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Should I have my brand-new home inspected?

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Dear Monty: Should I have my brand-new home inspected? I am in the process of building a new house. My agent told me that, on completion, I should have an inspection. My builder informs me that it is inspected three times during the process and once after completion. They use an independent inspector to check the house. In your opinion, is it necessary for me to hire someone to inspect the house after it is completed?

Monty's Answer: It is unclear in your message where you are in the home building process. Allow me to start at the beginning. Some components will be too costly to change or investigate if you are too far along in the process. Many municipal inspections purposefully occur before encasing the work inside a wall, under concrete or the lawn.

Even the very best contractors, or their subcontractors, can make mistakes. Based on my experience, here is a link to the level of investigation a careful consumer may consider when choosing a builder. With the current overheated market, some builders may be reluctant to take the time to respond. Still, you can shorten the list of questions.

The Roadmap

Your contract with the builder is the roadmap to completion with no detours. For example, a reader recently asked a question in a dispute over the location of a window. In the process of answering their question, it became clear that the buyer signed a contract without a house plan. Most builders want floor plans, elevation drawings and specifications in the contract to avoid such a situation. Change orders made during construction typically add additional costs. If you have a building plan, a change in correcting a construction error is on the contractor.

Buyers Treat the Process Differently

Some eager customers show up almost daily toward the end of the workday to watch their new home come to life. Others may rarely visit the construction site. Some time ago, a client building a home in a cross-country move signed a contract and never set foot in their new home until they took occupancy. While multiple inspectors visit periodically to ensure code compliance, their inspections are specifically for a particular component, as in electrical wiring or plumbing. Municipal inspectors are not inspecting the entire house. The code and inspector experience and diligence vary by state and municipality.

A Suggestion

Ask the builder to see a copy of the inspection before signing off on the construction. The term "independent" implies impartiality. Suppose the inspector has a relationship with the builder: a relative, a golf buddy or a neighbor. In that case, human nature suggests impartiality is at risk of being compromised. Turning a blind eye to an inspection issue is more likely as the volume of inspections increase.

Here is a link to an article written for an insurance company that insures home inspectors you may find to be helpful. Depending on what you observe as you consider the value of a second inspection, consider ordering one of your own if any red flags appear. It seems a bit unusual your agent suggested it. Is it possible your agent knows something?

Richard Montgomery is the author of "House Money - An Insider's Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home." He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty, or



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