Do new homes really need a home inspection?
Q: You often recommend home inspections for newly built homes, but in my case, this has proved to be unnecessary. Since buying my home about six months ago, I've had two problems, and the builder repaired them immediately. In another six months, my warranty will expire. What reasons, if any, can you give for having an inspection during that time?
A: Reliance on the builder's warranty is the most common reason why buyers of new homes tend to forego home inspections. The problem with this approach is the belief that all significant defects will become apparent during the warranty period. This, as we shall see, is a faulty assumption.
A fact that is often overlooked is that all new homes have unapparent defects, regardless of the quality of construction or the integrity of the builder. Simply stated: No one can build something as large and complex as a house without committing a few errors at various stages of the process. To assume all such errors will be readily apparent is a recipe for financial loss.
Some problems may reside in the attic, in the electric service panel or high atop the roof. They may involve safety violations with a chimney installation or the grounding of electrical outlets. There might be a defect in the roof framing, the gas connection to the heater, or the site drainage near the building. A home inspector who is able to discover such conditions will enable you to take full advantage of your builders' warranty.
Reliance on your own ability to observe such defects during the warranty period is wishful thinking.
Professional inspection of a newly constructed house is always beneficial, if performed by a truly qualified individual with many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness.
Q: We recently purchased a home and had it checked by our agent's home inspector. The inspector noticed some loose floor tiles in the kitchen and said they could be repaired for about $200. The sellers agreed to credit us $200, so we closed escrow on that basis. Since then, two contractors have told us the problem is more serious and requires relaying the entire kitchen floor, at a cost of nearly $2,500.
How could our inspector have given such an inaccurate repair estimate, and why was his estimate verbal, rather than part of the inspection report. Is he liable for the excess costs.
A: Your home inspector should not have estimated the repair costs for your floor unless costs estimates were included in his written report. Because he did not provide written estimates, his recommendation should have simply been "further evaluation by a qualified flooring contractor prior to close of transaction." If that had been done, contractors could have submitted the $2,500 estimates, and negotiations with the sellers for the actual cost of repairs could have taken place.
Your inspector's undocumented "guesstimate" was unprofessional and ill-advised. Whether you can base a claim of liability on a verbal statement is doubtful, but the matter could be easily tested in small claims court. At the very least, the inspector should be notified of your displeasure.
• Email your questions to Barry Stone, certified home inspector, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Action Coast Publishing