When to have your New Construction Home Inspected
After my last post, I have had a LOT of conversations about new construction inspections, building codes, and other such "entertaining" topics (yeah, I know, I'm the life the party.)
The one thing that seemed to be new to most buyers and even some Realtors was that new construction inspections are WAY MORE than just an inspection of the house a few days before closing. So, I thought I would expand a little on just what a new construction inspection is all about.
So, when is the right time to have your New Construction Home Inspected? Here is a little idea of what an IDEAL new construction inspection schedule may involve and how it can help a buyer:
Conduct Your Inspection in Stages - It's NEVER too early to inspect!
A useful new construction inspection can begin with the pouring of the foundation. My ideal new construction inspection happens in 3 or 4 stages. If you are buying a "spec" home, or one that is already finished, you are limited to a Pre-Settlement Inspection, which means that all the really important details about structure, framing, and the foundation may not be able to be inspected, placing you at the mercy of the builder. Recommendation in this case: Research and read reviews to know the builder's reputation, especially with regard to structural items. (check out this article to understand why this is important).
PHASE 1: Foundation Inspection (after the foundation has been poured). The Foundation Inspection checks for use of proper reinforcing materials, footers, bolts, damp proofing, and other items to ensure proper installation (since this is the base for the entire home). This builder is pouring a concrete foundation in 35 degree weather - pretty much every concrete expert will tell you that's too cold and will result in weak concrete. Don't let this be your house!
PHASE 2: Pre-Drywall Inspection (after all systems are roughed-in, but before the drywall and insulation goes up). Is your home built with 2x6 or 2x4? (or finger-jointed 2x4 - yeeeesh!) Is there mold and mildew on studs and framing? Did your builder go the extra mile, or do the bare minimum? This is the stage where good builders really separate themselves from the lesser ones.
The Pre-Drywall Inspection looks for bad lumber (bowed, cracked); structural concerns in the wall and floor structures; cracks in slab or concrete walls; installation of fire stop; proper location of all lights, switches, outlets, cable, phone, and custom features (as per buyer plans); mold; flashing on windows and doors; proper siding installation; roofing; and general code compliance.
This is the MOST useful inspection and often where we catch many critical details that get concealed by drywall.
PHASE 3: Pre-Closing Inspection (ideally, at least 2-3 days prior to closing)
The Pre-Closing Inspection is a full home inspection (as most people are familiar with them) with careful attention to cosmetic detail.
This inspection ideally occurs at least 2 days prior to settlement or final walkthrough to allow the builder ample time to address concerns prior to closing. However, many builders are still touching up items and completing things right up until closing, so scheduling in advance of final walkthrough is not always possible.
The attention to detail is an 11 on a scale of 1-10 for this inspection, calling out scratches on cabinet doors, chips in countertops, tiles, and dings in doors, trim, and drywall. We use a roll of blue painters tape to identify any cosmetic concerns (paint touch up, ding, etc) for paint crews to address prior to settlement. We also test all appliances, inspect major features and systems, and perform a complete inspection just as we would on any other home inspection.
PHASE 4: Follow-up Inspection (performed at or immediately before final buyer walkthrough) This inspection is simply to check that each items on the punch list has been corrected.
Every inspector is different, but I price each service separately and also offer a package discount. I have also found that offering to get the builder a punch list (same day) and the buyer a punch list and detailed report (all same day) makes the process go more smoothly and get concerns addressed more quickly for all involved.
These inspections are all useful, with the pre-drywall stage being the most overlooked, but perhaps the most advantageous inspection for our clients. The timing (the stage of construction when the client calls me) usually dictates how much we are able to accomplish.
It's important to remember that while most homes will have to pass a code inspection, in many areas code inspectors are overwhelmed with work and may miss items. We have seen stairs that do not comply with code, and fire exits that were missing! Also, building codes are a basic minimum of what is safe and acceptable - THEY ARE NOT THE ULTIMATE MEASURE OF SAFETY!
Getting your own inspection (in stages!) is the BEST way to protect yourself.
Philadelphia's Premiere Home Inspector