Oh, the excitement of buying a new home. It’s a great time to get organized, clean out personal belongings that you no longer need or want, and simply get a fresh start.
When you move into a new home you want, and frankly need, everything to be ready to go. The last thing you want to deal with is a house issue that could have been discovered during the buying process—leaky faucet, broken dishwasher, windows that don’t open, or something else.
When you buy a house that has been lived in previously, a home inspection is always a great idea. You want to see the condition and age of the systems and appliances that have been in operation. But, what if you are buying a new house or condo, directly from the developer, should you hire a home inspector? Despite what you may think at first blush, the answer is yes.
Here is why a new house should be inspected and the best way to handle that inspection.
New homes can have problems, too
A new home may look like it is in perfect condition, but remember, no one has lived in it nor run all of the appliances to see if everything is working properly. The assumption is that new appliances and systems work. But not so fast. At some point, you’ve probably purchased a new product that didn’t work quite right and that isn’t caught until purchase.
The same is true for homes. When you buy a new house, you are the first person to test or use any of the systems or to see if the basement floods during a heavy rain. An older home, by contrast, may have some wear-and-tear and the owners are required by law to disclose any known flaws. And, the fear of that disclosure often motivates sellers to replace broken appliances before putting their house on the market.
New homes aren’t always built to code
What? Not to code? You may ask. That’s right. While new construction should be inspected by the jurisdiction in which it sits, they could miss something. County inspectors work to make make sure new construction meets a minimum building code yet everyone is human so something could be overlooked. Simply things like grounded outlets might not be put in all of the right place in new construction. Most of the time, it is a simple oversight and easily corrected before purchase.
Why new homes may need two inspections
If you are buying a home still under construction, you may want to have two inspections. During the first visit, the inspector can look over the home before the walls are closed to inspect framing and systems installation. The second inspection should be after the home is finished so the inspector can test everything else. It may feel like overkill to have two inspections, but think about what you, as the homeowner, will learn. Buying a completed home you rarely get to see how well the construction is done or what is really inside the walls. If you have the first inspection you can make sure the studs, insulation, home systems, beams and posts have been installed properly. And if you find issues, you can provide a punch list to the developer to correct before the job is done.
An inspection is a good education
You hear it over and over again and—after applying for that mortgage—you know it is true: a home is the largest investment, the largest purchase, you will make. You need to know what you are buying. A good inspector will show you all of the home’s cut off valves, show you where your electrical panel is located, and give you tips on improving and maintaining your home’s condition. It can be a real education especially for a first-time buyer.
So, whether new construction or a resale, make sure you accompany the inspector on any visit. You will learn a lot about your new house and also how to operate and maintain it for years to come.
Editor's Note: As published in The Washington Blade, November 16th, 2018.