You’ve signed a contract on your new home and selected your cabinets, appliances, flooring and other finishes.
If you thought that was exciting, brace yourself — the next step is the start of construction.
No doubt you’ll be eager to watch events unfold on the job site – when asked about keeping track of the construction process, panelists of the New Home Source Insights Panel said they were interested in keeping track of their home’s progress in real time through photos, time-lapse photography and drones. Of those surveyed, 25 percent of respondents said they visited their home’s construction site a few times a month (they drove by the homesite).
It’s understandable that you want to see your home’s progress, but for safety reasons as well as the demands of a production schedule, it’s not feasible for homeowners to visit the site at will. Your builder will arrange guided tours at specific points in the process.
Practices may vary from builder to builder, but typically there are two walkthroughs: after the framing and mechanical systems are roughed in, but prior to the installation of insulation and drywall and after construction work is completed.
The pre-drywall walk
Maracay Homes in Scottsdale, Ariz., calls the pre-drywall walkthrough the Hard Hat Tour. “Most builders perform this walk,” says James Attwood, construction area manager for Maracay. “Many call it an options walk or a pre-drywall orientation.”
During the hard hat tour, the construction manager confirms that all selections and options have been installed per the customer’s purchase agreement and provides insight into the building components before they’re covered up with drywall. “It’s a good opportunity [for us] to explain a lot of the things that help their home function, but the main point is to confirm that all of the selections are in place,” Attwood says. “After drywall is installed in the home, it’s much more difficult to install options located inside the wall cavity.”
This walkthrough typically lasts from one to one-and-a-half hours. The construction manager reviews the framing of the home and its mechanical systems, which include heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing and electrical. He or she also reviews all selections and telephone, cable and audio/video locations to make sure they’ve been installed according to the construction documents. At this time, the construction manager will go over warranty and service procedures and the customer’s responsibilities as far as maintenance.
To get the most out of a pre-drywall walkthrough, Maracay recommends that customers bring along the following items:
• Copy of the builder’s customer service manual;
• Purchase agreement;
• Selection sheets;
• Telephone, cable and audio/video diagrams;
• List of options and upgrades, if applicable and
• Landscape and pool plans, if applicable.
The second walkthrough is sometimes called a pre-settlement walkthrough. Maracay calls it the New Home Orientation. It takes between two-and-a-half and three hours and is conducted after construction is completed, typically several days before closing.
According to Attwood, Maracay’s New Home Orientation goes beyond the traditional walkthrough to include a detailed demonstration of the home’s operation and a review of the owner’s maintenance responsibilities and warranties. The orientation is also another opportunity for the builder to confirm that the home has been delivered with all construction work completed and selections installed as requested.
At this time, the construction manager demonstrates how to operate the heating and air-conditioning units, appliances, electrical circuit breakers, plumbing shut-off valves and other necessary equipment that keeps a home running smoothly.
During the New Home Orientation, the homeowner and construction manager will inspect surfaces such as floors, walls, window glass, mirrors, appliances and countertops to ensure there are no chips, scratches or other noticeable damage. It’s wise to go into this inspection with an eagle eye, because such cosmetic items will not be covered by your warranty after the orientation. Remember that any items that need attention must be noted in writing on a checklist, or punch list.
“This is the customer’s opportunity to identify cosmetic defects on cabinets, countertops and other things that are susceptible to damage after the customer closes on the home,” Attwood says. “After closing, there is no way to tell if cosmetic damage was caused during the construction process or was the result of damage incurred during the moving process.”
Paint touch-ups are the most frequently noted items on a walkthrough. You should also check hardwood flooring, countertops, carpeting, drywall, appliances, cabinets, windows, bathtubs, showers, tile work and so on. Walk around the outside of the house as well, looking for such things as damaged siding, sloppy brickwork and poorly sealed crevices. If the landscaping is already in, make sure there’s no dead vegetation.
Homeowners are given a stack of documents at the orientation, including a list of emergency phone numbers for critical trade partners (such as heating and plumbing) who may be needed after business hours or on weekends. They also receive the manufacturers’ literature for the furnace, water heater, appliances and other consumer products. But quite a bit of information is conveyed verbally, so instead of relying on your memory, take lots of notes.
Maracay’s goal is to complete all items noted at the New Home Orientation prior to close of escrow. Generally, most are completed before the homeowners move in. If there are any outstanding items when the closing date arrives, Maracay coordinates completion of the work in much the same way a warranty request would be handled. But, Attwood says, “It’s certainly the exception to the rule to have an open item at the time of closing.” Some builders allocate only 30 to 45 minutes for this walkthrough. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed through the process. It’s better to fix small things now, before they become bigger, more expensive problems. It also benefits the builder’s reputation to handle such issues promptly.
Maracay schedules a third and final walkthrough, the New Home Presentation, several days after the New Home Orientation. “Typically, for us, it’s about three business days between the orientation and the presentation,” says Attwood. “So if the orientation took place on a Monday, the presentation would happen on Thursday or Friday of that week. Within that time period, we’ll complete all the punch list items.”
Builders prefer to remedy problems before the homeowners move in because it’s easier for them to work in an empty house, but some items may have to be corrected after move-in. For example, if the walkthrough is in the winter, landscaping adjustments may have to be delayed until spring.
During the one-hour walkthrough, homeowners are asked to initial and sign off on the completed punch list items, documenting that the work has been done to their satisfaction. If any new items are discovered, they’re forwarded to Maracay’s warranty department so that repairs can be scheduled after move-in.
It’s common practice for builders to schedule followup visits during the first year of homeownership to make necessary adjustments and perform non-emergency repairs, such as nail pops in the drywall. Nail pops occur due to the natural settling of the house and are best addressed near the end of the first year.
While it’s important for customers to verify that punch list items have been completed, the New Home Presentation is really more of a celebration, Attwood says. When the new owners pull up in front of their home, they see a “Welcome to your new Maracay home” banner strung across the garage door. Typically the entire team is present, including the project manager, the warranty representative and the salesperson. “We give them the keys and a gift basket and take pictures of them in front of the home,” Attwood says.
Walkthrough Dos and Don’ts
• Make a list in advance of any questions you have about maintenance and warranty procedures.
• On the date set for the walkthrough, make sure that you’ll be able to devote all of your attention to the task at hand. Try not to schedule other appointments.
• Bring pens, paper, a clipboard and a digital camera so you can take notes and photos.
• Bring your purchase agreement, customer service manual, selection sheets, audio/video diagrams and landscape and pool plans, if applicable.
• Wear clothing that is appropriate for walking a construction site, including closed-toe shoes.
• Park in the street, not the driveway, especially if the home is still under construction.
• Keep your hard hat on during the tour.
• Verify the expected dates for completion of repairs, if any are needed, and get a copy of the completed punch list before you leave the site.
• Be late for the walkthrough. Builders have busy schedules and may have appointments with other customers on the same day.
• Bring pets, children or other family members and friends. You’ll need to focus your attention on what is being presented.
• Rush through the walkthrough. Take your time and be thorough.
• Be shy about asking a lot of questions.
Learn more about home inspectors and the benefits they can offer you during walkthroughs here.