As a home builder and inspector for 40 years I cringe whenever I hear a person say that he or she is building a new house. While I can certainly appreciate the fact that your money may be financing the project, you are not actually building anything but a large future mortgage payment project. (The only exception here is the daredevil who intends to act as his own general contractor which I will address in a future article.) Let’s face it, your college degree ill prepared you to mix and pour concrete, saw lumber, and hammer nails. Regardless how often you shake your butt at the fitness center you would surely perish after a mere 2 hours of carrying 12-foot panels of sheetrock upstairs or bundles of laminated shingles up a ladder.
Professional tradesmen who have been plying their trades for years or decades make the work look easy. And, let’s not forget HGTV where everything is built by professional actors in compressed TV time over just the few minutes between commercials while never breaking a sweat.
So we can agree that you are not really building your new house. That does not mean that you should just kick back and let the process roll unguided by you. In fact, that is the last thing you should do. Every person having a new home constructed needs to take an active role in overseeing the construction from the before the model and sales office all the way to the moving van.
If you are a professional such as a doctor, engineer, attorney, etc., you understand the need to rely upon experts in fields outside of your realm of expertise. Specialists can make one’s life much easier by filling in the gaps in your knowledge about processes that are foreign to you – like building a house. Your builder is already doing this by hiring subcontractors in every field to construct your house because he is not sufficiently knowledgeable or competent to perform all or even any of these tasks himself.
You should consider employing the assistance of at least three specialists during the construction of your new home; an attorney, a real estate broker, and a professional 3rd-party building code inspector. An attorney can help you to understand to what extent your rights are being violated by your builder’s contract and what you can do to mitigate some of this. A broker can guide you through the maze of locations, choices, upgrades, school districts, etc., so that you do not end up in Podunk with a house full of unaffordable upgrades and a 2-hour commute to endure just to pay for them. Finally, an ICC-certified residential inspector can insure that you understand the building process as much as any layperson can, see to it that your home is constructed in strict accordance with the building codes, and assist you in dealing with both your builder and the municipal inspectors.
It is important here to note that you must not hire just any lawyer, Realtor or inspector. Your lawyer should be well versed in residential construction contracts and defects litigation. Your broker should be a seasoned professional who is not tied at the hip to any builders and is experienced in dealing with new home sales. Your inspector must be, at a minimum, certified by the International Code Council as a Combination Residential Inspector (R-5).
Many builders will not even accept an inspection report from an inspector who is not R-5 certified; and with good reason. This certification proves your inspector’s knowledge of the codes to which your builder must conform. Lacking this, you inspector can be compared to an attorney who has not attended law school or an unlicensed broker who has never sold a house.
Take control. Build your new house with the confidence you will gain by hiring the right support team.