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New Home Construction - The American Dream or The American Nightmare?

Buying a new home is suppose to be the American Dream. Unfortunately, for many buyers of newly constructed homes it becomes the American Nightmare. Hiring a qualified third party home inspector can increase you chance of a hassle free home.

One only has to visit sites like Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings (HADD)- or Homeowners for Better Buildings (HOBB) - to see how widespread shoddy construction is in the industry.

No area of the country is free from shoddy construction.

In my job as a Professional Home Inspector I talk to hundreds of people each year about new home construction. It still amazes me that many believe the city inspector will find every item wrong with a home. Nothing could be further from the truth!

A city inspector inspects for code violations. The building codes are the MINIMUM standards that a home should be built to. City code inspectors only inspect for safety and health issues as they relate to building. City inspectors do not inspect for the quality of workmanship! City building inspectors also have no liability. If your home falls down and hurts you the day after you move in, you can not go back and sue the building inspector because he missed code violations.

In Houston, the area I inspect in, the city building inspectors spend about 10 to 30 minutes in a home inspecting it. At the end of their "Inspection", they will then place a green or orange 3x5 sticker at the front of the home. The Green sticker says you passed, the orange or red sticker says the home failed.

There is no way that a city building inspector can note all the discrepancies on a home on a 3x5 sticker!

The new trend is for builders to advertise that their homes have been inspected by a "Third Party Inspection Company." This is like listening to a used car salesman say he had his mechanic check your used car out before you bought it.

If the company the builder hires becomes a nuisance by continuing to find problems, then a new company will be found who can inspect the homes the way the builder likes.

Wise and prudent home buyers will research their builder before deciding on one to go with.

They will also start doing their research on finding their own third party home inspector to inspect the home as it is being built.

What are some things you should look for in a home inspector?

To start with, not all home inspectors are created equal. Look for a home inspector that is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) - ASHI is the nations oldest and largest home inspection organization. They have strict membership requirements in place and not any ole inspector will be accepted.

Next, make sure the inspector you choose is Code Certified. Many areas of the country have now adopted the International Residential Code (IRC) as the model building code. Check with your local municipality to determine which model code they enforce and adjust your search likewise. You can find a Code Certified IRC Inspector by going to

Ask the inspectors on your narrowed down list for sample inspection reports. You're looking for a home inspector who writes narrative type reports and who will include code numbers or the code itself when he finds them. I'd avoid inspectors who say they use an onsite "checklist" type of report.

Call or meet the inspector. You're looking for someone who is knowledgeable and who can communicate well. If you talk to an inspector and have trouble understanding what he's saying, it's likely his report will be hard to understand as well.

Ask for references. Have the inspector send you several references and follow through checking them out.

Ask questions. Ask your inspector if he/she will come back out and re-inspect after the builder says all the repairs have been made. Some will, some won't. Expect to have to pay for a re-inspection. Ask the inspector if he will communicate with the builder after the inspection if the builder has questions. Good inspectors will take the time to go over the report via phone or in person with the builder to ensure that all needed repairs are made.

As a home buying consumer, it's your responsibility to ensure your home is built correctly. Not the builder, not the State, County or City. Hiring a qualified and reputable home inspector will go a long ways in helping you obtain a problem free home.

Full reprint and distribution rights are granted as long as the entire article, including the sig/resource box below, is kept intact.

Donald Lawson is a Professional Real Estate Inspector who is licensed in Oklahoma (454) and Texas (5824). Donald is also Building and Plumbing Code Certified by the International Code Council. He currently owns and operates V.I.P. Home Inspections, a multi inspector firm in Houston Texas. You can find more articles on New Home Construction as well as a free New Home Buyers Guide at his website

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