Buying new home without a home inspection
Q: We recently bought a model home in a new subdivision. The builder is using it as an office and will be renting it from us for one more year, until most of the remaining homes are sold. We did not have a home inspection for the following reasons: The builder is required to keep the property in good repair until we take possession; any major repair needs are likely to surface within the one-year warranty period, and the builder is required to make these repairs. Besides, we inspected all of the fixtures, windows, wall outlets and appliances ourselves, and everything was OK. In light of these circumstances, do you still recommend having a home inspection before the warranty expires?
A. Buying a new home without a professional inspection is always a risky gamble, regardless of circumstances. You would be wise to hire a qualified home inspector for the following reasons:
• The fact that the builder will maintain the building during the lease-back period applies to apparent cosmetic conditions only, not to the quality of construction.
• The belief that "any major repair needs are likely to surface within the one-year warranty period" is erroneous. Many kinds of building defects are not apparent and required professional discovery. Examples include construction defects or code violations in the attic where no one is likely to go, inside the electrical panel where no one is likely to look, plumbing installations under the house and below sinks, heating and venting equipment, inside fireplaces, etc. Defects in these areas only become apparent when there are noticeable problems involving performance. For example, inspections of new homes sometimes discover lack of adequate insulation in the attic, lack of required fire clearances at flue pipes or chimneys, improper wiring of electrical outlets, plumbing leaks in obscure locations, cracked roof tiles, missing or loose roof flashing, improperly installed gas connectors, etc.
• The walk-through inspection you did yourself does not approach the thoroughness of a professional home inspection, nor does it consider conditions such as those just listed.
Don't let the warranty period on this home expire without hiring a highly experienced home inspector. You'll be surprised at the things a competent inspector will find.
Q. We have owned our home for about 30 years and have made some additions and other improvements without building permits. Is it legal for us to sell the home "as is" if the buyers agree to do so?
A. In every state I am aware of, a home can be legally sold on an "as is" basis. However, there is one vital caveat. Everything you know about the property must be disclosed: every defect, everything done without a permit, every condition that would be of concern to a buyer. In the old "buyer beware" days of real estate, "as is" meant you were buying a surprise package. Today it means you are told how it "is" when you buy "as is." Failure to disclose can result is financial liability and litigation. The basic rule of thumb is this: when in doubt, disclose.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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