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Inside New Construction

Brand-new homes may look new, smell new and feel new but hide rot and shoddy workmanship underneath. Buyers who purchase previously owned, or even foreclosed homes know what to look for: cracked foundations, leaking roofs, bad plumbing that magically bursts in the middle of the night or when you’re away (never when you’re home). The recovering real estate industry may be building new, but they are building bad.

Do your homework
Before purchasing a home, even if it’s brand new, it makes sense to get someone to conduct an inspection of the plumbing, sewage, electric, gas and other necessary lines. A licensed inspector is always the best bet, because they know exactly what to look out for.

Take a few days to take a look at the foundation, the garden and the walls. Shoddy construction shows through. See new cracks or suspiciously broken tiles, especially near corners or doorways? These indicate either inferior materials or unskilled labor.

Check your contract
Good contractors don’t get it right every time, but they do offer aftercare. If you know the contractor or the seller, try to see if you can agree to a list of discoverable defects. Contracts like these usually entail a set period of time for discovery after the move-in date and an allotment of time for the contractor to fix it any agreed upon errors. Another way to prevent minor annoyances is to ask for a detailed list of manufacturer’s used for parts and fixtures installed in the home. This way you can hunt down an easy replacement in case something breaks.

Obtain a guarantee from your real estate agent or the contractor in the event the construction is over a year old. Warranties, escrows and other guarantees can also help protect your finances if things go bad. Express warranties often last up to a year, and in many cases that’s suitable for minor and major repairs. It also helps to declare any major renovations (such as a new bathroom, sewer line, etc) to the county and follow procedure to make sure you always have a legal fallback when a builder blames your DIY urges for the faulty insulation and the black mold slowly taking over the ceiling.

Know your rights
Shoddy construction may not show up until a few years later, much to your chagrin. Contractors may also knowingly mask errors with artificial molding, cladding or by sheer luck. In many states, the statute of limitation stretches up to ten years for filing suit, but in some states it can be as short as five-years. As a homeowner, you have a right to purchase a sound home that you can safely dwell and live in. State laws often call on a warranty that includes reasonable workmanship and fitness for habitation. Failing to meet these standards can be grounds for litigation.

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