What’s The Urgency To Close Before The Home Is Completed

The Builder wants the project to close on their schedule (barring they have the certificate of occupancy from the city and that the home is substantially complete). If the closing date is delayed past the month end then the Builder will have one more payment on the construction loan. The construction interim loan is a much higher rate than a conventional loan.

If the Construction Company is listed in the stock market then they have investors to keep happy. They want to close so many units per month nationwide and by all means close as many homes as is possible by January 31st each year.

Insight on Superintendent Bonus

The Builder typically bases the Super’s bonus on three equal parts

  1. Keep the customer happy
  2. No cost overruns such as redoing work whether it was an oversight or a change order
  3. Complete the job on schedule


The 1st Walk Through With The Superintendent Before Closing

The First Walk Through

Provide a copy of Aadvanced Inspection Report to the Superif they have not already received it. 

The home should be clean before you arrive and substantially complete for your meeting.  You will need to review all cosmetic issues floor covering, wall textures and paint, paint over spray, nicks/scratches in porcelain plumbing fixture finishes, scratches in stainless steel sinks, test the operation of all cabinet doors and drawers, check that the reveal between cabinet doors are consistent. You will likely be marking all incomplete cosmetic details with a blue low adhesive tape (available at Hope Depot – paint department). The following are some things that will or may never be improved upon and which maybe irritating but common in most new homes:

  •    a number of switch and outlet plates that are crooked
  •    color variations on the tile edges around showers and tub surrounds,
  •    bow(s) in the interior walls
  •    lines in the drywall finish of the ceiling or wall under certain lighting conditions
  •    dead or missing light bulbs
  •    gaps at the base of the garage door(s) when the door(s) are closed
  •    garage interior finish is incomplete
  •    tire marks on the driveway – cracks in the driveway
  •    driveway surface finish does not meet your expectation
  •    cracks in the heavy decorative timbers at the front elevation or entry porch
  •    yard trees planted close to the home – trees are leaning – trees do not appear to be healthy
  •    no border at front planters
  •    the list goes on . . .

Remember the model home is the Builder’s representation to the public (minus items that are noted as an upgrade) as to the quality standard that you should be receiving. If you are unhappy with certain items in your new home the valid argument you can make is that the quality or item is inconsistent with the workmanship present in the model home. If your Super does not comprehend what you believe is obvious then you should meet the Super and possibly the builder’s Sales Agent at the model to view the differences first hand. I suspect that about twenty percent of the Supers are difficult and they have all sorts of reasons why they cannot change something or that you are not entitled to receiving a better level of quality. In the event you are getting nowhere then the person to connect with will be the Construction Manager. It most cases the Construction Manager is the individual who oversees approximately four tract divisions Supers and Sales Staff simultaneously. They are the go to person when all else fails. It is my experience that issues typically are handled courteously and quickly once you engage them.

A Good Super Will  

Be courteous, listen to your concerns, answer most of your questions satisfactorily. They will explain the warranties and provide you with a notebook that contains information about the appliances and products installed in the home. They will let you know if or where there is extra paint and floor finishes in the home. The Super will walk you through the home and mark cosmetic defects as you participate. The Super will likely explain that there will be some minor cosmetic cracks and caulking shrinkage in the home during the first year. Explain a number of things such as: the water shut-off, HVAC thermostat operation and programming, HVAC fresh air ventilation and filters, electric GFCI & AFCI devices, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, garage door operation and reverse safety beam, discuss sprinkler operation and timing, discuss water drain off from the lot to street . . . entering the attic space and not to leave the decked attic area (not safe) . . . the list goes on.

Have The Super Clarify All Warranties

There are limited warranties on things such as kitchen appliances, water heater(s), heating and
cooling equipment.

There are other warranties for window panel replacement for a defective seal; It varies with the builder’s vendor two to ten years. The roof typically will have a warrantee against manufacture defects from twenty to thirty years (this does not cover the workmanship of the installation).
Most tract builders provide a structural insurance package (often referred to as a structural warranty) which should include the foundation, structural framing and impacted finishes (in the event of structural failure) for ten years. It is less common for custom builders or small builders to provide this warranty

I believe that the statuary warranties for building performance standards are as follows: Builder all-inclusive 1 year for workmanship and materials, 2 years for plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling system, 10 year for major structural components of the home if a structural warranty has been provided.

Building Department Inspections & 3rd Party Inspections

Governing Local Building Inspection Department

Building inspection happens at various points during the construction process 1) before the slab is poured, 2) MEPS (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Structural) prior to drywall, 3) Final inspections. Once the final is approved by the building department a Certificate of Occupancy is released. The Building Department inspections are intended to meet the construction standard guidelines “The International Residential Building Codes” or IRC.

Construction standards has increased considerably since 2003.  The standards are extremely useful to keep the Builder in sync with doing a proper job. The governing Building Department does not critique workmanship, fine details, or go through an exhaustive evaluation. The departments Building Inspectors are overloaded, reviewing about 15-20 homes each day. These inspectors do a great job but it’s hard to catch everything.

In my experience the Building Department Officials are complimentary to me (a third party inspection & I have to assume other 3rd party) since they stated 1) they are doing multiple inspections a day, therefor it is good to have an extra pair of eyes, 2) They do not deviate from the IRC Guidelines therefore they do not critique the quality of the workmanship.

The IRC code has been updated every three years since 2003. The building departments in different cities may be working from IRC code book 2012 or even 2009 in some instances. When I asked them why? The answer is that it takes both time and resources to implement the training and establish new practices. They all seem to trying to stay current as they are able. Cities such as Plano & Frisco are current working from the 2015 IRC codes.

The Building Contractor’s 3rd Party Inspection Company

Third party Inspectors hired by the Building Contractor are intended to build confidence with the buyer. The idea is that an independent party will critique the workmanship and provide written feedback as to any/and or all construction code or details that may have been missed by the local building departments staff or the Super.

The Builder’s inspection subcontractors are inconsistent. The inspection is only as good as the individual who did the inspection. One well-known local company has a revolving door of inspectors. When I follow behind this inspection team I find excellent to gross oversights in identifying issues. The Builder’s  inspection  report does not adhere to the TREC Standards (Texas state standards). This inspection report is designed to facilitate communication between the Builder and the contracted Inspector which is not under the scrutiny of TREC. These reports are helpful but may fall short of all that could or should be done. Additionally these reports do not report in a fashion that is comprehensive to the Buyer or Myself. They often have line item coding that the Builder and his Inspector designed for their internal use with the purpose to streamline the process and to not be obligated to the TREC standards.

Many of the Supers (as instructed) will tell you that you do not need an independent  3rd party inspector because we have already hired an inspection firm directly that has completed this task for us, on your behalf. Some Supers chuckle that there are very few Inspection companies that can meet their insurance requirements (although I do).

Aadvanced Inspection Inc. a 3rd Party Inspector  –

NO Conflict of Interest – My goal is to is serve my client by locating, documenting the issues and explaining how to get the most cooperation from your Super/Builder. My reports are written per the TREC (Texas Real Estate Commission) Guidelines. These guidelines are very specific and useful in reporting on mechanical and structural aspects of the home. I was a Builder for seventeen years, and now an inspector for twenty-four years.  I will provide you a thorough inspection and be able to include and/or point out construction flaws and details that your Builder should complete. I will take the time needed to communicate clearly what you need to know. If you have had trouble with the construction process i.e. delays, verbal changes that did not get accomplished, a change in Superintendents, items the Super says that are typical but you just know are not right . . . we will discuss it.

The best time for us to conduct your third party inspection will be the day before your first walk through with the builder which is usually seven days before the closing. The house construction should be substantially complete and thoroughly cleaned before your meeting so that you can see the finish details and locate any cosmetic flaws or blemishes. I will provide you a report with summary pages (a list of details) by midnight of the inspection day so that it will be available for your walk through the following day. Everything noted in the report will be written in terms that the builder fully understands. You can expect that nearly everything that is included in my report will be taken care of by the builder. The inspection is mechanical & structural as well as a few cosmetic details that I doubt that you will catch. Other cosmetic details such as interior paint, scratches in the wood flooring and so on are items that you will need to discuss with your builder and combine with the inspection report as a total To Do List. It is common for a Buyer and Super to blue tape (a low adhesive painter’s tape that does not harm the finish) to mark up the many visual cosmetics throughout the home that should be addressed.

Change Order Request To Your Home During Construction

Some builders do not allow changes because, it delays the completion schedule. Changes often require submittal to the city’s building department for approval. Any item that requires a licensed individual plumber, electrician, heat & air will need to be submitted as an addendum to the original plan to the building department. This is also true when and structural items i.e. moving a structural wall a few inches or more. These changes will require a diagram and engineer’s calculations.

Changes take time and cost money. The builder will likely charge what seems to be an exorbitant amount but there is more than just installing a few additional outlets . . . change addendum submittal and approval to the city, construction delay, completion delay, additional expense to the builder to carry the construction loan longer should they exceed the target date. Some of these changes will influence more than electrical and drywall there may be some other finish detail consequences that were unanticipated.

Always get changes to the plans and things that the Super agrees to fix in writing because . . .  The Super you are working with may not be the same Super that you finish your project with. The new Super did not make the promise and has no idea what his predecessor volunteered to do. Without something in writing it is unlikely that the change will ever get done.

Sales staff are typically your friend, cheerful, upbeat, they aim to please. They have been known to agree to some construction changes that will make you happy while in the immediate conversation BUT a change order still needs to be drafted and signed by the builder and you. You would be surprised how the Super never hears about verbal changes that the sales team offered. So IN THE END when you have insisted numerous times that your change request has not been addressed it may become impossible to execute UNLESS you possess a signed Change Order.

REMEMBER – the smoothest most agreeable changes to your future home should take place before the structural frame is erected and certainly before the walls are covered inside and out.

Tract Builders & Customer Service

For ten years prior to 2008 many builders were indifferent customer service oriented. They were not particularly cooperative with the potential home owner; not many of them were willing or agreeable to make construction changes during the building process. When the housing market collapsed in 2008 many of the builders (I understand nearly 50%) went out of business and were absorbed by healthier building competitors. The reorganization of the building industry and desperate times meant that much of their construction staff was laid off, tradesmen migrated away from Texas for more lucrative work elsewhere such as oil fields. There were delays in manufacturing and the delivery of building products since everything related to building was cutting back labor and production i.e. lumber, drywall and brick. The quality of the workmanship suffered for about four years since knowledgeable subcontractors were replaced by less experienced subs and builders were running skeleton crews which were stretched out and overworked. At this time builders were NOW on their best behavior. They were willing to make changes, provide discounts, determined to keep the customer happy during the construction process and close the deal. They working out of fear and uncertain how the near future would unfold.

As the building market returned around 2011, home design had become more energy efficient (starting around 2005) and cost of construction and materials increased. Labor cost did not increase much if any across the board. Suddenly builders struggled to keep up with the demand for housing as new employers relocated thousands of their employees to north Texas. Housing demand spiked from 2012 until middle of 2017. The builders seemed to be raising their sales cost per square foot monthly (because of demand and supply) and soon had returned to the prior builder habits – builder first and customer second. They learned that if the customer was frustrated with some aspect of the building, quality, timing, or other that they were ok with terminating the contract with the buyer and then selling the house for more . . . because they could.

The new home market finally hit a wall . . .  it slowed down around mid-2017 since the prices finally got to a point which no longer made sense for the consumer. Many people that relocated were families of two to four in size purchasing 4,000 SF homes with optimism that prices would continue to rise and that they have made a good investment – we will see. Prices have recently dropped, as the market demand has tapered off.

New Website for AAdvanced Inspections

Yes it has been several years since any major revisions to our site. Hopefully you will find the new site refreshing and easier to navigate. I will be leaving helpful information very soon under the headings of Clients Q&A, Home Maintenance, inspection Comments. I look forward to sharing with you.