New house nightmare

Hay Guys,

I went head to head with a mega-builder two days ago. He builds bunches of $180,000 homes, and a client hired me to inspect. Brand new house… I had over 40 write up, and several that were outright life safety dangers, like no cap on decorative brick chimney, 28x28 opening to the heavens. The manufactured chimney exited BELOW the top course of bricks…Meaning that Carbon Monoxide could reenter the home and come back down into the home. No apron flashing at low edge of chimney. This home had ZERO weep holes in the brick veneer. Zero clearance between siding and roofing surfaces. Load bearing studs outside the 45deg angle of the stud in the wall below.

A beer can was jammed in the metal dryer vent. This one pissed me off, because that was an intentional act performed by the builder. This could allow lint buildup, and reduce air flow causing a fire. That act could easily constitute attempted arson… under the letter of the law.

I wrote an honest but pointed report, and the bill to make this all correct was pushing $6000. When the builder read my report he came unglued and called me incompetent, and overstepping my authority (I cited the IRC in each instance I discovered a discrepancy) He said we was going to turn me into the real-estate commission, and I told him to go right ahead… He refused to sell the home to the couple that wanted to buy it too…

24 hours later, after he cooled off… he agreed to make nearly every single repair I wrote up, and the couple is closing this week… All I can say is that just because its new does not mean it’s even close to correct.


Excellent point!

Thanks for sharing.:slight_smile:


Are you allowed to issue repair estimates in Texas? We can’t perform that service here in California. Nor can we effect repairs on a property for which we have inspected.

You said it Cortland! I do many new home warranty inspections up here in Canada, and I’m finding the construction becoming worse and worse. They don’t put things together with quality in mind anymore.

I understand why some don’t want to give an estimate of repairing an item, but why can’t you in California? Is it against the law? Why are you NOT allowed if you wanted to tell your clients about how much it would cost them to upkeep and maintain items in their home?

Hey, Cort, good calls.
I had a new home insp a few weeks a go that was so sickening, I made a Powerpoint of it & showed it to the local RE meeting a week ago.
Even they were shocked!

As I understand the law in Texas, I am (not required) to provide any estimate of repairs. I do however offer a ball park estimate, and ask my client to contact the appropriate specialist for what ever system is in need of repair to get a precise quote. I think that there are too many variables for an HI to give a precise quite of cost to repair. On this particular home I (low range) ball parked the estimates, and the builder ultimately agreed that I had low ranged them, it actually “cost” him more to fix it.

Anyway, a point about confrontation, confrontation is good in our profession (to a degree), because it leads to negotiation, and resolution. Remember that excessive defensive posturing by a party is often associated with feeling that he or she is not in control of the situation, and losing. They sometimes literally huff off and run to their room like an angry child, and we must allow them this opportunity. Eventually the tears will dry and they will slowly come back out of their room to rejoin society.

I helped this couple see through this, and they let the builder cool off for a day, and went into negotiation, and had a successful negotiation. They resolved all the issues. $180,000 certainly deserves our support, and a belief in our own calls on the reports we write. If we say it’s not quite right, we need to stand our ground, and even offer to take these issues to our governing jurisdictions for resolution… especially if the health and safety of our clients are at stake.

Great job Cortland! And great posts.


I understand your desire to be helpful to the homeowner by offering ball park estimates. But in my opinion, that is dangerous. Too often “ball park” estimates get lodged in the mind of the consumer and become something entirely different from the original intention. There was a thread a while ago about an inspector in Canada that estimated repairs to a basement to be $2K and the real cost was $10K. Guess who the purchasing homeowner wanted to foot the $8K difference? And the inspector lost in court. My policy is I very diplomatically decline to give any estimates, period.

I see many new ‘builders’ in my area who do 3 - 4 tear down, new builds a yeqar. Most are Realtors or mortgage brokers who want to get in on the building boom by tearing down 1,500 - 2,200 SF ranches that are on large land tracts and build 4,500 - 6,500 SF ‘McMansions’.

Around here, all that is needed for a GC ‘licence’ is proof to the local municipality of GL (not E&O insurance). Most of these guys have never swung a hammer in their lives.

In any case, they all seem to make the same mistakes:

  1. Not keeping on top of their subs. The sub-contractors will get away with whatever they can. Most are hired based entirely on the low bid.

  2. Bathroom and 2nd floor laundry exhaust fans not vented to the exterior but only to the attic.

  3. Corrogated steel window wells attached to the house with only 1/4" lag screws. Saw one house where every single window well had sheared loose and backfill was coming into the basement window.

  4. Downspouts from upper dormer gutters draining directly onto lower roof portions. BTW: This will void most roof manufacturer warranties.

  5. Sump pump drain pipes extending only inches out of the exterior wall.

  6. 15 to 25% voltage drops at distant 2nd floor bedrooms at 12 amps. 120 to 160’ runs of 14 gauge wire to these receptacles.

  7. Landscape grade covering (sometimes by 2 - 3") exterior weep wicks and weep holes.

  8. Cat 4 sealed high efficiency funaces (sometimes 2 or 3) with no combustion air intakes. The air intake flange is just open on the top of the furnace and the furnaces are in attics with blown in cellulose (and inspection of the intake flange finds loads of sucked in insulation there) or they are installed inside closets with solid doors and the closets themselves are in 2nd floor laundry rooms that also have solid doors.

  9. No di-eletric fittings on water heaters. Darn things are all green and corroded and the house is only 2 months old.

  10. Multiple can lights that are not rated for insulation contact that are in contact with insulation and the openings (dDrywall to can) are not sealed. Cans rated for 40 watt floods that have 100 watt regular bulbs in them. Cans not grounded.

  11. Painted over GFCIs that just plain won’t trip

  12. Exterior outlets and driveway lights that are mouned on ‘distressed’ brick and not sealed.

  13. Sidewalks and driveways poured so that the concrete level covers 1/2 the weep holes.

  14. OSB I joist with no metal hangers simply toenailed to headers.

  15. Steel columns supporting big steel girders that have no connecting bolts. The girders just rest on the posts.

All these passed ‘code’ inspection and the builder went to great lengths to inform me of it.

We have to get the message out. New construction is not necessarily good construction. I don’t know how many times I have had Realtors and/or clients tell me that it is unnecessary and just plain silly to have new construction inspected.

I did a “New Build” for a customer that trusted me more than his builder. Client drove me to the home site for the first run right after the slab had been poured. Heavy thunderstorm the day before. I walked the slab and made the comment that the rear bedroom slab should not have been exposed by the rain. The footer was actually hanging in the air over the hole. The contractor filled in the hole the following day. I saw the hole back filled. Another heavy rain and the footer was exposed again. I convinced the owner to hire a structural engineer. The only way to fix the problem was to tunnel underneath and inject concrete thus building a pier. 8,000 bucks. All of the profit for the builkder would have been gone if the owner had not agreed to split the cost with the builder. Then the builder says “Well your so smart, teach my guys how to build a kiva fireplace.” “Just happen to have seen This Old House the night before.” “I’ve got the tape on how to build a kiva fireplace.” The builder and I established a good relationship after what could have been disaster.
I did a warranty inspection a couple weeks ago, where the builder was so impressed by the original inspector that he fired his man and hired the inspector. The only thing I found was the recall on the AFCI’s. The builder replaced all of the AFCI’s in thirty four houses.

This point can not be over stressed.

We can get into urination contests with builders, argue, yell and not solve the problem, or we can help them to make their work better (and usually less expensive!).

Home inspectors (at least the good ones) work hard to keep up on the newest methods, techniques and materials. Most builders (and their subs) do not. I know of a really good and professional HVAC company (family owned) who have been putting in the new CAT 4 sealed furnaces for years, but have never even taken the time to actually read the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Hence, they have been putting them in for years wrong!

Se can serve our clients AND the builders by education. Most times, doing it right or changing methodology from how “we always do it that way” to the newest, latest and greatest will not only help eliminate problems down the road, but also make the actual installation quicker and less expensive. This means more profit for the builder as well as better value for the client.

I think that the bottom line is, it is a business decision on what type of info & service you give your clients across the board. Either way is up to the business owner. Just because one person will give their “opinion” on an estimate and one won’t, doesn’t mean that either way is right or wrong.

I do find it hard to believe that if I give a client my estimate of how much an (ie.) interior door (Full Louvered for combustion air) would be to replace and I provided a disclaimer that states: “DO NOT RELY ON THESE PRICES…GET FURTHER ESTIMATES”. That I would be held liable for anything above and beyond that. This is why it is called an estimate. If you were responsible for your estimate in being wrong then you could also take the publishers of hundreds of books on “estimating repair costs” to court.

Now with that said…as a general rule I do not give repair cost on line items. But accompanied with my reports is a ton of info like RR does with educating the client and in this package is a one page form outling General costs of repairs on general items for home systems. with the following disclaimer:

"The prices quoted below include a wide range of prices based on a typical metropolitan area. Individual prices from contractors vary substantially from these ranges. We advise that several bids be obtained on any work exceeding several hundred dollars. DO NOT RELY ON THESE PRICES…GET FURTHER ESTIMATES."

I think we sometimes need to put things in perspective. Our clients hire us for information. This is basically what our service is. How are we providing them with what they hired us for if we turn around and refuse to give them the info they need and our reports are 37 pages of “Referring” them to someone else.

This of course is my own opinion on estimates. I’m sure I’ll get tons of nay sayers who are going to tell me how wrong that opinion is, but my point is I don’t think there is a line in the sand where one side is the absolute right and the other is the absolute wrong on this issue of estimates.

Hope that makes sense.