You might assume that a home inspection isn’t needed if you had the house built from scratch and to your exact needs. Would it be a waste of your time and money? That depends on how you look at it.
A home inspection can provide key insights into the home's construction, as well as a chance to prevent costly repairs later on. Even new houses have flaws.
What Is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a third-party evaluation of a home’s structure, systems, and other key features. The inspector will evaluate your property and give you a report on their findings. You can then go to the seller (in this case, the builder) to fix any issues before you close on the home.
In a nutshell, inspections can help you ensure that you’re getting a safe and hazard-free property. You won’t have to make tons of repairs before you move in—or worse, right after.
Home inspections are optional, but most homeowners get them, often because their real estate agent urged them to do so.
Common Issues Found in New Homes
It would seem that new homes should be perfect, or close to it, but many say that they often have hidden issues. Some common problems found during new-construction home inspections include structural defects like foundation cracks, faulty grading, and poor framing.
Drainage and grading issues can be problem, because they can cause water damage later on. Windows might leak. There may be HVAC issues, including thermostats that don't work or loose connections.
Electrical problems, such as poorly wired outlets, open grounds, and missing switch plates, aren't unheard of. Nor are plumbing issues, such as reversed hot/cold in faucets, improper piping, leaks, and more.
Inspectors say they've also often found projects that weren't completed. These might include lacking insulation, handrails, or fixtures that are only partly installed, or even missing pieces of hardware.
How Many Inspections Do You Need?
It's wise to have two or three inspections performed on the property. Three types are very common and are advised.
The Foundation Inspection
A foundation or “pre-pour” inspection occurs just before the foundation is poured. It ensures that the site has been excavated and graded right, and that all anchors and footing are spaced at a proper distance and in place. The stage is set for a strong and long-lasting home. The builder can make adjustments before pouring the foundation (after which there’s often no going back).
The Framing Inspection
A framing or “pre-drywall/sheetrock” inspection happens after the frame has been built. The roof is on, and the windows are installed, but the sheetrock and walls haven't yet been put up.
The inspector can make sure that the beams, posts, studs, and other structural components are installed right. They can check things like the wiring, plumbing, window flashing, and other issues that will later be hidden behind walls. Your builder can repair them before going further with the project if any problems show up.
The Final Inspection
The third and final inspection is the same as one you would have on any resale property. It ensures the home is safe. It's been finished per local code and building standards.
Anything your inspector finds at this point should also be fixed by your builder before closing.
What New Home Inspectors Look For
Home inspectors look at many features in each stage. They'll also take local building code into account, which can vary by city or county. Some items most inspectors will look at when they're evaluating a newly built home include drain, waste, and vent lines during the pre-pour inspection. They'll also look at water lines, plumbing, piping, trenches, soil, elevation, drainage, and grading.
The framing inspection looks at beams, bearings, and other framing items. It covers nails, screws, studs, and plates, as well as stairwells, leaks, water intrusion, and mold risks. It looks for problems with fire blocking and draft stopping, with plumbing and wiring, and with HVAC and ducting.
The final inspection is the most sweeping. It includes:
- Roof, chimney, and gutters
- Doors and windows
- Exterior items, like walkways, driveways, sheds, decks, patios, and garages
- Foundation, basements, and crawlspaces
- HVAC systems, including the thermostat
- Plumbing, toilets, sinks, and sump pumps
- Electrical conductors, circuit breakers, meters, and panelboards
- Attic, insulation, and ventilation
- Appliances, such as dishwashers, disposals, ovens, microwaves, and sprinkler systems
New homebuyers can skip the home inspection stage. The risk is that unknown issues with the home could crop up after you move in, when it’s too late for the builder to fix them (and pay for them).
Make sure your builder has a warranty in place if you decide to skip an inspection on your new home. That can protect you if something goes wrong after you’ve closed. These warranties often last from one to 10 years. It depends on the type of workmanship and materials.
The Bottom Line
New-construction home inspections allow you to get ahead of your home purchase. You can only inspect the home after the fact on a resale home. All you can do is repair an issue or cover it up in that case. A well-timed inspection allows your builder to get to the root of the problem. They can fix it before the build goes any further.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. A new home may look flawless to the naked eye, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect below the surface. Calling in a qualified home inspector can ensure that you’re making the best decision.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the process of buying a new-construction home?
In some ways, buying new construction follows the same process as any home-buying transaction—you find a property, secure funding, make an offer, negotiate, and finalize the deal. However, there are some aspects of new construction that require special attention. In particular, you'll need to know how long construction will take, what materials are being used (to check health risks), and any contingencies and warranties you have available. You also might be able to choose upgrade options early in the process. Be sure you research your builder and discuss the process in detail before you sign off on the deal.
How do you negotiate when buying a new-construction home?
If you're hoping to negotiate a deal on a new-construction home, you're not likely to have much luck trying to get the builder to simply drop the price. You're better options are to negotiate discounts or incentives on upgrades, see whether you can get a deal on the land, or find the best possible rates from a lender.