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The House Detective: Home inspection vs. builders' warranty

by Barry Stone Published: June 21, 2014

DEAR BARRY: I’m buying a brand-new home and was planning to hire a home inspector before closing escrow. Two of my friends in a similar community advised me to save my money because the builder provides a new home warranty and his crew will fix any defects we find on the final walk-through. Under these circumstances, is there any reason that I should spend hundreds of dollars for an inspection?

— Arthur

DEAR ARTHUR: Your friends are giving you some very uninformed advice, and here is why. Warranties on new homes provide free repair work for problems that are called to the attention of the builder. What many people do not realize is that most construction defects are not apparent to the untrained eye and often are not in readily accessible places.

During a final walk-through or after you move in, you might notice obvious defects such as doors that rub, a sink drain that leaks, or an oven burner that does not light. In those cases, you would report the problem to the builder and expect repairs to be made. But many construction defects are not accessible or easily recognized.

For example, what about construction defects in the attic, such as a defective truss or sunlight shining through a gap in the roofing? What about faulty wiring in the electric panel, an ungrounded wall outlet, a drain connection that is not installed according to code, lack of required clearance at the furnace, an unsecured flue pipe at the water heater, lack of safety glass at a shower enclosure, insufficient insulation in the attic — and so on?

Such conditions are unlikely to be found during a final walk-through and will probably remain unnoticed by homeowners. Typically, such conditions remain undiscovered throughout the warranty period. Years later, when the property is resold (after the warranty has expired), the buyers’ home inspector discovers the original construction defects. Then the buyers demand that you, the seller, pay for repairs.

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