NEW HOMES: The Shrewd Homebuying Guide
The final walk-through is an opportunity to inspect your new home
prior to closing and make note of those items needing attention. The
importance of this inspection cannot be overstated. Unfortunately,
some builder's contracts stipulate that no one other than purchasers
may attend the walk-through, specifically excluding friends, relatives,
agents, and inspectors. Be wary of such builders. While some are genuinely
concerned that the presence of additional people might pose a distraction,
others know that extra pairs of eyes will discover extra problems.
The walk-through is your opportunity to examine the finished product
and to learn about the operation of appliances, fixtures, systems,
and the locations of cut-off valves and other important features.
Pay attention. Ask questions. If allowed, ask your agent to attend.
While I don't encourage buyers to over-inspect, to subject the home
to unrealistic standards, I do think it's appropriate to expect builders
to make corrections to all items where obvious defects in materials
or workmanship exist. If possible, prior to the walk-through, have
the builder provide you with a copy of the standards he expects the
home to meet.
By the time of the walk-through, your home inspector should have
examined the home for code violations and structural defects, and
you should have reached agreement with your builder as to the corrective
measures that will be taken. The walk-through is your opportunity
to inspect the home for cosmetic defects, for problems with fit and
finish. It should take about three hours to properly inspect the home,
and the inspection will generate a "punch list," a list
of those problems you and the builder agree need correction.
Ideally, a walk-through should be conducted at least a week prior
to closing. This will give the builder time to make corrections. Unfortunately,
it's common for homes to be completed during the final days of the
contract period, thereby not allowing sufficient time for the completion
of punch list items. Discuss this with your builder before signing
the contract. Make him or her aware that you don't intend to close
until the punch list is complete, and add a stipulation in the contract
to that effect. Many contracts state that punch list items are not
sufficient reason to delay closing, so, unless you specify otherwise,
you may wait much longer than you expect for repairs to be made.
The vast majority of homeowners who closed prior to the completion
of their walk-through list will testify to the importance of delaying
closing until those items are corrected. Although the builder may
tell you that walk-through lists are always completed within a few
days following closing, you don't need the aggravation of workers
disrupting your lifestyle, and you'll be faced with the unpleasant
task of arranging your schedule to meet the needs of others who often
fail to appear as scheduled.
One last word on the walk-through. Take a close look at the landscaping.
Remember the importance of drainage. Use what I refer to as the "basketball"
theory. Try to visualize what would happen if you dropped a basketball
next to the home. If it would roll away, the drainage is probably
okay. If a ball would sit there or roll towards the house, you may
have a problem.