New Construction Inspections

By: Eric Badgely

Within the real estate industry, there is some ongoing debate about whether new homes should have home inspections or not. This debate goes on in the minds of many buyers who want to save any cash they can. And the new home builder is, obviously, all for waiving a home inspection. So, often, the decision as to whether the house is inspected or not, comes down to what is recommended by the buyer's realtor. As a realtor, who has found myself in that position more than once, I am going to give you my opinion on this matter.

It is my experience that, almost never, are issues found at new homes that are 'deal killers.' However, that does not mean that numerous problems have not been found. Usually, the problems at newer homes are of the punch list variety -- where the home inspector's list is given to the builder and the crew or sub contractors complete their project. Here are examples of common new construction issues found by home inspectors in my market: significant standing water in the crawl space because drainage concerns were not addressed; crawl space vents that are below grade; concrete poured up over the wood trim on the home; furnace ducts that are not hooked into the system; condensate drains from the furnace and TPR drains from the water heater that are routed under the home; missing flashing or loose and improperly nailed shingles; the pressure test cap left on the main sewer vent; sinks or toilets with drains that are not plumbed into the system; gutters with inadequate slope; doors and windows that do not operate; missing or unsafe handrails at steps and guardrails on high decks; appliances not wired or plumbed in; propane appliances not converted to gas, so they operate like flame throwers; gas fireplaces not hooked to the gas; whirlpool tubs not wired into the system; dryer ducts that empty under the home; missing or failed GFCI outlets, grounding problems and other electrical issues; missing door stops and out of adjustment interior doors, cupboards or closet doors.

If you look at this list, which is certainly not inclusive, most of the significant things found are still routine and easy for the builder, or his crew with their tools, to remedy. On the other side of the coin, if the average homeowner has to fix some of these issues after closing, it is a really big hassle that will require lots of elbow grease and needlessly spending dollars out of pocket. Since those buyers are my clients, and I want them to be happy with their purchase and to refer my name to their friends and family, it is my goal to see to it that all of the significant problems have been discovered and resolved prior to closing. Let's face it, it is only fair that all of the significant costs should be paid by the builder -- whose role in the transaction was to properly build a home and supply my clients with a house that was ready to move into.

Sometimes, mistakenly so, a client who does not want to pay for an inspection, hopes that the municipal code inspectors have covered the bases. That is seldom the case because those components and systems the code inspector looks for are basic and these people seldom actually get inside crawl spaces, attics and areas a home inspector routinely views. I have written a previous article on this fallacy of the code inspector being a substitute for a home inspection.

Another thought is that the builder's home warranty can replace the need for a home inspection. In my experience that is a big risk, and not a wise gamble, and I will be writing another article on that in the near future. For now, it should be clear from my comments here, that I always recommend that my clients, whether they are buying a new or an old home, should pay a few extra dollars and have an independent home inspection by a state licensed structural pest inspector who is also a competent residential home inspector.

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