You’re in the process of buying a newly-built home and you’re wondering, “Should I have my new home inspected?”.
My answer is a clear and resounding, “Yes!”. Not only should you have it inspected, but you should hire your own home inspector to conduct the inspection.
I am no longer a home inspector so you don’t need to wonder if I’m trying to promote my own business. The fact is, houses are being built so quickly these days, it would be unwise to forego an inspection.
The purpose of this article is to convince you that just because a house is new doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Since safety is the major theme of this article and the other articles on SaferHomeNow.com, I’ll focus on safety issues. I saw many defects when I inspected newly-built homes, but I will only speak about those that presented a safety concern.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Here is just a sampling of safety-related deficiencies I found on and in new homes. Few words are needed to explain them. I hope they convince you to have your new home inspected before you close. The best time for a home inspection is a day or two before your final walk-through, when the yard is sodded and the home is ready to be occupied.
Easy entry for vermin
(Left image) This may not be a hazard if the home is in the city, but out in the county this could be a nice entry for poisonous snakes, not to mention other unwanted vermin. You would probably not notice something like this on your walk-through because this fireplace combustion air duct cover is at or below knee level.
“Hot” wire under kitchen sink
(Center image) I found these exposed “hot” (energized) wires in the cabinet under a kitchen sink. You can’t see the bare copper wires in this image but you can see the red light on the tester indicating a potential electrocution hazard! This hazard was found one day before move-in. Can you imagine what might have happened had the buyers not hired me, an independent inspector, to inspect their new home?
Gas leak in attic
(Right image) As I entered the attic on a new home inspection, I smelled natural gas. I used a gas detector to pinpoint the leak in the gas line at the furnace. You don’t need a gas detector to detect a leak, but you do need a good sense of smell. And you need to know that smelling even the faintest odor of gas means there is a leak somewhere. I couldn’t help but wonder how the guy who was in the attic just before me didn’t smell the gas? Or maybe he did but just chose not to report it. So sad!
Soffit vents – crucial for proper attic ventilation
(Left image) How important is it to have proper/adequate attic ventilation? Apparently it’s not all that important to most people. The effects of poor ventilation aren’t readily visible. Deterioration of the structure is a slow process, and no one apparently realizes that the electric bill could be lower if there was proper attic ventilation.
Perhaps that’s why more than 90 percent of the homes I’ve inspected have soffit holes that are too small. The builders simply cut quick holes in the soffits and slap the screened covers over them and no one knows the difference. Shouldn’t it stand to reason that the holes should be as big as the screened vent cover? Does the image on the left look right to you? It shouldn’t.
Plumbing vent stack – an important component of waste removal
(Right image) I didn’t see this too often on newly built homes, but it does happen. The cap (called a “rough-in cap) was not removed from the top of the plumbing vent stack pipe. This condition will usually result in improper toilet flushing as air is needed up top for proper flow through the waste lines below.
A few other safety concerns I encountered during the inspections of newly-built homes include but are not limited to:
- Attic flooring too thin – could result in someone falling through the floor.
- No anti-tip device on the oven or range – possible burn/scald hazard; crushing of child from tip-over.
- Faulty arc fault outlet – risk of electrical shock or fire.
- Improper mounting of attic pull-down ladders – could result in a fall.
- Pull-down ladder in garage not fire rated – a fire in the garage would spread rapidly into the attic and home.
- Deadbolt hole too shallow – home security issue.
- Dryer duct cover with screen – screen will trap lint and create a possible fire hazard.
- Furnace exhaust duct not connected in attic – hazardous gases being discharged into attic/home.
These are just a handful of safety deficiencies I’ve come across during newly-built home inspections. How many would you have noticed during your walk-through? Be sure to hire your own home inspector, be sure he allows you to be present during the inspection, and ask a lot of questions (though you may have to save your questions until the end of the inspection).
It is fair to say that not every newly-built home has defects such as the ones listed above. Are you willing to take the chance though? I could show you many more photos of issues I encountered during inspections of newly built homes, but hopefully you get the idea.
I said I would only focus on safety issues, but please allow me to share with you one more reason for having your newly built home inspected. A professional home inspector, while not required to report cosmetic issues, is likely to see one or more that you might not see. I pointed out a number of cosmetic and workmanship issues to my clients. On another home my client was not present. I made sure to report dents in one of the overhead garage doors. Had I not reported this, the builder could later have denied a request to replace the two damaged panels on this very expensive door.
As always, please post any questions or comments below. I will answer them as soon as possible. If you have an experience you would like to share that would be helpful to others, please do so but refrain from using specific names of people or companies unless it’s in a positive light.