DEAR BARRY: We opened escrow on a brand-new home, and the builder refuses to allow a home inspector on the property. He insists that a home inspection is not necessary because the house has a one-year warranty and because an occupancy permit was issued by the building department. Since the home is new and it is warranted, should we be concerned about having a home inspection? –Jake & Falynn
DEAR JAKE & FALYNN: Builders who are honest and reasonable know better than to prohibit a home inspection. A professional inspection is a routine process in most residential purchases, regardless of whether the home is old or new. When sellers prevent buyers from having a home inspection, their motives and integrity are suspect.
In your case, the builder has made two false assumptions: First, he assumes that new homes are free of defects because the building department has signed off on the construction; and second, he asserts that a one-year builder’s warranty insures a buyer against construction defects. Here are the problems with these assumptions:
1) All new homes have defects that are unknown to the builder, regardless of the skills and good intentions of the contractors and workers. It is simply not possible to build something as large and complex as a home without some human errors escaping the attention of the builder and the municipal inspector.
2) What good is a one-year builder’s warranty if defects are discovered more than one year after the house is purchased? Here is a potential situation: Five years from now, you decide to sell the home. The buyers hire a home inspector, and that inspector finds construction defects that were not discovered or disclosed when you purchased the property, because you didn’t hire a home inspector. The buyers demand that you pay for the corrective work, and you are stuck with the costs because the warranty has long since expired. Will your builder stand behind his work in that case? If so, let him put that in writing today. …CONTINUED
3) Municipal building inspectors do not inspect with the same degree of scrutiny as an experienced home inspector. Their final inspections do not take three hours, and they do not consider the same numbers of issues. For example, municipal inspectors are concerned exclusively with code compliance, not with quality of workmanship. This can be crucial to a homebuyer because substandard work often does not violate the code. What’s more, even code violations can be overlooked by municipal inspectors.
For example, they do not test outlets for ground and polarity because their inspections take place before the electricity is turned on. City and county inspectors seldom walk on roofs and almost never crawl through attics or below floors. They typically do not operate built-in fixtures such as ovens, dishwashers or furnaces, and they seldom test drains for leaks. And unlike home inspectors, municipal inspectors have no liability for conditions that they overlook. Chapter one of the Building Code absolves them of all liability.
For the builder of this home to deny your right to a professional inspection is not just unreasonable, it is entirely unethical. If the builder won’t budge on this point, you should shop around for another home — one with a more fair-minded seller.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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