Whether you buy turnkey construction in a newly developed neighborhood or work with an architect on a custom home, new construction has an allure. You get to sweep into a pristine home, and new construction seems to come with the promise of carefree living with no worries about the issues found in older homes.
Or does it?
Unfortunately, no house is perfect. Whether these are due to builder error, shoddy materials, or just the natural settling of the house, the truth is that new construction can have significant defects.
Fortunately, you can help protect yourself by following these three steps.
1. Understand your builder’s warranty
Every great builder knows that a house needs to live through a full year of seasonal change before it’s really done. That’s because changes in the weather can reveal — or cause — all sorts of issues that may not have been apparent when the keys were first handed over to you.
For example, heavy spring rains could wash away soil around the foundation or seep into a poorly sealed basement. And in winter, ice dams could form behind an improperly installed gutter and damage roof shingles.
And so on.
This is why most builders offer a one-year warranty on their new construction homes. They want to make sure the homes they build are solid, and they know they may need to come back to remedy an issue within that first year.
Every warranty is different, so it pays to read the fine print up front. A good warranty will cover both materials and workmanship, and will include the following items:
- Basement leaks and seepage
- Drywall (including “nail pops”)
- Exterior siding
- Garage doors
- HVAC systems
- Septic system
- Thermal and moisture issues
It’s just as important to know what’s not covered. There are several areas and conditions that builders often explicitly exclude from their warranties. Common exclusions are:
- Damage caused by neglect: Homeowners need to be vigilant about performing adequate maintenance, even on new construction. Things like clearing gutters, eradicating pests, maintaining ventilation, and trimming foundation plants are crucial to keeping your home in good shape. Some builders may provide a list of what’s expected on your end.
- Damage caused by outside forces: This type of damage could be caused by animals, people, or events considered to be “acts of God,” like wind damage or flooding. This also includes damage caused by contractors you hire to work on your home after construction is completed.
- Some deterioration of building materials: General wear and tear that falls within normal levels won’t be covered. This could include shrinkage or other changes that fall within industry standards or normal settling and soil movement.
- Home appliances: Consumer products like appliances or other equipment generally aren’t covered. On the bright side, these often have their own warranties, which you should be provided by the builder upon the sale of the house.
2. Know your warranty dates
Once you know what’s covered, you also need to know for how long. Nothing is guaranteed forever, and the vast majority of builder’s warranties last for just one year. That covers the crucial first time through each season, and is the type of limited coverage you’ll usually get on labor and materials — that is, most of the items in your new home.
Some warranties also have sections of coverage that last two years. These are often on major mechanical systems, including things like:
- HVAC systems
Finally, some warranties will cover structural defects to framing, foundations, and the like for an even longer period — possibly ten years. It’s also possible that your state has laws requiring minimum warranty coverage, so be sure that your warranty contract language meets any state or local requirements.
3. Get your home inspected before the warranty expires
Many homeowners are in the honeymoon period with their new house during the first year. And rightly so — but be sure to mark your calendars for your 11-month warranty inspection and schedule that inspection appointment with a home inspector well in advance of your warranty’s expiration date. Here’s what you need to know.
What is an 11-month warranty inspection?
An 11-month warranty inspection is a full home inspection performed by a home inspector, complete with the delivery of an inspection report. This is just like the home inspection you would get on any home you buy, no matter what its age. In fact, you may have already had a home inspection before you closed on your new construction home.
The 11-month warranty inspection received its name because homeowners typically schedule it to fall during their eleventh month in their brand new home. In reality, you can schedule your warranty inspection at any time before your one-year builder’s warranty expires. Your inspector’s goal will be to provide you with all the visually-available information you need about the state of your home and to alert you to issues they detect. Timing is key: you want to complete it while you still have at least three to four weeks left to make any necessary claims on your builder’s warranty before it expires.
Why do you need an 11-month warranty inspection?
An 11-month warranty inspection will help you protect your investment. A qualified home inspector will be able to identify common problems that emerge in new construction and alert you to serious issues. You may not notice a small leak around a window until rot and mold become a serious problem later — and this will almost certainly be after your warranty has expired, meaning you have to pay for repairs out of pocket. Your inspector knows exactly what to look for and will zero in on details the average person could easily miss.
An 11-month warranty inspection report will make it much easier to make a timely, thorough claim on your warranty. A great inspector will detail their findings and illustrate their inspection report with clear photographs, making it more likely that your claim will be paid.
To schedule your 11-month warranty inspection, you’ll need to hire a qualified home inspector. If you don’t see an 11-month inspection on their list of services, just ask! Finding problems with your newly-constructed home within the first year can save you from a financial blow later — not to mention frustration and heartache.
And that’s an investment worth making.