We are in the midst of a building revolution. More changes have occurred in housing construction in the past ten years than during the previous 200 years. The next ten years will further accelerate the integration of technologies in producing energy efficient, cost efficient and healthy housing. Just about everyone's perspective is changing about how to live healthier and conserve more. The purchase of a new home will still likely be the largest investment you will ever make, but it will also need to be a smarter investment. Most new homes now involve a private inspector. When I was building homes 25 years ago I would have been insulted to have a home inspector check my work, but now most home builders recognize the the advantages and contributions of additional set of eyes on site (caught sooner; costs less). Several builders refer me to their clients.
In the past I have built nearly two hundred homes (in all price ranges). I have also developed five planned residential communities. This base of experience has helped me to understand the complexities, technologies, and diplomacy associated with the building process. Nevertheless I did not begin to really learn about the problems and future consequences associated with many construction practices until I began to inspect existing homes in 1988. Since then I have inspected thousands of new and existing homes.
Experienced home inspectors have one incredibly important advantage over other professionals, namely, hindsight. Home inspectors are able to study how time, weather and neglect have treated the materials and workmanship which went into a new house. In fact, most of the serious problems I deal with in resale houses 25 years old and older could have been detected and corrected when the houses were new. Unfortunately, when a house is older, these problems are costly to a buyer or seller when they present themselves as unpleasant surprises after a "final" offer has been negotiated.
An independent inspector works for you; he is also an excellent resource for any questions which you may otherwise feel uncomfortable asking your builder, Realtor, or anyone else who is an interested party to your contract. By utilizing an independent inspector you have the opportunity to discuss and weigh alternatives to issues or decisions which will need to be confronted during the planning, construction, and closing stages without the worry of conflicts of interest. I take a problem-solving approach to the building process which goes beyond simply reporting any existing or potential problems. I can suggest reasonable, constructive and cost effective approaches for dealing with just about any issue which may arise. Moreover, the comprehensive final narrative report can be utilized in the future as a resource document in talking more knowledgeably with specialty contractors or repair persons. A wealth of information is also included in recommending homeowner maintenance procedures that you can prudently undertake after the home is completed in order to preserve the long term value of your investment. Initial construction is the time when home buyers have contractual leverage with their builder, and in turn is also the time when the builder has substantial leverage with his (or her) subcontractors and materials suppliers. Additionally this is the point when costs (in terms of time, money, and emotions) are most manageable for all parties; consequently, this is the best time to detect, evaluate, and resolve all issues. When properly executed, the process can become fun and educational.
General contracting is an incredibly tough (and risky) business filled with day-to-day deadlines and pressures which impact the builder's ability to manage every detail of a project (including your priorities), consequently mistakes happen and some problems are inevitable. But no matter how good the intentions of the parties may be problems which are discovered "after closing" are rarely solved amicably and/or to everyone's satisfaction. I have never worked with a builder whose goal is not to provide the best reasonable product for the money. Once this is understood by all parties the rest of the process is simply a function of effective communications.
The circumstances involved in each new home purchase vary considerably, consequently I have developed a range of both standardized and custom home inspection programs designed to accommodate the individualized needs and budget constraints of each client.
1) Nearly Completed Construction (one-time final inspection) -
For those buyers who purchase already (or nearly) completed homes we offer a standard one-time inspection which should occur after the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy ("CO") and following the installation of the permanent electric, gas and water services by the utility companies. If the inspection takes place at this time the functions of all major appliances and fixtures can be tested and the "as-built" major structural and utility systems can be evaluated. If possible the home buyer should be present during the final inspection as this will assist them in preparing a "punchlist" for their final pre-closing walk-through with the builder. The inspection will last approximately three hours, plus or minus, depending upon the size of the house. Within twenty-four hours following the inspection a preliminary report (Summary section of the full report) will be faxed or emailed to you (and/or the builder and Realtor, if authorized by you).This Summary report contains: 1) items which are visibly incomplete (or in process), 2) structurally defective, 3) inoperable or operationally defective, or 4) in need of further evaluation or follow-up with the contractor or a reputable specialist. The final narrative report will be mailed or emailed to the you two days following the site inspection.
The following are some additional items to consider in scheduling a final inspection:
In some jurisdictions a water sample must also be tested and approved by the County Health Department prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy.
The electrical and gas utility companies will not install a permanent meter (in some areas) until the final inspection has been performed by the municipal or county building inspector (and "called in" by the inspector to the utility company).
The final inspection and resulting summary report represent a snapshot in time and should be utilized as a contributory tool in assisting all parties in completing what is usually a complicated and sometimes emotional process. The evaluation of a new house differs considerably from an existing house in that interior and exterior cosmetic finishes are included in the inspection and reporting process.
The final inspection and resultant summary report should not be construed as a "punch-list"; they are intended to accompany the Buyer’s punch-list or final walk-through process with the Builder prior to final settlement. Generally the Buyers "punch-list" will include and address items that are cosmetic in nature and/or visibly incomplete during a final walk-through prior to final settlement. The Buyer is also usually aware of any verbal or written expectations that may be missing, incomplete, improperly installed or on back-order at the time of final walk-through, consequently these items should also be on the list "for the record". In some cases the items noted by the Buyer and Inspector will overlap. Both entities should note any items or issues that come to their attention as a checks and balances measure and to ensure that as many deficiencies as possible are caught. Some deficiencies will not be revealed until the house is occupied and experienced as a living system and it is not reasonable to assume that these should be discovered during the final inspection and punch list inspections. These types of deficiencies are customarily corrected by the contractor under the standard one-year warranty provisions of the initial contract to purchase. More disputes and litigation occur after the fact related to uncompleted punch-list items than any other new construction issue.
If the Buyer is purchasing an already completed new home then this process is not always defined and it is strongly recommended that the Buyer contact the Builder so that these policies are understood as much as possible in advance. Usually there is no language or custom clarifying what is reasonably to be accepted between the Buyer and Builder related to "good workmanship" or "adequacy" related to the completion of a task or resolution of an issue. Therefore it is extremely important that reason, patience, attention to details, and (some) compromise are exercised at this stage of completion. All deficiencies and issues should be resolved and completed as much as possible prior to final settlement. No house is perfect; on the other hand as the Buyer of a new home you deserve to get the most for your money (and time commitment). Having been a Builder myself I know that your contractor wants to provide you best that they can and it is important that all parties work towards this goal.
Private inspectors are not code officials and they are not charged with determining whether construction has been performed according to local building codes. The inspector, however, should have a thorough working knowledge of the International Residential Building Code. Although Wells Inspection Services does not perform building code inspections, Ron Wells, has obtained a pre-qualification certification from the N.C. Code Officials Qualification Board and attends yearly update building code seminars and certification programs.
2)New Construction Interval Inspections -
To suit the needs of those buyers who are purchasing a home which is either to be built at a later date or which is in the initial stages of construction, we have developed a standardized interval inspections program. This program is less involved (and less costly) than the services we provide on a more custom basis. This program consists of a series of inspections to be performed at the following intervals: 1. After the footings have been dug and installed. 2. Footing and foundation walls prior to backfill (after waterproofing activities, if applicable) 3. Completion of utility rough ins (plumbing, electrical, HVAC and insulation) just prior to drywall installation 4. Final Inspection - After issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy and after the installation of permanent utilities
The basis of this type of program assumes that we will be able to make the initial inspections of the building site on an informal (unscheduled basis). The intent of these interval inspections is to observe and report whether work is being performed in a good and workmanlike manner according to contract documents (Plans and Specifications) and as per local building codes. The client is strongly encouraged to attend and participate in the final inspection. Please note that I generally visit the site at least once a week (or more if needed) in order to keep an eye on the project. I will only provide a written statement following such visits if there is a problem to report.
Following each interval inspection a brief written report would be prepared; this report may include items which appear to be defective, work which does not appear to have been performed suitably or does not conform to contractual specifications or any other items which may merit discussion. A final narrative report will also be provided upon completion of the house.
The final inspection follows the same general characteristics as the one-time inspection described above.
3) Custom Inspection Services -
For larger or more complex projects, a custom program can be implemented which would include site inspections at more or different intervals, draw request/percent completion reports, etc. In these cases we encourage you to arrange a time where we can sit down, assess needs and project how we can best accomplish your goals.
For more information on New Construction Interval inspections, please click on the document below