Is a Home Inspector Right for You? Part 1

A man inspecting the installation of an air conditioner behind a white painted wooden home.

Because your home is new, it has gone through many inspections by local government inspectors and the builder. If you opt for a third-party inspection of your new home, here’s what you need to know. Photo courtesy of the National Association of Home Inspectors.

You’ve just put in an offer on your dream home and you’re already planning where to put your furniture.

But, before you mentally move in, there’s one important step that you don’t want to ignore — the home inspection.

This step in the homebuying process is especially important if you purchase an older, resale home. 

With an older home, an inspector will look at all of the major components of the home to ascertain their remaining life expectancy and the cost (if needed) to replace or update them. He or she also will be looking to determine which items have defects and could be dangerous if not fixed. Or the inspector could discover evidence of renovations done by former owners that perhaps aren’t up to code.

A home inspection, especially when purchasing an older home, helps you make an informed decision about one of the largest and most important purchases you’ll ever make. You can use this information to consider adjusting or withdrawing your offer, which should be made contingent upon an inspection.

“Knowing the condition of the purchase just makes good sense,” said Frank Lesh, interim executive director of the 
American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). “It could prevent, at best, inconvenience; at worst, a catastrophic disaster.”

Third-Party Inspections of New Homes

While having a resale home inspected prior to purchase is considered pretty much a necessity, what if you are building a new home, either with a custom or production homebuilder?

The good news is that whether or not you hire a third-party inspector to check the home prior to closing, you can rest assured that your brand-new home has already undergone a series of rigorous inspections during the building process to ensure it meets the builder’s high standards and today’s tighter building codes. Typically, a new home is inspected at key points during construction by both the builder and a local city or county building inspector.

The comprehensive inspection process that Northern Kentucky-based Drees Homes has its homes undergo during the building process is indicative of what you can expect when choosing to build a new home. While different regions of the country may require other specific inspections, the most common inspections include the following:

  • footing;
  • foundation wall and slab;
  • underground plumbing and exterior underground plumbing;
  • upper plumbing rough-in;
  • electrical rough-in;
  • framing and insulation;
  • final plumbing and final electrical; and
  • certificate of occupancy inspection.

Drees Homes provides a Whole House Inspection addendum in its purchasing contract to have a private inspection prior to closing. The addendum lays out the purchaser’s obligations when obtaining a third-party inspection, including coordinating the inspection date with the Drees builder, completing the inspection within five days of the home’s completion as determined by the builder and meeting with the builder after the inspection to review the inspector’s report.

“Most private inspections happen at the end of construction before the close of the home,” said Sara Hensley, director of communications and social media for Drees Homes. “If the purchaser does elect to have an inspector, they must follow all safety standards.”

In addition, the Drees builder will be on hand on the date of the third-party inspection to meet the inspector at the home to view his or her credentials, Hensley said.

While the opportunity for a third-party inspection exists for purchasers of a Drees home, the number of instances of such inspections has been infrequent, Hensley added.

If you are building a new home, you should make sure you understand any builder requirements for bringing in a third-party inspector. It’s important to remember that you don’t own the home yet.Dirck Bartlett, director of business development with ILEX Construction & Wordworking, a custom homebuilder based in Easton, Md., has found the same to be true with ILEX’s clients.

“It is rare for our clients to get a third-party inspection, but it does happen,” he said, adding that ILEX works hand-in-hand with each project’s architect and homeowner to ensure the home is built according to the project specs and adheres to the appropriate codes.

“We are very traditional in the way we do things,” Bartlett added. “Our goal is to do what’s right for our client. Our builders are skilled in knowing when to say that this is the right way to do something to avoid a problem.”

Are Home Inspections of New Homes Necessary?

The beauty of buying new is that you know who built your home, you can keep track of the building process and you know that it has been built to the most recent (and most stringent) building codes. But, while a third-party inspection might not be necessary, 
another set of eyes can’t hurt, either. 

“Some clients don’t want it [a third-party inspection], but I think it’s a good idea,” said Aaron Michael, president of TimberCreek Homes Inc., a custom homebuilder in Salt Lake City, Utah.

He explained: “The inspection process is set up by each city to guide and regulate contractors’ work throughout the different stages of the build process. This does not mean that every problem on a job site can or will be caught by the inspection official. … Oftentimes, items that are overlooked by the subcontractors performing the work, or even the building inspector, can be caught by the builder.

“I take pride in the homes that I build and I want the structures to hold their integrity for many years to come,” Michael said.” I value the feedback I receive from the inspectors, as that feedback assists me in building quality homes.”

If one of Michael’s clients decides to bring in a third-party inspector, the client usually asks him for input. “I’m really involved in the vetting process,” he said.

Part Two of this article will give you tips on what to look for in a good home inspector.

Judy L. Marchman is a freelance writer and editor, with 20 years of magazine and book publishing experience. She covers a variety of subjects, including home-related topics. Her work has appeared in Kentucky Monthly, Keeneland Magazine and the Official Kentucky Derby Souvenir Magazine, among other publications.

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