Before you sign your life’s savings away on your new home builder’s contract, read this article from NOLO.
This was bound to happen sooner or later. Now the city inspectors in Tuscon, AZ will be conducting their inspections remotely using Skype. WTF?
Just when we thought the “quality” of new houses could descend no further. Mark my words, this is coming to your city soon.
This legal article explains why unscrupulous Texas builders can lie and lie and lie and still get home buyers to buy their houses.
In their usual fashion, the writers at The Onion wax poetic.
Why Inspect a New Home?
Common sense might whisper in your ear that inspecting a new home is
unnecessary. After all, it is brand spanking new. How much could be wrong with
it? This sort of thinking will be further reinforced by your builder’s sales force and
site superintendent. They will tell you how the city inspectors make sure that your
house is built according to the building code. Then they may also assure you that
they have even hired their own “independent” inspection firm to make certain that
all is properly constructed. Finally, the builder’s employees will sing the praises of
the 10-year warranty which your builder provides with your home. In the unlikely
event that something was missed, anything at all, it will be covered by this
ironclad warranty. Here I must strongly urge you to read every single word of
your warranty. You might be surprised at what all it does not cover. Also read
What is wrong with the picture above? It seems so obvious. “It is the obvious
which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose
on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless
someone holds a mirror up to you?” – Isaac Asimov, I, Robot
Let me supply that mirror for you. Here are the problems you need to see.
1. Almost without exception, new homes are constructed by mass production
building corporations doing business as “custom builders”. Their primary goal is
to make a profit for the shareholders, at whatever cost to the end user.
2. Your builder is a corporation, not a skilled craftsman. His employees in the
sales office and on the jobsite are sales people and construction managers, and
not experienced, knowledgeable tradesmen. The sales people are there to sell
you as much as they can, and the managers are there to manage both your
expectations and the real builders of your home – the subcontractors.
3. The independent trade subcontractors are the only people involved in the
construction of your home who have any significant amount of knowledge
regarding the process. Many, if not all, are immigrant workers who may or may
not be properly documented. All are trained on-the-job, as there are essentially
no trade schools for them to attend. Most of these workers are unaware of any
building code requirements other than those pointed out by the city inspectors.
The majority do not speak English and may not understand what is required of
them even then.
4. City inspectors are employed to bring in revenue in the form of building permits
and to protect the corporation which is the city. They are not responsible for
insuring that your home is built according to anything other than the bare
minimum standards set forth in the adopted building codes. The median wage for
this position is $53K. For this paltry sum they are expected to inspect sometimes
as many as 20 houses a day, minus an hour for lunch and drive time between
the sites. How much are they actually inspecting? You do the math.
5. Builders who claim to have their homes inspected by “independent” third-party
inspectors either do not fully understand the meaning of the term “independent”,
or they are convinced that you do not. If the builder hires an inspector, that
inspector is beholden to the builder and tacitly (or otherwise) agrees not to find
anything of significance in his inspection. If he wants to continue his relationship
with the builder, he must dance to the builder’s tune.
6. With all of the above in mind, perhaps you now can see why you might be wise
to hire a knowledgeable inspector to be on your side during the building process.
That sounds like it should be easy enough, but let’s dig a little deeper. Texas
state law says that the following types of persons are qualified to inspect new
homes during their construction:
1. a licensed engineer;
2. a registered architect;
3. a professional inspector licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission;
4. a plumbing inspector employed by a municipality and licensed by the Texas
State Board of Plumbing Examiners;
5. a building inspector employed by a political subdivision; or
6. an individual certified as a residential combination inspector by the
International Code Council (the authors of the codes adopted in Texas).
One at a time, let us see who of these might be actually qualified for the job.
1. Even civil engineers who call themselves “structural engineers” are 99% of the
time unfamiliar with residential light frame construction. They are not
knowledgeable as to the codes involved. And, by the way, there is no such thing
as a licensed structural engineer in the state of Texas.
2. Architects are even less qualified than engineers. They are not even allowed
by law to design home foundations.
3. Texas Real Estate Commission property inspectors have no training or
licensing requirements that include knowledge of the building codes. In fact, code
inspections are specifically excluded in their standards of practice. The license
they have is merely a license to do business in the state, and nothing more.
4. Would you really want a municipal plumbing inspector to inspect anything else
in your home other than the plumbing?
5. City inspectors work for the city, as we have already discussed. They do not
have the training or even a clue how to best protect a home buyer.
6. A combination residential inspector certified by the International Code Council
comes closest to the mark. These individuals must pass harrowing exams in
residential building, plumbing, electrical, and mechanical inspections prior to
receiving a combination inspector’s certification. They really know the codes to
which your house is supposedly being built.
What is most disturbing about the above list of folks “qualified” to do new
construction inspections is what is missing. There is no mention whatsoever of
actual hands-on experience in residential construction. One simply cannot
adequately critique work that one is unable to actually perform. One cannot learn
to build a house merely conceptually and expect to understand its construction
So then, it seems that the ideal person to inspect your new home during its
construction would be:
1. Experienced in residential construction.
2. Licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission
3. Certified by the ICC as a Combination Residential Inspector (R-5)
Persons with all of these qualifications are few and far between. Aaron Miller of
Texas Inspector is one of those few.
1. Former builder and remodeler (1975 – 1997). Registered Builder, No. 16229,
with the Texas Residential Construction Commission. (2003 – 2009 when
commission was abolished by the Texas Sunset Act)
2. Licensed Professional Inspector No. 4336, by the Texas Real Estate
Commission since 1997.
3. Certified Residential Combination Inspector R-5, No. 5082671, International
Code Council, since 2000.
Now that you can plainly see your nose, exercise your common sense by hiring
the right person to oversee the construction of your new home.
See other qualifications here: https://www.texasinspector.com/about-us/aaronscertifications/
See another article on your builder’s warranty:
Even the Realtors agree that having a pre-drywall inspection on a new home is the prudent thing to do.
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, the world’s largest inspector organization, recently published another one of my articles.