Should I inspect a new construction home?

Home inspections are a critical piece of due diligence when buying a home. Looking for deferred maintenance or repair items on a “used” home can protect you from unwanted surprises. What about new construction? Should you get a brand-new home inspected? The short answer is yes. Always plan to inspect a new construction home. Here’s why.

New construction homes often have a warranty

home constructionMost new construction homes come with some form of builder warranty. Some warranties are required by law, others may just be a common builder practice in a particular market. In Washington state, it is common to be offered a 1-year warranty on a new home, sometimes with an extended warranty on certain systems for longer times. These warranties are usually pretty broad and cover construction defects during the intial period of your ownership. (Note that construction defects do not include you scratching the floor or damaging something through normal wear-and-tear.)

Builders don’t allow an inspection contingency

For builders that offer a warranty on a new home, they generally will not accept a buyer’s offer that is contingent on inspection results. The logic here is that if your home inspector finds construction defects or needed repairs, they will be covered under your warranty. The builder has essentially pre-agreed to do those repairs during the warranty period, so they are not going to allow a contingency that lets a buyer back out because defects are found.

No home is perfect

We’ve been involved in hundreds of home inspections for both new and older homes. Every inspection report we’ve seen has found problems with the house, even a brand new house. The problems found in brand new homes are generally minor, but I guarantee you’ll find something needing attention.

The most common issues we have seen for new construction falls into the category of contractor sloppiness. Roofers leave debris on a roof or are sloppy with the nailing. Plumbers cut through important structural supports to route pipes. Framers leave wood scraps in the crawl space because it is a hassle to clean out.

Do NOT trust city permit inspection results

Whether you are negotiating with a builder or a home seller who had their home remodeled, beware of this statement: “That was approved by the city permit inspector, so there is nothing to fix.”

The permit process and building permit inspections do provide a basic compliance mechanism for building codes, but city permit inspectors can either be thorough or cursory. They are not going to spend 4 hours crawling in every nook of the home like your inspector, nor are they going to come back to see if something they initially approved has been altered or changed to something that is out of code. For example, they approve the framing of the home and then 1 month later a plumber notches out a bunch of supporting beams. No one is going to catch that in a permit inspection process, but it needs to be fixed.

Spend the money on a proper inspection

Hiring your own inspector is worth the additional expense. You will find issues, sometimes minor but other times more significant, that need attention from the builder.

You will also generally be allowed a walk-through of the home with the builder. During that walk-through, you are given an introduction to the home’s systems. It is also an opportunity to look for cosmetic defects that the builder needs to address prior to closing such as nail pops, scratches or paint touch-ups.