In helping buyers purchase new construction homes, I routinely get asked whether or not they should have a home inspection completed. Hopefully everyone knows that one should always have a home inspection completed on a resale home, but is it worth it to pay the extra money if the home is new? After all, the builder has to do everything correctly, right? WRONG. Home inspections on new construction are definitely a good idea; however, when you complete the inspection is key. Here are some general guidelines that I give my buyers and guidelines I follow myself when buying or building.
In St. Johns, we have LOTS of new construction and the ways in which builders build differ greatly from one builder to the next. Some builders specialize in spec homes, which are homes built prior to having a buyer. These homes are built to the specifications of the builder and most, if not all, home customization decisions are made before a buyer is ever involved. Typically, these homes are fully built and then sit until a buyer comes along. Other builders build from slab and don’t begin building until a buyer has chosen the home they want built, made design selections, and paid a deposit to secure the home. When to have your home inspection completed is dependent largely on what type of home you select.
If you build from slab, I would suggest getting a home inspector involved right away. Your realtor (yes, you should definitely have one when buying new construction!) should be able to give you the names of some good ones to contact (if not, give me a call). When a home inspector gets involved early in the process, (s)he can inspect the property at various stages of the build-out to be sure things like electrical, plumbing, and structural elements are all being done correctly. This can be very advantageous because, once walls go up, many of these things will no longer be observable. It may cost a little more money for these kinds of inspections, due to the number of times the inspector has to visit the home, but (in my opinion) it’s worth it!
But what if you buy a spec home? Should you have the home inspection done before you move in? You’re welcome to, but I usually advise against it. Most home builders have a “bumper-to-bumper” warranty for the first year of the home’s life, during which they will come out at various times (specifically around the 11 month mark) to fix/touch up anything that may need it. These 11 months will have given the home time to settle and, if something is going to break prematurely, it will likely happen throughout everyday use sometime during that settling process. By waiting until just before the last warranty visit to have your home inspection, you can be sure to catch problems that occurred after the home closed – allowing you to get the most bang for your buck out of the builder’s warranty!
So, that’s my two cent’s worth on when to have a home inspection on new construction. If you need the name of a good inspector or just have questions, feel free to drop me a line! Oh, and disclaimer – not all builders have the same warranty policy! Be sure to check with your builder to learn what their warranty policy is and then tailor my advice to that policy.