Getting a second opinion on your new home
A common misconception among homebuyers is that buying new means avoiding nasty and expensive surprises and that if there are problems, they'll be merely cosmetic -- a scratch on the hardwood flooring or a chipped tile. These beliefs are dangerously wrong and can cost a lot of money and aggravation.
Brian Daley, a principal of Toronto-based New Home Inspections, has never completed a warranty inspection without finding an average of 30 significant defects in any new home, defects the builder is under no obligation to fix if they are not explicitly identified by the buyer within a limited time frame.
Having an inspection
Daley says consumers often mistakenly believe that new homes are perfect. "Yes, it's a new house, but like anything that's been put together by multiple people in an uncontrolled environment, things are bound to go wrong," he says. "It's really just the nature of how tract-homes or large subdivisions are built … the quicker they move, the faster they produce, the more money they make and then they move on."
Builders perform what's called a pre-delivery inspection before handing over the keys, but relying on the builder to identify potential flaws is problematic, Daley says. "Their goal is really to find as little fault as possible and to get you to sign off so they can move on to the next inspection.'
Devorah Miller and her fiancé decided to have a third-party inspection of their new Whitby, Ont., house after witnessing the cursory and incomplete inspection done by the builder. "I was originally kind of like, 'Should we get one? Should we not?' and then we had the inspector come in from the builder and I was like, 'We are definitely getting one.'"
Seeing beyond the surface
Daley says inspectors are trained to look at structures differently than lay people. An untrained eye will focus on the surface of things, while a home inspector sees the underlying structure and building mechanics at work.
"I liken it to buying a brand new car," Daley says. "You don't look under the hood. You have no idea how it's supposed to run. You're basically doing a walk around, making sure that the tires are inflated, making sure that there are no scratches on it. But that car could have no oil in it."
Likewise, most people would have no idea if their attic insulation was sufficient, if the structural beams in the basement were properly supported, if the rafters were properly spaced apart or if there were cracks in the foundation of their new home.
"Invariably when we leave sites, people say ,'What a great investment. We would never have seen this, this, this, this and this.' And 'The $375 we just paid you is well worth finding these things,'" Daley says.