Guide to Selecting the Best Builder
The Fallacies of Builder Licensing
10 Tips When Buying from a Builder
The Deceptions of Model Homes
Common Problems with New Homes
Walk-Through Tips
Builders and Customer Service
How to Improve Warranty Service from your Builder

NEW HOMES: The Shrewd Homebuying Guide

Common Problems with New Homes

While there are many advantages to buying a new home-the systems and appliances are new and are covered under a manufacturer's warranty-there are some common problems of which you should be aware. New homes, like new cars, often have bugs that must be worked out. Homes have literally thousands of pieces, and those pieces are assembled by people who sometimes make mistakes. There will be problems in practically every new home. Outlets and switches may not work, the heating and air conditioning system could need adjustment, the roof might leak, settling may occur, and any number of dozens of other unpleasant things could occur. The good news is: A reputable and professional builder will correct any of those problems quickly and will work with their customers until all outstanding issues are resolved.

An area of major concern to many new homeowners is landscaping. If your home includes a landscaping package, as most do, you will be responsible for watering, fertilizing, and nurturing your lawn until it's established. That could take a year or more, and many homeowners get frustrated when the builder shrugs his shoulders and says it's not his problem. Many times it's not.

Many of the problems with new homes relate to drainage issues. Most homeowners and, unfortunately, a great many builders don't understand proper drainage. The key to drainage is simple. WATER FLOWS DOWNHILL. When it collects in a large surface area or flows a great distance, it has the potential to create significant problems. Make certain you understand how a property drains before you buy. If possible, visit the site during a heavy rain and observe the water flow. You'll then be able to discuss your drainage concerns with your builder and get his plan for dealing with potential problems.

Proper drainage means you have a reasonable slope away from your home-six inches of fall within the first ten feet from a structure is the basic rule of thumb. Significant amounts of water coming from other lots should be diverted into drainage swales, well away from the house. Positive flow should be maintained on all disturbed areas of the lot, and water should not be allowed to pond anywhere. All drainage across the lot, except as contained in drainage swales, should be gentle enough to allow grass to grow.

Finally, be aware that drainage is a major cause for conflict between builders and their customers. If you understand the flow of water across your lot prior to closing, and if you and your builder are in agreement about the final grading and landscaping of the property, you are much less likely to have to deal with drainage problems later. Have your agent include a clause in your contract that states: The seller agrees that water must flow away from the structure, with a slope of at least six inches in the first ten feet, and agrees to correct any areas within the landscaped area where water stands for more than twenty-four hours following a rain.


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