NEW HOMES: The Shrewd Homebuying Guide
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.