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

Walk-Through Tips

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.


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