly right about buyers, and sometimes their agents, feeling there is zero need for an inspection at a new home. They are almost always naive.

Jan 04, 2011 08:46 AM #23
Rainer
137,004
Brent & Deb Wells
LivingWell Properties - Prosper, TX
Prosper TX

Robert,

If our client's decide to not have an inspection done then they must sign a form showing we advised them to have one and they declined. Its for our protection since they are so valuable to have...

-Brent

Jan 04, 2011 08:49 AM #24
Rainmaker
449,857
Vickie McCartney
Maverick Realty - Owensboro, KY
Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY

Hi Robert~  I can't understand why anyone would ever buy any home without an inspection?  New or used they all need one! 

Jan 04, 2011 09:06 AM #25
Rainer
120,219
Steve Ewing - Keller Williams Realty
Keller Williams - Stockton, CA

Robert - Old or new a home inspection is not something that gets left out.  The same is true with a home warranty.  There are too many things that can go wrong.  Who is the buyer going to come after if there are problems that could have been avoided by that home inspection?  Gee, that would be the agent that sold them the property.  Better safe than sorry.  Thanks for the blog.

Jan 04, 2011 12:15 PM #26
Rainer
171,030
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Thank you all for your interest and comments.

FYI Bill it wasn't researched at all, but right off the cuff as I know it that well.

When recommending inspectors to your clients look for depth of knowledge, experience and good communication skills.

Thanks, RB

Jan 04, 2011 02:39 PM #27
Rainmaker
108,639
Patricia Zars & Lane Rogers
Z&R Realty - San Antonio, TX
Making Moves. Making a Difference.

One thing I am seeing a lot of these days for new construction homes is the 10 or 11 month inspection.  Most new homes in our area come with a 1 year bumper-to-bumper warranty...so many are now opting to have the home inspected as that first year starts to come to an end, after they have lived in the home & noticed it's quirks & while the builder's warranty will still cover any necessary repairs.

Jan 04, 2011 02:40 PM #28
Rainmaker
615,399
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Raleigh, NC
Raleigh - Cary Triangle Real Estate 919-602-8489

Robert - Thank you for this great post.  I know a lot of Buyers don't get it.  I work with excellent builders but, they can't catch everything.

Jan 04, 2011 05:12 PM #29
Rainmaker
352,867
Larry & Jacque Ficek
Alaska Dream Makers - Wasilla, AK
Realtors - Wasilla Alaska

Home inspections on new construction homes are often thought to be unnecessary.

We have a great group of home inspectors in our area that take the time to explain the systems, how to run the HRV, ideas on what to do for the first year of home maintenance, even down to the proper care of filters as they go through the home. Not only do the new owners feel more secure in the purchase but they understand a little more of the 'care and feeding' of it too.

There was one home in our area (we had nothing to do with the listing or the sale) but the buyers did not do any inspections. Several weeks after they purchased their brand new home, they began to smell something but did not know where it was coming from or the cause. Come to find out, a contractor went in to fix an issue and neglected to put things in back place when they left. To say it as nicely as possible, raw sewage was being dumped into the crawlspace.

I would like to think that this could have been avoided by having the home inspected.

The other semi-common issue we see with new construction is that the dishwasher may not be connected as it should and leaks occur. These leaks may not be noticed until the damage is done to the wood, laminate or sub-floors. Another simple fix that can cost your buyer money and/or time that may be avoided by having an inspection.

 

 

Jan 05, 2011 05:29 AM #30
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Rainer
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Robert Butler

Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection
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