You’ve picked out all your fixtures and finishes. You’ve selected your flooring and paint colors. Now the new house you’ve been waiting for is ready! Finally, you can sign your closing paperwork and move in. Sure, there’s a final walkthrough, but with a brand new home, that’s just a formality — right?
Hold on! Even though it might be tempting to rush through the final walkthrough in your newly-built home, there are actually some really important things that you need to investigate. Don’t assume that just because everything is clean and shiny that all is well. Finalizing the purchase of any home — even a brand-new home — requires keen attention to detail.
To develop a comprehensive guide to new-build walkthroughs, we talked with Jason Daniels, a top real estate agent in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with a background in construction management. Daniels says that even for new construction, he recommends hiring a home inspector. For around $350 to $600, an inspector will take a comprehensive look at the whole home — a wise investment!
However, the finer details are up to you. Take your time and work alongside your real estate agent to examine the following items carefully during your new construction walkthrough.
Exterior walkthrough inspection
As soon as you drive up to your dazzling new home, pause for a smile and a little happy dance… and then let the scrutiny begin. Daniels tells buyers to bring along their files to make sure that all paint colors, upgrades, and finishes are what you’ve chosen.
Landscaping and ground surfaces
Curb appeal comes first. Check the landscaping carefully. How’s the grass doing? Are these the plants you chose? Do they show any signs of distress at this point?
If there’s an irrigation system, does it appear it’s been working from the condition of the plants? Be sure to turn it on and ensure that all sprinkler heads are functioning properly.
You’ll also need to check the porch, deck, and patio areas. If they’re made from lumber, check for proper fasteners (did you agree on screws or nails?) and spacing. For pavers and concrete, check that the entire area is level and give it a once-over for any cracks or chips.
The driveway and front walkway will need the same treatment as well.
External surfaces of the home
Next, take some time to examine the exterior of the building. Is the overall paint tone even and is it adhering well? (Bubbling and uneven tone could indicate a problem with moisture.) Is the edging crisp and the trim completely covered?
If you’re able, get a ladder and inspect the roof or use binoculars to examine the surface from the ground. Look for proper seals at the corners and edges, and double-check for any faulty materials (broken shingles, cracked tiles, and so on). While you’re up there, take a look at the gutters and make sure they are installed beneath the drip edge of the roof.
Turn on all outdoor hose spigots to check for flow and pressure. Better yet, bring a garden hose along and spray around the exterior, watching for drainage issues. Is the water flowing away from the house as it should? Are there any low spots in the yard that need to be filled in, especially around the foundation?
Outdoor living spaces and add-ons
If your home includes additional hardscaping, such as a fire pit, pergola, fountain, pool, or an outdoor kitchen, you’ll definitely need to make sure all elements are in working order. Turn them on and test their functioning for at least five minutes.
For pools, make sure that you understand the equipment and the maintenance requirements. New pools need a very specific balance of chemicals to allow the finishes to cure, so hiring a pool service professional might be a good idea at least for the first few months — check with your builder.
Garage and fixtures
Finally, you’ll want to check the functionality of any outdoor lighting and fans. You’ll also need to verify that the garage door works and that the surfaces have been finished per your agreement. For example, did you pay for (and thus receive) floor coating? What about custom shelving or security features?
Also, check for any additional supplies that may have been leftover from your build. The garage will be the most likely place to locate these items. For homes that were chosen from a builder model, asking for leftover supplies may or may not be possible since sometimes the builder will use them on another home (and you’ve only paid for the supplies used on your home). But for custom builds, all supplies should be yours to keep. Those extra shingles and that half-can of paint may not seem like much now, but leftover supplies can prove valuable later when repairs and touch-ups need to be made.
All right, here’s your new-construction exterior checklist:
- Landscaping and irrigation
- Deck, porch, patio
- Driveway walkway
- Roof gutters
- Hardscaping and add-ons
- Extra supplies
Interior walk-through inspection
Oh, that new-house smell! It won’t be long now until you can move in and enjoy your gorgeous surroundings.
But first, take your time during this interior walkthrough. Daniels reminds his buyers that this walkthrough is the time to catch any and all cosmetic defects. Wait until later, and your builder will likely argue that floor scratches and cabinet dings were the fault of the movers.
Every door and window needs to be checked for functionality. Make sure all open and close with ease — no sticking, squeaking, or jamming. Check that each exit point locks effectively and that deadbolts have been installed where you requested.
On windows, examine the screens to ensure they are free from holes and that they function properly (especially for sliding screens). Check the integrity of the glass and the seals. Are there any scratches or cracks? Have they been uniformly caulked? Consider bringing a lighter to check for air leaks (watch the flame for indications of a breeze).
Interior surfaces of the home
Next, move on to inspecting the walls, ceilings, and floor. Are the paint colors what you agreed upon? Does the coverage look uniform, and has the edging been done to professional standards? Look for any indication of water stains or cracking, as that could signal a plumbing, roofing, or foundation problem. Check that the trim is secure and that the caulking looks smooth.
Take special care to walk slowly and methodically over the floor. Check that wood and tile has been leveled and that seams and grout lines are even. Examine the edges of all flooring. Is it tucked nicely under the trim, or are there gaps? On carpeting, make sure the installation is tight and there are no waves or wrinkles.
Kitchen and baths
In the kitchen, you’ll want to turn on and test every appliance. Yes, that means you’ll have to wait a bit for the oven to warm up and the dishwasher to at least begin a cycle. (Take the manuals out!) Are the appliances what you ordered? Do they have any dings or scratches? Is the freezer making ice and the water dispenser flowing nicely? Don’t forget the garbage disposal!
Open all cabinet doors and drawers to make sure that nothing is hindering the function and the hinges don’t squeak. Make sure counters are free of scratches and chips and that they’ve been properly secured to the cabinetry. Look at the hardware to make sure each knob and pull has been installed in the same spot.
Flush the toilets, run the sinks, turn on the tub faucets and showers. Is everything running as it should? Is the toilet bolted down?
Check under sinks to ensure the pipes aren’t leaking, and make sure the drains close as they should. Look over the enamel and tile to make sure there are no chips or cracks.
The HVAC system is a big expense, so make sure all’s well there. Bump the thermostat up and down (not all at once; Wait appropriately) to ensure that both the heating and cooling sides are responding. Bring a piece of tissue paper to test that the intakes are pulling air in and hold a hand up near the vents to check the flow.
You’ll also want to test the light fixtures and the outlets. Bring a hairdryer or cell phone charger to make sure power is flowing. Yes, this is a tedious job, but maybe you could pass this off to older children or a friend. Also, look for GFI outlets in areas where there’s a potential for water exposure (bathrooms, kitchen, garage, laundry).
Be sure to test the function of other electronics as well: Doorbells, intercom, smart home tech, electric blinds, skylights, security systems, and so on.
Attic and basement
Finally, the attic and basement areas will need your attention.
Up in the attic, check for proper installation and floor decking in agreed-upon areas. You won’t be able to see it all, but check for any indication of roof leaks or air duct leaks where you can. Also, take a look at ventilation and lighting if applicable.
In the basement or crawl space, eyeball the foundation walls for any cracks or moisture. Check for insulation and ductwork where it’s needed, too. If the basement is finished, inspect all surfaces as you would the rest of the interior.
To wrap it all up, here’s an easy reference for your new-construction interior walkthrough:
- Doors and windows
- Walls, ceilings, trim
- Cabinets and built-ins
- Sinks, toilets, and tubs
- Tech systems
- Basement or crawl space
What to do if you find problems
If anything on your new-construction walkthrough checklist falls short of what it should be, have your real estate agent contact the builder immediately. He or she will be able to create an itemized list of fixes to be done and work with your builder to come up with a solution.
Depending upon the situation, you may not even need to delay closing. If the house is liveable and only minor things need to be changed, your agent can negotiate for a sum of money to be held in escrow until the fixes are made. If there are major issues, however, you may want to delay closing until the builder addresses the problems.
You can also ask that the builder provide a home warranty, if they haven’t already. A home warranty helps give you peace of mind, knowing that if issues arise later, they’ll be taken care of as well (within a specified time limit).
Hopefully, your new construction walkthrough is a pleasant experience. A thorough walkthrough using this checklist as a guide can help you move into your new home with confidence.
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