Do You Need a Home Inspector When Purchasing New Construction?

Do You Need a Home Inspector When Purchasing New Construction?

The answer depends on whom you ask.

If you ask a builder, especially the one who built your new home, s/he will most likely tell you, “No.”  His explanation is the home must pass muster with the county or city building inspector before the builder can be granted a Certificate of Occupancy (commonly referred to as a CO, it is a requirement before anyone is allowed to occupy the house).  The builder’s reasoning is if the building inspector says the house is OK, then it must be and you shouldn’t waste money paying someone else to inspect it.

If you ask us at Just For Buyers Realty (professionals who have worked in the industry for years), we’ll tell you not only should you get one, you should get two.  Why?

Because building inspectors miss things.  Sometimes, important things.  And, when they do, there is no recourse for the new owner.  In North Carolina, county and city building inspectors are not liable for their mistakes.  Fortunately, most county/city building inspectors do a very good job, but here is a partial list of things they have missed that we’ve either seen personally or heard about from independent home inspectors:

  • The ceiling over a set of stairs was too low to meet code requirements.
  • The brand new water heater had faulty heating elements.
  • An outlet in the laundry room was not connected to a GFCI.
  • The cement pad for the HVAC unit was not level.
  • Stray wires in the electrical panel.
  • Broken roof trusses.
  • Space between support piers and the floor joists they were meant to support.
  • Water lines not properly secured.
  • Dishwasher “hi-loop” not installed.
  • Anti-tip device on stove not installed.
  • Fiber cement board siding nailed incorrectly causing cracks where moisture can penetrate the siding.
  • Bolt anchors sawed off incorrectly, compromising the integrity of the structure.
  • Hurricane straps not installed to secure the roof. (Discovered when the roof gable blew out during a tropical storm!)
  • Toilets not secured to the floor properly.
  • Cracked emergency overflow pans under HVAC air-handlers.
  • Floor joists severed to accommodate plumbing.

We could go on, but you get the point.  A lot of stuff can go unnoticed by the county or city inspector!  And, any problems that are behind insulation and sheetrock can go unnoticed for a very long time after you purchase it.

So, we recommend you engage a structural engineer who has experience with framing, plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems to inspect your home after the county or city inspector has signed off on the rough-in stage of these items, but before the insulation and sheetrock are installed.

The amount of time between finishing the rough-in work and installing insulation is usually pretty brief, sometimes just a day or two.  So, it will help to alert your inspector that you will likely call on short notice.  They understand the window is narrow and timing is affected by multiple factors, including bad weather and whether or not the county inspector approves all aspects of the work.

Why a structural engineer?  Because structural engineers have the expertise you need at this stage.  They know whether or not the walls will hold up in 120 mph winds and if the HVAC system is large enough to cool the entire house.

Expect the pre-drywall inspection to cost $400-600 in Southeastern North Carolina.

The second home inspection should be done by a licensed home inspector after the builder has completed construction and the CO has been issued.  We favor home inspectors who also have a general contractor’s license and have actually worked in construction.  We find they usually have a better understanding of the building process than a typical home inspector and can more accurately advise you about what it will take to correct any problems.

While the pre-drywall inspection evaluates the integrity of the major structural components of the house, the post-construction inspection will confirm all of the home’s systems work correctly.  For example, do all the electrical switches, appliances, doors and windows function as designed?

The cost of the general home inspection will depend on the size of the home and the type of construction, but is usually between $350-$600.

It may be tempting to skip one or both of the independent inspections because you have so many other costs associated with buying and moving into your new place.  However, before you decide to pass, consider the expense of having to deal with any of these issues if they are found after your warranty expires.  In the case of those items that are likely to be discovered shortly after you  move in, do you think you will have more leverage for getting a quick response from the builder before or after s/he has all of your money?

If you have any other questions about home inspections, please contact Just For Buyers Realty at 910-202-4813.

Comments

  1. I think that it is really important to get a good building inspector, especially right before you are about to buy a home. Even if it isn’t a new construction home, I think it is always good! Then they can look for things like loose wires or broken roof trusses. Soon, I am hoping to buy a home, and I think it would be good to get the houses that I am interested in inspected. That way, I will know of any possible problems with the homes I am considering.

  2. I didn’t think that it would be necessary to have two inspections (in addition to the city/county’s inspection)! I know that many people might balk at having to spend that much more money, but since most people build their dream house (at least where I’m from) wouldn’t it be worth it to make sure that that dream is in the best possible shape? I’m going to factor this into our building budget and make sure that our new home really is our dream home. Thank you so much for the advice!

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