Does my new home need an inspection?

Missing Dryer Vent
New home with missing dryer vent.

Short answer: YES!

One builder told me that 80% of their buyers don’t bother to get a home inspection.  Wow.  Yes, it’s true the builder has a quality control inspector.  And yes, the City has inspected the home.  Neither of those are good reasons to forgo your own inspection.

The builder’s quality control inspector and superintendent are primarily concerned with making sure the sub-contractors that are building the home aren’t doing anything grossly stupid.  They are usually managing multiple homes at the same time, bouncing between production meetings, and dealing with a phone that rings non-stop with calls from everyone to sales agents, to vendors, to contractors having problems.  The builder’s number one focus in life is getting houses finished on-time (or early) and getting them closed.

The City inspector is usually the poster child for the overworked and under-appreciated.  Some are better than others, but these are typically folks who aren’t paid that well and who are expected to produce miracles with their workload.  One source says the average City inspector works 260 days a year and has 19.2 inspections per day.  No matter how fast you drive, that doesn’t leave alot of time at each property.  They are looking for their pet peeve items and major violations.  Most of the time they know the contractors well and work with them regularly.  So as long as the contractor isn’t a total dirtball the inspections are going to go quickly so the inspector can spend more time on the folks who are grossly out of line.  These are typically good men and women who do the inspection.  They just don’t have an hour to spend in your home for each inspection, checking that each item has been done properly.  As a result things slip through.  These things may or may not cost you later as a homeowner.

If you do opt to have your new home inspected you should approach the results collaboratively.  Unless the builder is doing stupid things, don’t threaten to walk.  Just ask that the items on your inspection punch list get addressed.  If you have already closed, just politely and persistently ask for someone to come fix them.  Be sure to document your requests.  Lately, the market for new homes has been so hot that if you threaten to walk the builder may hand you your deposit back and tell you to enjoy the walk.  They can often sell the home for more money to the next person in line.  They still have an obligation to produce a quality product, and the vast majority do.  They just won’t tolerate much abuse because they know they can sell the home.

Ideally, you should be doing phase inspections, but at a minimum a final inspection is a good idea to find items which will become a problem later.  Don’t forget to do an 11 month inspection so you have a list of items for your builder to fix in the 1 year warranty period.  Yes, the inspections cost money, but so does repairing defects 3 and 5 years later.