In the midst of the last recession that crippled the U.S. real estate economy, new construction home inspections virtually disappeared. For several years, there was too much available housing inventory at too low a price to make newly constructed homes competitive on cost. Essentially, buying a prebuilt house was more attractive to homebuyers than building one.
However, now with skyrocketing real estate markets in many parts of the country, new construction is back in full swing and once again raises a question for new homebuyers: should I bother hiring a home inspector for new construction?
If you’re considering whether or not you should hire a home inspector for a newly constructed home, here are some common mistakes that can happen with new constructions that may help you make up your mind.
Common Mistakes with New Home Construction
- Incorrect installation of the roof, which may result in having to be completely replaced.
- The mechanical room or space being built too small and cannot fit all the appliances, including the furnace, water heater, pressure tank, etc.
- The home is not correctly insulated, which results in tearing out finished walls and ceilings to fix it. This can be especially true in some inaccessible sections of the roof.
- The siding of the house is improperly installed and ends up needing to be replaced.
- The basement walls were not insulated, which is particularly important in areas with colder climates.
- Crawl space ventilation is not installed, resulting in water from condensation to build up and cause a lot more damage.
- Improper insulation around recessed lighting, which can result in air leaks and heat loss.
- A leaky booster pump, which could cascade into a whole list of repairs to be made including having to replace hardwood floors.
- Structural issues, such as with a damaged roof truss system or an unusual floor frame configuration could require structural engineers to be called in to evaluate.
You may be getting the picture of why it’s strongly recommended to get a home inspection on new construction. A house is a complex system of many variables that if done incorrectly or simply left out, could result in future damage to the home and you stuck paying for the bill.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, more than 3,000 components are used in constructing a house. That is a lot of parts and that number does not even include the fine detail of how critical components such as screws, nails, adhesives, and sealants are selected and installed.
Roughly 20 different sub-contractors most likely install these 3,000 components and each sub-contractor may employ as many as 4 to 5 different employees to work on the house. Upon completion, your house could have seen more than 100 different people working with these 3,000 components, including sub-contractors for things such as roofing, framing, painting, drywall, electrical, flooring, appliances, insulation, etc.
All New Home Constructions Are Built to Code Though, Right?
Below are four critical points to understand how building codes are applied to residential house construction.
- Codes for New Construction Homes Are Just a Bare Minimum Requirement
Building codes are a set of minimum standards by which constructing a home to any lesser degree is essentially illegal. So building new constructions to local building codes is simply complying with local minimum standards. These codes do not guarantee that “best practices” are applied when constructing the house.
- New Home Construction Varies Regionally
Building codes are based on national standards, whereas quality and certain variables of construction can vary largely across the U.S. Such as, you do not want to construct a house in Tampa, Florida necessarily in the same way you would build a house in the mountains of Denver, Colorado.
Building codes do adjust for this with the different wind, climate, and seismic zones, but the nuance of regional construction methods, materials, techniques, and environmental challenges makes it difficult for codes to be adopted perfectly to localized standards and needs.
- Building Officials Have Very Little Time for New Home Constructions
The degree to which local building officials are able to check on new construction will vary by city, state, and county. Because building departments are generally overworked and use an inadequate fee structure for permits, the result is a limited scope of on-site inspection of every system of a newly constructed home. However, local building codes and local code enforcement do help with the overall inspection of the structure and wiring in houses.
As mentioned earlier, over 3,000 components of a house require inspecting. Given the average on-site time for building officials during the construction of a residential home is less than 4 hours, it is no wonder that some things are missed.
- Building Codes Defer to Manufacturer’s Specifications
There are many components of a new construction that should be installed according to manufacturer’s specification, such as the roof, siding, and furnace. The building code may have some basic standards, but proper installation will require following the directions from manufacturers. Generally, there is nobody checking to confirm if these systems were properly installed.
Building codes and building departments do an excellent job in helping to ensure that safe and reliable houses are being constructed. However, houses are very complex systems comprised of many components that are installed by a small army of different contractors. Even the best builders with the best intentions will have difficulty executing everything perfectly on a residential build. A huge gray area exists between building codes, best practices, and the workmanship employed in building your house. A fresh set of eyes from a third-party inspector will help confirm that your newly constructed home is in good shape.
New Construction Home Inspection
A good home inspection on new construction will give you the benefit of an objective third-party looking over the house. You will gain valuable insights into the houses’ attributes and vulnerabilities, as all houses have both.
A third-party home inspection can add value by evaluating the overall quality and design of the building. In addition, it will give you a good idea of maintenance items to keep in mind, and it will almost certainly come up with a helpful list of small repair items that were missed.
Occasionally, significant problems are uncovered that can save the homebuyer and builder thousands of dollars and the possible nightmare of litigation and costly repairs.