Having a new customized home built can be an exciting experience. Getting through the process however can be a long and at times difficult ordeal. People having a new home built often rely solely on their builder to help guide them through the construction. Unfortunately he may not be the best person to advise them on their project.
Consider the following:
Home builders and many contractors involved in home construction are not licensed professionals
No license means no mandated formal training or apprenticeship, no continuing education, and minimal accountability
City building inspectors check for code compliance, not quality
Codes do not cover all aspects of the building process
These are facts that the majority of people building new homes or for that matter having work done on their existing home, do not know. But who can a new construction home buyer find who will objectively and competently oversee an entire building project and provide knowledgeable, unbiased information on construction techniques and materials? An independent, licensed, professional home inspector.
Most often home inspectors are called in after the new home owner has been experiencing problems with the house, often for many months or even years after it was built. What new construction home buyers almost never consider is hiring the inspector while the house is being built.
When problems do occur and the homeowner is asked about new construction inspections some reasons heard for not enlisting the help of an independent home inspector are:
The local building official is inspecting the home
As previously stated these inspectors look for code compliance, not quality. They are in the home only briefly during different phases of the construction. Do they miss things? Yes they do and no they are not usually held accountable for their mistakes. Also they are municipal employees and are not directly responsible to the persons buying the home. In other words they won’t contact the buyer if there are problems. They simply instruct the builder to correct the issues and move on to the next home.
It’s always about the money and for good reason. Costs can escalate quickly when building a new home. Buyers often want upgrades and these push up costs. So hiring an independent inspector can be an expense that is hard to justify. After all they believe the city building official is inspecting the home.
The builder has a good reputation
He may, but how do you know. Many people do not research the builder before signing on with them to build their home. This may be even truer when purchasing the home through a third party such as Realtor. Get references and check them before signing a contract.
It is also important to understand specifically what the builders’ job is. He generally is the person who manages the entire construction process. He must hire and coordinate many sub-contractors to install the vast amount of components that make up a house. This can be an overwhelming task for just one home, but if he is building several homes at once it can be nearly impossible to effectively manage.
It’s a new house; there should be nothing wrong (Very likely the biggest misconception related to new homes)
If you have ever bought an item, taken it home and it broke the first time you used it then the absurdness of this statement should be glaringly apparent. But never the less many people who have a home built believe because it is new and there is a one year builders warranty there will be no problems.
A house is a complex structure containing many different systems that must all function correctly and in harmony. It is built over the course of several months by many different people. Assuredly there are going to be problems and most often they are minor or cosmetic. But there are those occasional big problems that can make the home barely habitable or in extreme cases uninhabitable.
Was not aware that an outside inspector could be hired
When paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a home built, you are certainly entitled to have whom every you choose oversee the process. If you meet resistance to bringing in an outside inspector, this should be a red flag that something could potentially be wrong.
But why is it important to hire an independent inspector to look after the project?
Very simply quality control. If the construction company in charge of building your home knows that the customer has hired an independent, knowledgeable inspector to oversee the build, they are very likely to be more diligent in their quality of work. The psychological effect can be just as influential as the actual physical inspections.
Home inspectors and home builders encompass similar knowledge of home construction. However home inspectors are formally trained individuals who are licensed and consequently must also attend a specific amount of continuing education for license renewal. Home builders are not licensed, only registered, and therefore are not required to be formally trained or attend continuing education. They must only pay a yearly fee to remain registered and in business.
This is also true of the majority of contractors who perform work on a new or existing home. The term Home Improvement Contractor is a catch all category for companies that do any type of improvement work on homes. For example carpenters who frame the home fall into this category, as do roofers, foundation contractors, sheet rockers, flooring installers and many other individual companies that are part of putting a house together.
Another important aspect of the home inspectors experience is they view all types and ages of homes. They see the results of poor construction practices and understand better than anyone the consequences of inferior workmanship. It’s an important and unique perspective that no other profession can claim.
Finally a hired independent home inspector works for and reports directly to you. He is your advocate and can be an invaluable asset during the building of your new home.
Before you buy a new home consumer groups advise protecting your rights by taking these steps:
Research your builder thoroughly before signing any agreements.
Consider hiring a real estate lawyer to negotiate your contract. There is no better time to negotiate than before you buy.
To protect your right to sue, strike any requirement that disputes will go to binding arbitration.
Ask for the names of subcontractors building your home. Investigate their work before you buy.
Hire a professional inspector to examine your home during construction. Point out flaws that can be fixed before you move in.
Discuss your warranty thoroughly with the builder. Put everything in writing.
Leave a paper trail. Send all correspondence to the builder by certified mail, return receipt requested.
James Quarello, the founder of JRV Home Inspection Services, brings to the company an over 20 year background in industrial equipment installation engineering and home remodeling. Mr. Quarello is a graduate of The Home Inspection Institute of Americas’ intensive Connecticut certified HI-100 Home Inspector training program. He is also a graduate of Inspection Training Associates (ITA) New Construction inspection program and has passed the National Home Inspectors Exam (NHIE).