Do new constructions really need a home inspection?

The resounding answer is yes; you still need to get a new homes inspected. Don't assume that a new construction home is perfect just because it’s new. Common issues with new construction include structural defects, drainage and grading issues, electrical problems, plumbing issues, and even incomplete construction like missing fixtures or insulation.

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Even if if you’ll be the first person to live in a house, it's a good idea to get a home inspection. It may seem like strange advice: after all, nobody has lived in it — how could it have sustained any wear and tear? You might have even designed the home to meet your specifications. Why bother spending the money when you can see that the building is brand new?

Well, there are a ton of components that go into new home constructions, with many people putting in the work. That leaves a large margin for error. When you buy a new construction the contract will likely include a final walk through, but you should ask to include an inspection contingency as well.

What is a home inspection?

Before we get into specifics, let’s clarify what a home inspection means. A home inspection is a third-party evaluation of a home’s structure, systems, and other key features that helps determine the true value of the home. The vast majority of home sales require an inspection before the sale is official. An inspector reports their findings to the buyer who can then request that the seller fix any issues or else accept a lower sale price.

Home inspections protect buyers from purchasing homes and then having to immediately put in more money to fix problems that the seller may or may not have already known about.

Why you should get an inspection for a new construction home

Most sale contracts for new buildings and homes include a final walkthrough, but it may not include an inspection. You should ask your real estate agent to include an inspection contingency in your contract, and plan to pay for an independent inspector on your own.

You probably won’t find serious issues (like outdated plumbing or faulty wiring) since a municipal inspector from the county will make sure it's up up to city code and building safety standards — but, that doesn't mean there aren't any flaws with the new place, even when builders use approved plans and successfully receive an occupancy permit.

Some contractors to work too fast or only according to the bare minimum of building code. Many contractors subcontract their projects to other vendors so the people you think are building a new house aren’t always the ones doing it. Those subcontractors may not be as competent, and, of course, all builders are human. Mistakes happen.

You should not assume that a new home is perfect just because it’s new. In fact, problems occur with new buildings so frequently that there are a number of issues you could label “common.” They may look great on the outside but they could have a number of hidden issues. Home inspectors know what to look for in these situations.

Related: Yes, you still need a real estate for new construction homes

Common problems with new homes

  • Structural defects like foundation cracks, faulty grading, or poor framing.
  • Drainage and grading issues or window leakage.
  • Electrical problems like poorly wired outlets, open grounds, and missing switch plates.
  • Plumbing issues like reversed hot/cold faucet handles, improper piping, and leaking.
  • Incomplete construction like missing fixtures, railings, or insulation.

When you hire a home inspector, they’ll also take local building codes into account which vary by state, city, and county. They’ll look for s examine trenches, soil, elevation, framing, appliances, HVAC systems, connections to municipal water lines, and more.

There are a lot of issues that can pop up in a home inspection, even in a newly built home. That’s why it’s crucial to pay for a new construction home inspection — and make sure you get a home warranty, too.

3 necessary inspections for new homes

A new home inspection differs from an existing home inspection in a number of ways, but the most significant difference is that you may want to pay for several types of them. 

The earlier you can start on a new construction inspection, the better. That’s not always possible but if you contracted the entire project yourself, it’s important to stay involved in the process. There are three common types of new construction home inspections, and experts advise you pursue each, regardless of cost. (It will be far more expensive than fixing big problems later.)

→ Related: Find out what questions to ask your home builder

The foundation inspection

As the name suggests, the foundation inspection occurs just before the builders pour the foundation. For this reason, it’s sometimes also called a “pre-pour” inspection. An inspector ensures that the site has been excavated and graded correctly, and that all anchors and footing were laid correctly and at a proper distance from one another. Basically, the inspector ensures the home will go up on a strong foundation that will last for decades to come. 

Builders can fix any identified issues before pouring the foundation. If a mistake goes unnoticed, they may have to total the house and start again.

→ Learn about the signs of foundation issues

The framing inspection

After the builders finish the frame, you can bring in an inspector to perform a framing or “pre-drywall” inspection. At this stage, the roof should be on and the windows installed, but the sheetrock and walls aren’t up yet. As such, an inspector can see the beams, posts, studs, and other structural components, as well as the electrical and plumbing systems. Again, these may be costly to repair after moving in, so it’s good to let an inspector get inside the walls before the walls even exist. 

If anything is wrong, it might slow down the project, but it’s preferable to tearing open walls to fix an issue in the future.

The final inspection

The final inspection is most similar to an ordinary home inspection on an existing home. This inspection ensures that the home is safe to live in, has been finished up to local building code and standards, and has no electrical, plumbing, appliance, or even cosmetic issues that might cost a buyer money in the near future. Anything an inspector finds should be fixed by your builder but as stated before, it’s best to start early because they may argue if a previous inspector missed something, it’s not worth the cost of fixing.

Just as you would an existing home, you should hire an inspector for a new construction. Building a house is no small task and there are many moving parts and opportunities for things to go wrong. Inspecting the project multiple times throughout the building process can avoid costly mistakes and help ensure you move in on time.

→ Find out whether you can walk away after the final walk through

When do you get a new home inspection?

You can arrange a new construction home inspection whenever you’d like. If you’re pursuing multiple inspections, it’s better to get started earlier. 

The sooner you can get an inspection the better, as it can give you a vote of confidence. If a builder balks at a request to bring in an independent inspector, that’s a bad sign. They should be proud of their work, not afraid of having it inspected. That may inspire you to start thinking about other contractors to finish the project. If you’re looking at an already finished new construction, a builder complaining about an inspection is a big red flag that you probably don’t want to buy from them.

Related: 10 questions to ask a home builder

Additionally, as the homebuyer you want to make sure that the responsibility of fixing anything falls on the builder, not on you. If the inspector finds something wrong with a new construction before it’s finished, those repairs obviously fall to the builder to make. There should be little to no negotiation — it’s their fault for building it wrong in the first place.

If something comes up in an inspection after completion, the builder may put up more of a fight over whose responsibility it is to fix. When you skip a new construction home inspection entirely, you miss out on the chance to get the builders to fix any mistakes, just like you would if you didn’t get an inspection for an existing home.

→ Learn what fixes are mandatory after a home inspection

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