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.
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.
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