New Construction Pre-closing Walkthrough Checklist
August 9, 2010 § 5 Comments
So you’ve made the plunge into building a new home which by now must have seemed like eons ago. You’ve driven by your new property on days when it seems like enough work had been accomplished that you might just get in early. However, you probably driven by day after day for a week when it seemed like no work had been done at all.
Your excited that the closing is finally here and your builder has called for your final walk-through (AKA new home orientation, by some builders). No matter what they call it the walk-through serves many good purposes. The final walk-through does give the builder an opportunity to go over with you all the mechanical systems in your new home, windows, doors, cabinets and any aspects that have special features worthy of explaining. More importantly, it gives you a chance to make sure all the aspects of the home are as you expected them to be. Don’t take the walk-through lightly. Yes, your excited and all you want to do is move in but this may be your last chance to get the builder to take care of any issues that your not satisfied with. Most builders will ask you to “sign off” after the walk through stating that everything was satisfactory. Unless you have called their attention to unsatisfactory items it may be difficult, if not impossible to get the builder to correct those items after closing.
Before the walk-through you may want to, and it is recommended that you, hire a whole house inspector that specializes in new construction to inspect the property. Any inspector or real estate agent can tell stories about severe deficiencies in new construction that they have encountered months or even years after the closing. Hiring a whole house inspector is totally optional and you may want to take into consideration things like the builders reputation and your own knowledge of new construction before you decide. Some builders may not like a home inspector being critical of their work. They say things like “why waste your money on an inspector when everything is under warranty anyway”. Don’t buy it for a minute. Any builder should be building a home that they are proud of and willing to let anyone inspect. I think I might even be cautious of a builder who refuses to allow a home inspection. The best practice is to let your builder know up front by including in the contract that a home inspector of your choice must sign off on the home before you will close.
Home Inspector or not, at your final walk through you need to use a checklist of not so apparent issues associated with new construction that often times go unnoticed until there is a problem sometime after the closing.
□ Does the ground around the foundation slope away from the house? In most cases the ground immediately around the foundation is “fill dirt” and will settle as much as 10 inches over the next 12 months. If the slope away from the house is not obvious now, you may have water drainage problems after the ground has settled.
□ Make sure the water does not pond in swales. This s fairly easy to check on your own. In the weeks leading up to your closing, but only after the final grading has been completed drive by your new house during, or just after a hard rain. If necessary, or if you think there is a problem get permission from the builder water the areas with a hose.
□ Are there signs of erosion? This may or may not represent a problem. A little erosion after final grade and before the grass is growing is a good indication of sufficient drainage. However, deep ruts may be a problem even after the grass is growing. If in doubt, you may want an independent third party opinion.
□ Is the shrubbery placed at least 2-3 feet from the foundation? Close shrubs look great when they are small and cleanly mulched but a couple years from now those shrubs will be growing touching your house in manner in which pruning them will make the shrubs very uneven and unsightly.
Roof and Gutters
□ Are the shingles flat and tight? Another item usually better left for a home inspector to determine. I’ve looked at a lot of shingles that look perfectly fine from the ground but have many issues when professionally inspected.
□ Is the flashing securely in place? Again, a home inspector may be better for this job. Unless you want to, or your builder will even let you, crawl out in the roof there’s no way to tel if the flashing appear correct or not.
□ Do the gutters, downspouts and splash blocks direct water away from the house? This one is much easier to determine. Every downspout should have a splash block. If there are no splash blocks present ask the builder. Your construction contract may or may not have included splash blocks. Splash blocks are cheap but better to spend the builders money on something that should be included rather thean your money after the closing.
□ Are the windows and doors sealed and protected by weatherstripping? Are the Screens installed? A pile of screens in the garage are unacceptable. Many times you’ll find out after the closing that the screen in the garage do not all match your windows or even fit properly.
□ Are the trim and fittings tight? Are there any cracks, gaps or areas that don’t look “just right”?
□ Does the paint cover the surface and trim smoothly? Painters and builders are notorious for “one coating”. I’ve not come across any “one coat” paint that will cover primed or bare wood.
□ Has landscaping been installed according to the terms of your contract? Many times the builder landscaping doesn’t amount to much and will seem like a little less than you expected. Make sure you know going in what your contract referenced for landacasping and check it against what is actually installed.
Doors and Windows
□ Are all doors and windows sealed?
□ Do they open and close easily? A window that does not glide easily now will not “get better with use”. Something is not right and needs to be corrected now, not 12 months from now when the builder does their “12 month check up”.
□ Is the painting satisfactory in all rooms, closets and stairways? Especially check for drywall “nail pops”. You never find them all unless you examine the ceilings from a ladder. If you see any imperfections during a walk through those items need to be fixed before you close. Again, NOT at the “12 month check up”. If you agree to have them fixed later your hands will be tied to any custom painting you want to do until after the problems are fixed. Thebuilders “12 month check up” does not include repainting your custom colors.
□ Did the painters miss any spots? Again, we back to the “one coat” job. Look carefully to make sure everything is properly covered.
□ Are the trim and molding in place and free from serious gaps?
□ Is the carpet tight? Do the seams match? Probably the number 1 call back item. Carpets usually look great at the walk through. Usually after a couple months is when problems show up. If everything is not apparently tight at the walk through, you will have problems later.
□ Are there any ridges or seam gaps in vinyl tile or linoleum? Vinyl seems are another big issue in new construction. Examine them thoroughly at the walk through. Also, get down close to the floor and look horizontally for any slight bumps. Slight bumps now will be slight holes 6months from now.
□ Are wooden floors properly finished? Again know what your contract called for. Hardwoods floors finished on site should always have 2 coats of finish applied.
Appliances, Fixtures, Surfaces, Etc.
□ Do all of the appliances operate properly? Don’t be afraid to try those stove burners, over, range hood. Run the dishwasher through a complete cycle. (make sure its empty first)
□ Are all of the appliances the model and color you ordered? Orders are often time unverified when they are delivered. Also, appliances are sometimes swapped out for similar models if the model you ordered is not in stock at the time.
□ Check all faucets and plumbing fixtures, including toilets and showers, to make sure they operate properly. Again, its your house, don’t be afraid to test these items.
□ Check all electrical fixtures and outlets. Something your home inspector can do if you hire one. Other wise go to the hardware store and buy a cheap plug tester before your walk through. (get one that also test for polarity, it either shows a green light if its ok, red light if its reversed polarity or no light if its not functioning) You would be amazed at the amount of “call backs” builders have for non functioning plugs.
□ Do the heating, cooling and water heating units operate properly? Test them to make sure. Anther good test for a home inspector. I’ve ran into more than a couple occasions where the home inspector has determined that the A/C unit is not big enough for the house. Better to find out now than on the hottest day next August.
□ If the home has a fireplace, do the draft and damper work? If it has gas fireplace have a home inspector test it or ask the builder to test it and describe its functions to you.
□ Are there any nicks, scratches, cracks or burns on any surfaces, including cabinets and countertops? Especially look closely at Formica type counter tops. Many times the installation screws are just barely “popped” through the finish. Also, many times, it’s something you won’t discover until weeks after you’ve moved in. Then it means emptying your cabinets and being kitchenless for a day or so while the builder installs a new counter top. Also, this is a tough one to get the builder to fix after closing because it’s expensive. They use excuses like, that wasn’t there before or, you signed off on the walk though that the countertops where ok.
□ Test the doorbell. Also test the intercom system, garage door opener and any other optional items.
Basement and Attic
□ Are there indications of dampness or leaks? ANY indications at all. I’ve never found any builder that will guarantee a dry basement but indications of anything other than a good through cleaning are something you may need to investigate further.
□ Is there significant cracking in the floors or foundation walls? One guarantee with concrete is: It WILL crack. What your looking for is any significant cracks (not control crack joints). If you can fit a dime in the crack you may need to investigate further. Again, another good reason for a home inspector.
□ Are there any obvious defects in exposed components, such as floor joists, I-beams, support columns, insulation, heating ducts, plumbing, electrical, etc.?
Certificate of Occupancy
Has your local municipality signed off on your house? As important as it is, many builder never even mention it to the buyers. Usually because the inspector is running 2 weeks behind schedule and the builder doesn’t want to wait that long to close. Either way, you should know at the time of walk through whether or not the final building inspection has been complete and a CO has been issued.
Some problems may not be readily apparent during the walk-through. Even a professional inspector might miss a few. Most warranties cover any such problems that are the result of faulty workmanship. However, warranties usually exclude problems that result as a side issue or, items determined to be from owner neglect or improper maintenance.
The important thing is that you fully understand all aspects of the property before you go to the closing.
UPDATE: The Checklist is now available in my Google Docs New Construction Closing Checklist