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Newly built houses need inspections, too

Home inspection isn't just for buyers of old houses. Some buyers of newly built homes get inspections, too.

The bread and butter of the inspection business remains the examination of houses that have been lived in. The inspection report then is a narrative of an aging house: leaky roof, crumbling mortar in the chimney, wheezy furnace, and so on. In contrast, the inspector of a newly built home focuses on finding the inevitable errors and omissions that occur during months of construction by laborers of varying experience and language.

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Sometimes an inspection of a new house turns up a major problem. One inspector discovered that a heating contractor made space for ducts by cutting large notches into the cantilevered beams of a deck.

"I had visions in my mind of a housewarming party, with 20 people on the deck having beer, and the deck just going," says Trevor Welby-Solomon, who now is vice president of training and technical support for Pillar To Post, a company that franchises home inspection services in the United States and Canada.

Inspectors seldom find life-threatening mistakes in new homes. Bruce E. Holmes, a public engineer based in Palm City, Fla., says he mainly looks for problems with fit and finish (such as walls that aren't straight), potential for leaks (such as a poorly connected hookup for the dishwasher), mismatched electrical breakers (often found in the connection to the air conditioning compressor), and hot and cold water lines that are reversed.

Finding an inspector
A trained inspector can examine newly built houses in addition to older homes. The Web site of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors lets you search for home inspectors by ZIP code.

Every newly built home should be inspected, either by the buyer or a hired hand, Holmes says. Such inspections don't cost as much, either, he adds: "I don't charge as much money because with a new home, you're not looking for all the things as with a house that's older."

An inspection of a used house often costs in the range of $300 to $350. Inspections of new houses start out at less than $200 and go up, depending on the stage of construction and the size and features of the house.

A distinction needs to be made here between an independent inspection and one by a county or municipal inspector. The government employee enforces code compliance, not workmanship. A county inspector won't note a missing baseboard, but an independent inspector will. The lender requires progress reports as it releases construction money in draws, but those aren't full-fledged inspections, either.

New houses get independent inspections in one or more of three phases: while they're being built, after work is completed, but before the buyer moves in, and 10 or 11 months after the buyer takes possession. Why so late? Because most builders offer one-year warranties on cosmetic items. The inspector can provide a list of repairs to be made under warranty.

Not everyone can have the house inspected while it's being built. Many tract-house builders won't allow outsiders on site. Custom builders usually are more flexible.

"The best time with a custom home is when it's dried in and all the walls are up and the electrical is in, prior to Sheetrocking the house," Holmes says. "Then you can see if you have your outlets and light fixtures in the right place."

-- Posted: April 7, 2005




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