The New Home Experience
The experience of purchasing and building a new home was made to be exciting.
Picture this. You walk into a model home. There is a friendly builder rep inside a home with all the latest shiny trends.
The kitchen is what dreams are made of. The master bedroom is 3 times the size that you have now. The master bathroom is as big as your current master bedroom.
In a fast moving market, new home communities in Northern VA can sell quickly. Maybe you have one particular lot picked out, and the time to put a contract in has come.
I have been through the experience of purchasing a new home many times with clients. Builders know how to make it as pleasant and as painless as possible. After touring a model, seeing the lot, the colorful 3d renderings and hearing about all the incentives, the last thing on your mind is inspecting your new property for what could less than perfect.
More Info About New Homes in Northern VA
This short article expands on my Northern VA New Homes Guide . See this guide for more information about the entire process, as well as new homes currently for sale in the area.
New Homes For Sale in Northern VA
If you are currently searching for new homes, use the map below to see what is for sale. If you move it around, it will populate the homes in that area.
Have a question? Want to tour one of these properties or communities? Reach out to me and let me know how I can help.
Should You Inspect a New Home?
Tyler Small with Apro Home Inspections has done many inspection of new construction homes in the Northern VA area.
“New construction home inspections are mostly a quality control type activity.” Explains Tyler. “Builders can forget things”.
Walkthough Versus Home Inspection
New home builders in Northern VA usually offer 2-3 walkthroughs with the project manager before signing the final closing paperwork. Right before drywall is hung, when the home is nearly complete and then right before settlement are the most common.
There is also a walkthrough that occurs at one year post settlement. New homes, mostly made of wood, will expand and contract through the changing in humidity with the seasons.
This causes nail pops, other paint and drywall changes and possibly other items to need the builder to touch up. The builder will go back through your new home to find anything that needs to be touched up.
When you do a walkthrough, you will be able to point out any deficiencies that you see. This is the infamous time when you point at blemishes and the project manager marks everything up with blue tape.
The main difference between an inspection and a walkthrough is an inspection is done by a licensed home inspector who you hire. They are trained to look for potential issues or actual defects in the property.
A walkthrough is with you, your agent and the employee of the builder. As well intentioned as your agent may be in helping you with this phase, they are not trained to be an expert in the building of homes and spotting all items that should be addressed by your builder. That includes me. I have lots of new home experience but do not have the training an inspector has.
In short, an inspection has an expert on your side to make sure the home is built properly. A walkthrough you will be relying on your own knowledge. The builder employee will not be helping you find defects. Unless you are a professional, it is a good idea to get a licensed inspector on your side.
Code Inspection Versus Homes Inspection
To obtain and finalize building permits, your home is going to be going through multiple code inspections by the local government jurisdiction.
For these permits, the inspector is looking to make sure the home is built up to the standard of the state and local building codes.
Building to code and building a home without defects are not one in the same. Something can be not built how it should, but does not violate any codes and gets a permit.
Tyler states, “We inspect for things that a (code) inspector isn’t necessarily looking for. Code inspectors make mistakes also.”
A good home inspector will identify these defects. A code inspector is only looking for compliance by the book.
Will My Builder Allow a Home Inspection?
Contingency and Inspections
This question can mean two different things. First, will your builder allow you to do a home inspection? I have found that the answer is usually yes, but always verify.
Home builders in Northern VA all use different contracts and have different policies. The best time to discuss this is at contract review and signing. Ask them when you will be allowed to inspect.
Sometimes, this question is asked meaning will the builder allow a home inspection contingency?
In a resale home, it is common to have a way out of the contract if the home inspection turns up a major issue. In a new home contract, this is not common in Northern VA.
Builders will allow you to inspect, they may even repair some items, but rarely (if ever) will they allow you to void the contract and get your deposit back on the grounds of an inspection.
This could change with the market. If there are limited buyers and lots of new home communities, some builders will change their contract to be more buyer friendly and attract you to choose them.
Will My Builder Make Repairs Based on a Home Inspection?
I have found that this answer varies based on the builder, the market, the project and the requests. My advice for you here is to ask for the repairs and see where you can get.
Again, a builder is very unlikely to give you any contractual right to repairs. But they often will work with you anyway depending on what you find.
Items that are clearly deficient or defective or are safety issues will likely be considered by your builder for correcting. This can help you by saving you money on maintenance down the line and also making sure your home is safe to live in.
Your builder (hopefully) has a good reputation to protect. They want you to be happy with your new home and show all of your friends. However, if you are trying to make your home perfect with your inspection requests, you likely will not get far. I have been in 1000s of homes, and yet to find a flawless one.
Common Phases of New Construction Home Inspections
There are four potential times that inspectors recommend a new home inspection. First, the inspection of a foundation. Second, pre-drywall. Third, when a new home home is complete. And finally, some inspectors offer to come back for your 1 year follow up walkthrough.
The first opportunity for inspection is when your builder is working on foundation. You will find different opinions on when to inspect. Some inspectors recommend pre-pour inspections. Others right after foundation is poured. Some will do both.
As far as timing, communication with your builder will be essential. Foundation pouring is quickly followed by other work, so you will want your inspector to be ready to be at the property when your builder notifies you.
The next most common opportunity for an inspection will be right before your drywall is hung on the walls.
This is an important one. Tyler the inspector points out that “Issues found during a pre-drywall inspection can limit some common problems that develop as homes age. These things cannot be corrected once the drywall is installed.”
Because you are building a new home, this is a unique opportunity that you would not get with a resale.
This inspection will usually occur just before the County or City jurisdiction signs off on electrical, plumbing, etc. for a “close in” phase of the permit process. Your inspector will get a chance to see all the electrical wiring, plumbing, HVAC ducts, framing, subfloors, insulation and more.
If the builder does agree to do fixes at this point, it is a good idea to verify that they have been completed prior to installation of drywall. This seems obvious, but the process can move fast. If you are very busy, you or your agent can request some photos/video to verify.
This inspection is done when your new home is completely finished and ready to move into.
It is usually a good idea to get this inspection with enough time for the builder to remedy anything that they agree to fix. For this inspection, a good time to verify final repairs is at the final walkthrough.
For the walkthrough, bring your home inspection report, your blue tape for touch up work and get ready for some fun.
One Year Walkthrough
Around the one year mark of owning your new home, you will have the opportunity to do another walkthrough with your builder. You can also bring in an inspector beforehand or possibly during to help you identify what to look for.
This inspection the builder may refer to as mostly looking for “nail pops”. Nail pops are a common phenomenon when the nails in the drywall work their way out of the wood they are nailed into.
But this walkthrough is for more than just that. Your home has had a chance to go through all 4 seasons at this point and you will want to make sure everything is running correctly as many items are still under warranty.
Tyler has done many of these inspections, “Our one-year warranty inspections are useful for providing a list of things that the builder needs to repair under warranty that may go unnoticed by the occupant.”
Finding an Inspector
Your agent may be able to give you a referral for a good inspector.
If you are doing your own homework, this is what I recommend.
- Get an inspector with new construction experience. Preferably, a lot of it. And with the type of property you are buying.
- Ask about packaging multiple inspections. Some inspectors will offer foundation, pre-drywall and final inspections for one blanket price. This can save you a little money.
- Ask them for their recommendations on timing. Find someone you trust and then ask them which inspections they recommend and when to do them.
- Make sure they will give you detailed reports. It is a good idea to bring them with your to your walkthrough to review with the project manager.
So….Should You Inspect a New Home?
Did you run through this whole article at lightning fast speed looking for an answer? Here it is.
Yes, in my extensive experience with new homes an inspection is a good idea. First of all, think of it as an extra layer of protection for your purchase of a large asset.
Builders are made up of human beings (for now) and can make mistakes. It is always good to know what these mistakes are before you move in to get them addressed.
Secondly, it keeps the builder focused as they build. if you let them know an inspector will be coming they will want to get things done right so they do not have to go back.
Lastly, oftentimes you will get more repairs than the inspection costs. So if you are very budget minded, it is a good investment if you can work with the builder.
I hope I was able to help you out with your new home journey. You may have questions about buying new.
Let’s connect. I have the knowledge of going through many of these transactions, with all types of builders. Don’t know where to start? Fill out the form below and ask me about real estate.