It’s important to have new construction homes inspected; not just used houses. And these houses should be inspected by private home inspectors, not just the municipal inspector.* Home inspectors have the luxury of time, and we find a ton of stuff during our new-construction inspections. Unfortunately, many homebuyers don’t get this inspection. Either they aren’t aware of the importance, or someone talked them out of it. In those cases, they typically turn to an 11-month warranty inspection to get a punch list of stuff that needs to be addressed before the builder’s one-year warranty expires. As the name implies, this is done after the new owners have had their house for about ten to eleven months.
*To learn more about the importance of new construction inspections and to see examples of what we find during these inspections, check out my blog post from earlier this year: https://structuretech.com/photos-from-new-construction-inspections-2022/, or check out my one-hour class which I’ve made available for free to the public: https://youtu.be/Lu7IvCLjW2A .
Here at Structure Tech, we do a boatload of these 11-month warranty inspections, and they’re nearly indistinguishable from our standard home inspection. We walk the roof, crawl through attics, open electric panels, test the furnace, use infrared cameras all over the house… and the list goes on. We schedule at least a 4-hour time slot for these inspections, and we usually find significant installation errors for the builder to address. We even have builders who recommend us for these inspections, because they know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Not all home inspections are the same!
My office recently heard from some of our potential clients that there’s another home inspection company in my area charging far less than what we charge, and they’re calling us out by name. They’re telling their clients that they do all of the same stuff that Structure Tech does, and for nearly half the price. Woah.
On paper, it sure sounds like this other company is delivering way more value than we are. There’s no way we could charge half of what we charge today and come close to offering a good inspection! But maybe someone figured out how to do it? I was very curious about this. I decided if another company is offering the same service my company is offering but for half the price, we’ll stop offering that service.
But before I made this decision, I had to make sure I was comparing apples to apples. Is this other company truly offering the same product?
So I set up a secret shop. I reached out to some clients who had just used us for an 11-month warranty inspection, and they agreed to hire this Other company to do the same 11-month warranty inspection. It was a perfect apples-to-apples comparison because my inspector didn’t know his work would be compared to anyone else’s, and neither did the Other company. These inspections were conducted within weeks of each other, with the same conditions.
So what do you think I found?
This is so juicy I can hardly stand it.
Our reports were from two different worlds.
Reporting differences by the numbers
I fully expected a big difference in our inspection reports, but I wasn’t prepared for such a huge difference. To compare our report to theirs, here’s a numbers breakdown along with my commentary.
Number of pages: This isn’t an important number. We could take oodles and oodles of generic photos and use large images in our reports to make our reports over 100 pages long, but have we added any value? No. Judging a report by the number of pages is like judging a meal by the size of the plate.
Generic pages listing SOP: Over 40% of the Other report was comprised of home inspection Standards of Practice. My humble opinion is that Standards of Practice don’t belong in a home inspection report; they should be sent out before the inspection.
Items for the builder to address: We found missing insulation in the attic, missing insulation at the exterior, a leaking water valve, a loose sewer cap, an improperly installed kitchen hood fan that didn’t exhaust to the exterior nor the interior, damaged air barriers, incomplete weatherstripping that had previously allowed for water intrusion, a settled walkway that created uneven steps at the front door, safety issues with the garage door opener, and several other items.
Oh, and we mentioned a few cosmetic things for the builder to address, such as nail pops and wall cracks. I’m counting all of that as one item.
The Other report listed two items for the builder to address, but one was a reporting error, calling out seams in the exterior foundation insulation as cracks. There were no cracks. The only real item listed for the builder to address was cosmetic stuff. Things like nail pops and cracks in the walls. And it was repeated 19 times.
Blue tape photos: These are photos of cosmetic deficiencies marked with blue painter’s tape. I could easily teach my eleven-year-old to look for cosmetic imperfections in walls, mark them with blue tape, and take pictures of them. Anyone could do this with about 30 minutes of training. And this made up almost the entire Other report.
After this secret shop, I understood how this other company charged so much less than us. They filled their report with generic boilerplate information and photos of stuff that anyone could plainly see. Seriously, anyone could do this.
Our inspection report gave a long list of things affecting the house’s performance. We mentioned cosmetic stuff too, but this wasn’t our focus. When you take your car to a mechanic, do you have them examine the paint job? Of course not! Anyone can see cosmetic blemishes for themselves.
Before you hire someone to conduct an 11-month warranty inspection, ask yourself what you really want out of it. Do you want someone to point out all of the stuff you’ve already seen and put it into a nice report? If so, there’s nothing wrong with hiring a cheap home inspector. But if you’re looking for someone to dig into the mechanics and functionality of your home, you’ll need to spend a little more to get what you’re looking for. There’s no free lunch.
If you want to know the difference between these types of inspections ahead of time, ask your inspector for a sample report.
Also, here’s a podcast we recorded on this same topic, which we posted yesterday: