Should You Hire a Home Inspector for a New House?

Published October 12, 2016

When you buy an old house worn down by time and climate, it’s a no-brainer to hire a home inspector to check what shape it’s in — before you commit to your purchase. But should you hire a home inspector for a new house, even if it hasn’t been finished yet?

As odd as it may seem, the answer is yes. Here’s why new houses should get inspected, too, and the best way to go about it.

New homes can have problems, too

Sure, a new home may look flawless, but that’s because no one has lived in it to see if anything’s amiss. Ever notice how new products can be riddled with flaws that are caught only after they’ve been tried out by consumers? (We’re looking at you, Samsung Galaxy Note7!)

Well, the same is true for homes. Buy a new one, and you’re essentially the guinea pig testing how well the HVAC system works and whether the basement floods during a storm. An old home, by contrast, may have more wear and tear, but the owner is required by law to disclose any known problems.

New homes aren’t always built to code

We know what you’re wondering: Don’t county building inspectors make sure construction on a new home is up to snuff? They should, but that doesn’t always happen in reality. County inspectors work for the municipality and make sure new construction lives up to a minimum building code — repeat, minimum — plus these public servants don’t work for you. And unless you’re a general contractor or know nailed drywall as opposed to screwed, well, you just might be screwed yourself.

Reuben Saltzman, president of Structure Tech Home Inspections in Minneapolis, MN, says he’s found “egregious defects with every trade in new construction.” In one new house, he discovered that a contractor had failed to install attic insulation — not a good thing in a state that regularly sees below-zero temperatures in winter.

“The code inspectors missed it,” Saltzman says. “It paid off for this buyer to have a home inspection performed.”

Why new homes should ideally get two inspections

In fact, if you’re buying a home under construction, you should hire an inspectortwice. The first time is so he can look over the home before the walls are closed, and inspect framing and systems installation. The second should be after the home is complete, so he can inspect everything else.

Home inspectors typically charge $300 to $500, depending on the size of your home and where you live. While hiring one twice might seem like costly overkill, think of it this way: If you spring for an early pre-drywall inspection, the inspector will make sure the studs, insulation, home systems, beams, and posts have been installed properly. That’s a sneak peek most home inspectors don’t get to make with homes once the walls are up. And if problems turn up, you can take the list of complaints and concerns — an early punch list — to the builder to correct before the walls are closed.

Once construction is complete, ask your inspector to review the house a few days before your final walk-through with the builder. The inspector is trained to notice details that escape the unpracticed eye. Add these issues to your final punch list, and don’t fork over the final payment until each problem is solved.

If you’re not part of the construction process and buy a spec house after it’s completed, add a home inspection contingency to your sales contract and hire an inspector to review the property before closing. Not only will an inspector make sure the house and systems are sound, but if you accompany him on his rounds, he’ll also teach you how to operate and maintain your new home.


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‘Another set of eyes’: Inspectors are trained to review a home’s condition before a sale is finalized

Buying a home can be an enormous undertaking, from finding a reputable lender to making sure a place has all the amenities it can.


Even more important, however, is making sure everything is working order before signing on the dotted line.


Getting a home inspected before it’s sold is one of the most important steps in the process. After all, no one wants to be saddled with the additional expense of a damaged, dangerous or malfunctioning property.


Buyers should always review any written disclosure statement provided by the seller, but even a seller’s knowledge of the features and condition of their own home may be limited. An inspection gives the buyer another set of eyes reviewing the home’s condition on the buyer’s behalf before deciding to purchase.”


Although items to be inspected can vary from inspector to inspector, he or she usually will conduct a visual inspection of a home’s grounds, its exterior, roof, garage/carport, electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems, structural stability, attic, basement, heating/air conditioning systems and windows.


In some cases, more work might be needed from specialists, such as for sewer lines or septic tanks.


As a general rule, inspectors cannot inspect inaccessible areas or see through walls, so at the very least, the inspection will be limited in those respects.


Another point to consider is how qualified an inspector is.


The state of Kansas is one of 11 states that does not require a license to inspect homes. Because of this, it is best for buyers to do their research prior to hiring an inspector.


The most qualified home inspectors are likely to have extensive training and experience and will belong to reputable trade organizations, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI).


Continuing education is important for inspectors, too. Things are constantly changing and evolving in home construction.


So not only does an inspector need to know what to check in older homes — with galvanized piping being one example — but he or she must be knowledgeable about what is acceptable in newer houses as well.


When it isn’t possible to ascertain whether something is faulty or dangerous, An Inspector will recommend clients bring in more specialized professionals.


This can be relevant in checking for termites and other pests, but also for things that can’t be seen but probably exist, such as Radon a cancer-causing gases.


In homes that test above the action level for Radon, a specialist will drill a hole in the basement floor and install a pipe that diverts the gas away from the home.


Radon, of course, is an extreme example of what can trip up buyers and sellers.


An Inspector’s job isn’t to pick the house apart. It’s to educate the buyer and the seller on the condition of the house so they can work out how (any issues are) going to be resolved.

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What buyers and sellers should know about radon. This deadly gas can threaten a home sale as well as your health

About one in 15 U.S. homes contain radon—a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that’s linked to 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. And because radon lurks in nearly all soil, it can creep into holes or cracks in the walls or foundation of any home, risking your health if you’re a buyer and quashing the deal if you’re looking to sell.

Radon risks increase in winter, when tightly closed windows and today’s better-sealed homes help trap radon indoors and let levels rise high enough to be harmful. In recognition of National Radon Action Month, here are some ways to protect your health—and keep radon from coming between you and your new home.

If you’re buying a home
Know the radon risk level.
 While high radon levels have been found in all 50 states, it’s more prevalent in some regions than others. Check the maps on the website of the Environmental Protection Agency to see the regions where radon concentration is higher. If you live in one of those areas, every home you’re considering should be radon tested.


Be sure your home inspection includes a radon test. Radon tests should be conducted in the lowest level of the home that’s likely to be used regularly. “Many home inspectors offer radon testing services, but radon inspections are not part of a standard home inspection,”  Claude McGavic, executive director of the National Association of Home Inspectors, said. To find a radon inspector, check the EPA’s website or the websites of theNational Radon Proficiency Program or National Radon Safety Board.


A radon level of 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) means you’ll need a qualified radon mitigation contractor, according to the EPA, though even levels between 2 and 4 pCi/L are a concern.

If you’re selling a home
Test for radon before putting your home on the market.

You’re better off finding—and alleviating—a radon problem now than having it derail the sale later. The best way to test for radon is to hire a pro. But you can get an initial estimate on your own with a radon test kit. Consumer Reports’ tests yielded one recommended short-term kit, the RTCA 4 Pass Charcoal Canister (about $42 for a two-pack), and one for longer-term testing, the Accustar Alpha Track Test Kit AT 100, about $21. The long-term tests proved more accurate and are also useful for ongoing radon monitoring.

Tell buyers what you’ve done to lower radon levels.

If you’ve already tested your home for radon or installed a radon-reduction system, share the results and information about your system’s operation and maintenance with your buyer. Not only is it the right thing to do, it could provide the peace of mind needed to finalize the sale.

Check radon regulations for your area.

If your state or local government requires disclosure of radon information to buyers, they may ask for a new test, especially if the last test was done more than two years ago, or if you’ve remodeled since the last test (which can affect radon levels).

Whether you’re planning to move or staying put, be sure to check out 10 myths about radon and how to detect a radon threat as well as the EPA’s Citizen’s Guide to Radon.

—Artemis DiBenedetto

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