Trained Eye

 
 
 

Inspecting New Homes

Question:

I am about to have my dream home built this summer. The builder is a smaller, yet a reputable homebuilder and is part of the New Home Warranty Program of Manitoba, the Manitoba Home Builders' Association and the Canadian Home Builders' Association. I have heard that it is as important to have new homes inspected, as it is to have older homes. Is this true? Besides my own daily trips to the house as it is being built, how often should I have the home inspected, or should I wait until the end? I do know a few things about a few different trades, but there is lots I don't know. Could you recommend any good publications or good books that can take me through the actual building process, so I might be able to have a little more knowledge of things to look for while the building takes place.

Answer:

Inspections for new homes and ones under construction are becoming much more common in the last few years, due to customer demand. There are several Home Inspectors in Ontario that have the majority of their business generated from this type of inspection. The demand is indeed increasing with the rising cost of new home construction. It is always a good idea to have an extra set of eyes available for scrutiny of ongoing construction, but care should be taken that the inspector is well trained for this specialized form of inspection.

A standard Pre-purchase inspection of an existing home focuses on performance of the systems in the house and items that may require maintenance or repairs. Inspections of homes under construction will focus on quite different criteria. What is inspected for new homes is partly compliance with current building and safety codes and partly quality of workmanship. The role of the private Home Inspector (HI) in this scenario will overlap somewhat with the Municipal Building Official (MBO). Both inspectors should be looking for adherence to the National Building Code of Canada, as interpreted by the local authorities. This will ensure that the new house meet the minimum standards for performance and safety. This may include structural issues as well as plumbing and electrical inspections and others relating to safety such as fire codes.

The difficulty in sole reliance on the MBO for inspection of the new home is the limited time and resources of these individuals. When new home construction is booming, as in the last decade, it may be impossible for the MBO to find time to properly evaluate the complete construction of every home in their area. These officials are constantly under pressure to inspect the ongoing construction quickly, to avoid delays for the builders, which will set back occupancy dates. This is where the private inspector comes in. You, as a new homeowner, can request that this trained individual check ongoing construction at various stages of completion. This will ensure that minor details, which are often overlooked, get addressed while major issues are also evaluated.

The difficulty with this system is that it requires you to pay the private HI out of your own pocket and coordinate inspection times. There has to be cooperation from the builder, who may technically own the home until it is completed and handed over to you. Many quality builders have no difficulty with this extra scrutiny and some encourage it to ensure customer satisfaction and help pick up small items that may be overlooked by the builder or their construction manager. Unfortunately, many more builders are reluctant to agree to Private HI’s inspecting their work, partly out of ignorance and paranoia, and partly out of bad experiences with poorly trained HI’s.

Part of this reluctance is due to the different methods used to evaluate the new homes. Many HI’s are currently doing these inspections, at the request of the new homebuyers, in any way they see fit. There are no Standards for inspections and often thing are being nit-picked by poorly trained inspectors. Many HI’s do not keep updated with the current revisions to the Building Codes and are not qualified to comment on these issues.

To try and solve some of these difficulties, the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI) along with the Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA) and the Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CHMC) have developed a Pre-delivery Inspection (PDI) protocol for new homes. This document outlines specific items that should be inspected and methods for evaluation for new homes, before possession. What this will do is provide the HI’s and the builders Standards for what will be checked during a PDI.

Unfortunately, this PDI initiative has hit a roadblock with builders at the local level. CHBA has officially withdrawn from the process, due to opposition from their Members. The process is not complete, but may progress without the participation of CHBA, which will weaken the final results. The ultimate goal is to ensure satisfied homeowners, which may lead to less Warranty claims, and better new homes.

 

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