Buying New Construction Homes – Tips from a Home Inspector

Do I need a Home Inspection for a New Construction Home?

The first year after construction is the best time to negotiate for repairs because typically the house is still under the 1 year Builder Warranty.  When homebuyers waive the inspection process during new construction they are foregoing an excellent opportunity to have defects discovered and repaired before they become expensive issues.  Buyers of new construction homes should have 2 inspections done the first year- one before purchasing and another ’11 month Home Inspection’ performed before the Builder Warranty ends.

But New Construction homes should be flawless, right?

In a perfect world, yes new construction homes should be flawless–  state licensed inspectors, general contractors and sub-contractors work together to build homes with new materials according to the latest residential construction code.

The reality is messy

Unfortunately construction is a chaotic process.  Mistakes are made, things are missed, corners are cut, and important details are not communicated.   We’ve found many leaking gas connections and electrical hazards during new construction inspections.  We’ve found large unsealed openings in roofs, catastrophic plumbing leaks, unsupported/cut joists/beams, exhaust vents that exit into attics and much more.  I have not inspected the perfect new construction house during my career and I don’t expect I ever will.

Most defects can take time to manifest themselves

I would say about 90% of the defects reported in a new construction home inspection report do not appear to be a big deal at the time of inspection but will become more obvious to all parties after 5 or more years.  It is common to find the ’cause’ of potential problems during new construction but it is too early to see the ‘effect’- this is especially true when it comes to water related damages.  Sometimes water needs time before the issues really manifest themselves.  It takes an experienced home inspector to know what a house will look like in 5 years.

A Builder’s Warranty is only good if the issues are discovered within a year

Just because a year goes by without a catastrophe doesn’t mean that defects are not present.  Some defects are explosive and make themselves known immediately but most defects are subtle, hidden to the inexperienced, and continue to get worse over time.   Most of these defects can only be found in areas where most people do not go –crawlspaces/attics/basements/utility closets.  A professional is needed that knows how to find, recognize and report these defects and bring them to light for all parties to see.

What is an 11 month Inspection?

Because new construction homes are typically under a one year Builder Warranty, homeowners should have the house inspected again 11 months after purchasing (which gives them an additional month to communicate with the builder/seller after findings).  Defects may not be found during the initial inspection because the house is not under regular use (water related issues, especially can be missed because, as mentioned before, water takes time to become visible).  Home Inspectors may call out ‘potential issues’ during the initial inspection that have become real issues after just 11 months- providing more weight to negotiating/repair items.

Conclusion

Buyers of new construction homes have a unique opportunity to have defects repaired by the original builder.  Because the general contractor and sub-contractors are still involved, mobilized and in many cases are still working on the same street or development it is relatively easy and inexpensive to negotiate for repair work.  Homebuyers also have a 1 year opportunity to discover and negotiate for repairs during their Builder Warranty.  The home inspector is the homeowners best resource and ally when it comes to new construction homes and taking advantage of the due diligence period and the 1 year Builder Warranty.

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