Newly built houses
need inspections, too -- Page 2
Francis DeSouza, an accountant in Loudon County,
Va., had an unsatisfying experience when he bought a townhouse two
years ago: Walking through the completed home with the construction
supervisor, DeSouza noticed a wet, warped floorboard, which the
supervisor dismissed as insignificant. Later, DeSouza had to replace
DeSouza plans to move out of the
townhouse this year. He and his fiancee are having a 3,200-square-foot
house built. DeSouza made sure an independent inspector was given
access to the construction site. "I knew I needed an expert
opinion before they threw the drywall up there," he says.
The inspector was at the site for three hours and found "a ton of stuff"
such as cracked floor joists, missing hangers on studs, and missing fireblocks.
A county inspector already had passed it.
DeSouza and the
construction supervisor later walked through the house together, checking off
items on the inspector's list. The builder told DeSouza which problems he would
fix and which he wouldn't because they were too minor. After remedies were made,
DeSouza went to the site to check. After his OK, the walls went up.
"The pre-drywall inspection was very worth
it," DeSouza says. "I recommend it to anyone who doesn't
know a lot about building houses." He is considering hiring
his inspector to go through the house after construction is finished
and right before closing. This is the stage that Welby-Solomon calls
At this point, the inspector looks
for faults such as crooked walls, missing handrails, trip hazards caused by floors
that aren't on the same level from room to room, and bathroom vents that exhaust
moisture into the attic instead of outside.
the inspector will find more serious problems. After Duncan Jakes put an offer
on a recently built log house outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, his inspector found
deal-killing errors. The edge of the concrete foundation slab was supposed to
be 14 inches thick, but it was eight inches thick. The second-story floor joists
were too small. "Could you imagine my first house party and everyone falls
through?" Jakes says. He rescinded his offer. "I feel happy and sleep
good at night knowing that ... the engineer I hired did his job," he says.
A few people hire inspectors to examine houses in the month or two before the
one-year warranty ends on cosmetic things (typically, there's a three-year warranty
on systems and a longer warranty on the structure itself). This inspection isn't
as common because owners have lived there almost a year and they already know
what's wrong with the house.
Naturally, inspectors insist
that it can't hurt to have another set of eyes take another look before the warranty
expires. "We would go back and check that things that were brought to their
attention (at the pre-delivery inspection) were done," Welby-Solomon says.
They check for nail pops, missing handrails and baseboards, and moisture and staining
in the attic. They take another look at the electrical systems.
They rarely find anything major. But for anxious owners, the peace of mind could
be worth the price.