By Robert Lee
Home inspections aren't just for old homes. New home buyers who don't bother to have a professional inspector give their new home a thorough going over could risk their largest single expenditure on a money pit.
In 10 Hollister, CA housing tracts 175 homeowners are suing the developers of two subdivisions. Homeowners in three others are tangled in binding arbitration, and residents of another five neighborhoods are talking to attorneys. Homes mold grows in windows. Stucco cracks. Concrete slabs erupt. Walls shake when doors slam.
Both Fine Homebuilding magazine, and Portland, ME-based Criterium Engineers have warned of such new home building defects, but on a massive scale within the next few years as home builders respond to the booming demand for housing by cranking out homes with assembly line speed -- and quality isn't always job one.
Builders concede the recent boom in demand for new homes has created a shortage of skilled craftsmen. The cost of land in many areas could force some to otherwise cut corners. The plague of defects could become similar to that which afflicts the condo market in California where most older condo developments face some sort of construction defect litigation.
A professional inspector provides a potential buyer with an overall evaluation of the house and its major systems, but not only when you buy a home -- new or used. Current home owners should also consider periodic check ups to catch maintenance problems before they become repair issues.
And, says the American Society of Home Inspectors, an inspection can also turn up postive aspects of a home's condition and give sellers a strong negotiating position.
It's not self-serving when the California Real Esate Inspection says a home at any age needs inspecting.
Minor repair items often found in a new home may include incorrectly wired circuits, cracked roof shingles, missing miscellaneous hardware, binding doors, paint touch up, cracked window panes, dirty HVAC vents and filters, scratches in finished wood, and drywall nail pops. It should not show any signs of foundation settling, water intrusion, soil erosion, or improperly functioning appliances or mechanical components.
You'll be well protected if you can buy a new home before it's constructed and hire a home inspector as your private site supervisor.
The inspector should go to work at least three times during construction, when the foundation is poured, when the framing is completed and when the home is finished. You might also consider him or her inspecting the various systems as they are completed, including the walls, roof, plumbing, electrical and insulation systems.
If the home is finished when you buy it, hire a home inspector to give it a thorough inspection anyway.
Nearly New, 2- to 10-Year-Old Homes
Expect routine wear and tear, but these homes should be structurally and mechanically sound. Foundation settling could occur by now. If a drainage problem is left unresolved, expect future damage may occur. Pay particular attention to caulking, painting and other routine items. Also consider a review of the electrical and mechanical systems should also be conducted to assure proper operation.
Older, 11- to 20-Year-Old-Homes
For a house at this age you may need to repair or replace rotted wood rot, sealants, roofing shingles, and cosmetic surfaces. Original appliances may be nearing their expected service life.
Homes Up to 40 Years Old
As a building ages, its foundation is likely to experience some settling. Movement is also possible in the floors, walls, ceilings and other large areas. Anticipate replacing some major systems and components including heating, vents and air conditioning equipment (HVAC), roofing, major appliances, and electrical and plumbing fixtures.
Still Older, Historic and Archeticurally Significant Homes
Historic homes can contain significant structural problems, as well as outdated construction techniques. Mortar may be failing, fireplaces may not be safe to operate. Settling, spauling plaster, binding doors, inoperable windows, inadequate electrical and heating components, and inadequate insulation are common with old age homes. Anticipate extensive and expensive repairs, upgrades and restorations.
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