Few homeowners are experts in all aspects of home construction, maintenance and repairs. That is why you want to hire a home inspector to review a house before you complete the purchase. They are skilled at finding problems so that you know just what you're getting. Even with a new home, you want to get an inspection as some builders take short cuts to save money. Some of the most common problems we've handled at my handyman business include adding concrete support under deck posts and shoring up support under tile floors which can be done in an unfinished basement.
Problems are more common for first time home owners who don't have experience with typical home repairs. One example is an estimate I'm working on to replace carpeting in 2 areas. I can't imagine why a builder would put hardwood throughout the first floor, but carpeting in the 2 areas with the most foot traffic, the entryway and the mudroom where the house connects to the garage.
What should every homeowner do?
- EVERY home purchase should include a home inspection, including new construction.
- Inspect and repair problems immediately as many problems grow in scope, costing significantly more to repair when ignored for years.
Some of the more common problems we find are GFI circuits shared across multiple bathrooms where one is required for each room, and decks installed at the very end of construction often lack proper footings and start to sag almost immediately.
Here is a great story where the math illustrates why even new homes require a home inspection. The original “sagging roof” problem was shared by Robert Boyer, a San Diego realtor, and the best explanation I've ever read was added by Russell Ray, a home inspector in San Diego.
It's true that building inspectors are there to make sure that homes, additions and remodeling projects are built according to code but these people are overworked and understaffed so they don't catch everything. The problem isn't usually with the builder either, but they depend on 20 to 25 sub-contractors from excavation, to pouring the foundation, framing … you get the idea. They simply don't have the staff to properly monitor the work of each and every sub-contractor.
Let's look at the numbers, which drive every construction decision. Suppose a roofing contractor has a contract to roof 500 homes, and the furnaces will be in the attic. If furnace trusses cost $2,000 each (4 per house), this cost is significantly higher than standard trusses at $1,000 each. Now the roofing sub-contractor knows that the building inspector will only inspect 25% of the homes, and he is in charge of telling the inspector which ones are ready for inspection. He can buy the more expensive trusses for only the homes to be inspected:
- What he should spend … 500 homes x four furnace trusses x $2,000 each = $4,000,000
- What he's tempted (and some) will spend …
- 125 homes x four furnace trusses x $2,000 each = $1,000,000
- 375 homes x four standard trusses x $1,000 each = $1,500,000
- For a total of $2,500,000 or a savings of $1,500,000
It's likely that the roofing contractor will pocket the savings and the builder won't even know what happened, and the same for the building inspector. That's why the a home inspection is so important for even new construction. With the sagging roof above, the savings was much smaller – the plywood sheathing under the roof was 1/2 inch plywood where 3/4 inch plywood was needed. This is a typical roofing problem, along with roofers who will install a third or fourth layer of shingles where only 2 are allowed, just to save costs.