Home inspections are a crucial step when buying a home, and few homeowners question the need for it when purchasing an existing or lived-in home. In fact, most of these home offers come with a contingency clause that allows the buyer to back out of a deal if the home inspection reveals something wrong with the house.
But, when it comes to buying a freshly built, brand new home, many buyers question the need for a home inspection.
After all, nothing could be wrong with a brand new home—right? It was just built! And for some, it was built explicitly to your requirements.
You would be surprised.
Even newly constructed homes can have issues, and local building code inspections are rarely airtight.
That said, you’re not out of luck! You can still buy brand new and get the home of your dreams; it’s just that your new home inspection will still be a key step to getting there.
What Is a New Home Inspection?
A new home inspection, also called a new construction inspection, is when a licensed or certified inspector checks the condition of the home before you close. The inspector looks at the home’s major systems, appliances, and structures to ensure that all is in working order and correctly installed.
New home inspections help guarantee that your home is safe to live in and that you won’t be surprised with costly repairs or problems you didn’t know about down the road.
Is It Normal to Get a New Construction Inspection?
New construction inspections are common and come heavily recommended by experts. Having a new home inspected ensures the construction and home’s systems are built to last, especially since no one has lived there to test them out before.
Better to have an inspection than discover in two weeks that the roof leaks when it rains!
Still, a home inspection isn’t automatically included in the sale. When giving your offer on a newly built home, ask to include a home inspection contingency in your contract and hire your own new construction inspector. It’s different from your final walk-through, so don’t let them tell you otherwise.
Inspecting a new home is similar to inspecting a previously lived-in home. However, if you’re involved in the home’s construction, it’s normal to hold a few different inspections throughout the construction process. (We’ll get into the different inspections below.)
Why You Want a New House Inspection: New Homes Have Problems Too
You may have wanted a brand new home to avoid the problems that come with a previously live-in house. After all, many of us consider new homes to be the best possible option when buying a home—there’s never been a scratch, dent, a child having fun with their new set of Crayola crayons, or for those concerned about it, ghosts.
But while buying new prevents issues like outdated hardware or out-of-style features, there’s still a chance of poor craftsmanship. You may have fewer possible problems, but mostly, you have different types of problems.
Where an older home may have water damage and a 21-year-old roof to replace, a new home can run into problems when builders:
- Use poor technique
- Don’t follow plans
- Rush the project and barely meet code requirements
- Are unable to stay on top of the many subcontractors needed for different home systems
- Simply make mistakes
Example problems you can run into with new home construction include:
- Cracks in decks, patios, and driveways
- Faulty grading and drainage
- Foundation cracks
- Warped flooring
- Bad framing
- Poor insulation
- Improperly applied siding
- Cracks in drywall
- Humidity inside the home
- Improper installation of ductwork
- Improper installation of appliances
- Improper installation of the roof
- Poor seals around vents or roof
- Poor crawl space ventilation
- Water leaks
- Improper plumbing
- Improper electrical wiring
- Doors sticking shut
- Unfinished projects
Some problems cause immediate issues (incorrectly installed appliances), while others may go unnoticed for months or years (foundation cracks).
Problems can also be categorized as minor (the shower’s hot and cold settings are reversed) to severe (a hidden leak).
Having an independent party inspect your home ensures a thorough inspection by someone without a conflict of interest and a fresh set of eyes.
There’s always the chance that a builder won’t perform a thorough inspection because they anticipate their work is fine or aren’t motivated to find problems that create more work for themselves. In the worst-case scenario, they may even cover up issues to avoid extending the length of the project.
If you build your new home yourself, we still recommend getting a home inspection for another expert’s opinion, as it could protect you down the line.
Isn’t the Building Code Inspection or Certificate of Occupancy Enough?
Now, you might be wondering why you need a new construction home inspection if the home already was—or will be—inspected by building code officials. It’s true that new buildings are required to meet local codes and are only granted a Certificate of Occupancy once local inspectors confirm the home does.
But, while it certainly helps to have a code inspector’s stamp of approval, there are a few critical reasons you want a home inspection as well:
- New homes are only required to meet the minimum building code requirements, and the bare minimum isn’t always what you want.
- Building codes are based on national standards and tweaked to local needs according to climate and geography, but that doesn’t mean they are always tweaked enough.
- The departments in charge of checking whether your home is up to code can be very busy (especially in areas with a high volume of new construction), so they may rush their inspection and miss important items.
- Home inspections check parts of your future home that a builder inspection doesn’t, like whether all the doors close correctly or all appliances work. They also double-check the big-ticket items and offer maintenance tips that come in handy as a new homeowner.
Can’t I Just Rely on My New Construction Warranty?
It’s common for new construction homes to come with a builder warranty, but due to the fine print, timing, or uncooperative nature of warranty providers, things don’t always go as smoothly as you would hope.
Even when they agree to fix the problem you’ve found or pay for it, working with warranties can be stressful. Dealing with the warranty department and scheduling can be a hassle, and fixing your home after moving in takes extra time and effort and may mess up your daily routine or require you to stay elsewhere.
Sometimes, depending on how big the issue you’ve discovered is, another home may have been a better choice entirely. And if it’s a health or safety issue, it’s essential to know about it before moving in, so you don’t find out in a worse way.
When to Do a Home Inspection on New Construction
When to schedule your new home inspection will depend on the times provided in your contract, whether the home is already built, and the construction schedule.
There are actually up to four inspections you may want to conduct, including those throughout construction and after:
- The Foundation Inspection
This inspection ensures the foundation of the home is set up for long-term success before the builders pour the base for your home. Once poured, adjustments can’t be made to the foundation without starting entirely over, making this inspection an important consideration for homeowners involved from the get-go.
Checks: Elevation, grading, drainage, water and vent lines, plumbing, and more.
- The Framing or Pre-Drywall Inspection
The framing inspection on new construction occurs before drywall is put up, but after water lines, gas, and electrical are installed. This is a great opportunity for an inspector to look for problems they cannot see during a typical home inspection, such as wiring or plumbing issues. If they discover an issue, it’s easier to correct it at this stage since the builders don’t have to tear down the whole wall.
Checks: Beams, bearings, nails, screws, studs, plates, leaks, water intrusion, mold risks, fire blocking, draft stopping, plumbing, electric wiring, and HVAC ducts.
- The Standard Home Inspection
The standard home inspection is the third possible inspection for homeowners involved in construction and the first possible inspection for homeowners buying a brand new home that’s already built.
This inspection is essentially the same as one done on a previously lived-in home, and you should only schedule it after construction is complete and the city has deemed the house up to code. However, don’t wait so long to have this inspection that it delays closing. Ideally, do it before your final walk-through so that the builder can fix any issues found right away.
Checks: Roof, chimney, gutters, attic, doors, windows, insulation, ventilation, basement, crawlspaces, HVAC, thermostat, toilets, sinks, sump pumps, electrical conductors, circuit breakers, meters, panelboards, appliances, fire safety, driveway, shed, deck, patio, and garage.
- The 1–Year Warranty Inspection
Many newly built homes come with a construction warranty, and it’s important to know the details of yours. While some elements may have extended protection, the standard construction warranty is one year.
This warranty is vital to anyone buying brand new. Houses settle over time, and an issue that may not have been noticeable before can be several months later. Thus, it’s smart to get the most out of your warranty by having a final home inspection before it’s up.
We recommend doing your one-year warranty inspection around the 11–month mark to be safe.
When planning your home inspection(s), a good builder will work with you. If you tell them of your inspection plans in advance, they can help you schedule inspections properly—so you don’t accidentally schedule a framing inspection the day the drywall is supposed to go up, for example.
You should know that it’s normal for your builder to request proof of license and insurance from your home inspector before allowing them on the premises.
What If the Builder Doesn’t Want Me to Get an Inspection?
It’s best to agree to a home inspection in the contract phase, and if a builder refuses to grant you an inspection by a third party, it may be worth looking elsewhere.
Your builder should stand by their work and never have an issue with a home inspection. It could be a red flag if you tell them well in advance and they still have a problem. Some may claim it’s a liability issue, but your new construction home inspector should have liability insurance.
A trustworthy builder will work with you and understand your desire for confirmation from another party.
What If a New Home Inspection Is Out of Budget?
When it comes to the cost of a new construction home inspection, the price range can vary by region, type of home, and type of inspection. The national average for a new home inspection is around $400.
When you’re already paying hundreds of thousands for a home, every additional dollar counts. For many, the extra cost of a new home inspection can seem like too much—especially if getting the 2+ inspections that come recommended for new construction.
Although a tough decision for buyers on a budget, it’s always recommended to have your future home inspected, even if it puts you over budget. Your inspection protects you from significantly higher costs in the form of repairs or unsafe living conditions, and you can use it to renegotiate your house price.
If you really don’t have a choice, you may want to look for a home in a lower price range so that you can afford the new home building inspections you need to safeguard your investment.
Always Get a Newly Built Home Inspected
Whether you’re having your dream home built to your exact specifications or buying an already constructed home to avoid the problems of an older house, a new home inspection is one of the best ways to protect your safety, investment, and wallet.
And even though you may not escape the home inspection like you thought, there are still huge advantages to getting an inspection on new homes:
- Mid-construction inspections allow you to see beyond the walls and catch everything a regular home inspection can’t.
- You can have problems fixed before doing so uproots your home and life.
- A builder’s construction warranty can grant you relief and protection.
Once you know what new home inspections you want, all that’s left is to find the right home inspector and schedule them out.