How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

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krappei
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How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by krappei » Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am

Hi,

Can you recommend things to watch for to determine if a done new construction home is low, average or high quality?

There's a specific house that I'm looking at that seems to be very high quality (and the sellers agent also insists that is), but I can't tell if it's just cosmetic or not. They installed Andersen windows, quartz countertops, Thermador appliances, custom wood cabinets, built-in BBQ grill, and LG washer and dryer. How likely is it that they make all of the apparent stuff high quality but average or lower quality on construction like insulation, materials, foundation, roofing, etc.?

corysold
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by corysold » Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:59 am

Might be worth it to ask for blue prints and spec sheets.

Also good to know the local codes in the area, as the house was built at least to that spec, so you have a minimum value for insulation and such. Somethings you can see by peeking around. Poke your head into the attic and see how insulation there is and maybe if wiring looks messy, etc. If there is a basement you can determine if it is a "deep pour" or taller ceilings, which is an upgraded feature. Concrete is concrete, not much going on there. You should be able to tell on flooring and such. Quality carpet and pad feels softer than inferior carpet. Real hardwood will sound/look different than laminate, etc. Cabinets should have names on them. Otherwise, many materials don't have better quality. Studs are pretty much studs, unless they did 2x6 construction on interior walls or something like that. You can look at the roof and see if there are architectural or standard shingles. You should be able to tell what type of siding it is.

Can you look up reviews of the builder? Are they well known for their quality in the area? Can you find another home they are working currently to see down to the studs?

Beyond that, ask the other Realtor for a spec sheet of the house to back up their claims.

researcher
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by researcher » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:05 am

krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am
How likely is it that they make all of the apparent stuff high quality but average or lower quality on construction like insulation, materials, foundation, roofing, etc.?
The likelihood is 100%.

renue74
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by renue74 » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:11 am

Most of the time, the home finishes are a big factor in the final cost of a home. "Builder grade," finishes are things like faucets, etc. that one can purchase from Home Depot, etc. Higher end homes will have designer brand finish materials, often purchased from showrooms.

The basics, wood studs, insulation, etc. are common across all homes. But one would look at the R Value of insulation and whether the builder used specialty products like Zip wall sheathing or other higher end products for the rough build of the home.

There are custom home builders out there who pay special attention to weather infiltration, etc. during the rough in stage. Look up "Mark Risinger," on Youtube and you'll find some good videos on the build process and some modern ideas.

Like the other poster said, most likely...the builder just got by. Most of them do.

You can always get home comps of similar homes that have sold in the area. It may not be exact, but homes in the same hood tend to have similar architectural elements.

arsenalfan
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by arsenalfan » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:16 am

Track record of builder, and willingness to stand by it are what really matter. To find out after product is built:

Ask buyers of prior homes. Ideally from homes built 1, 5, 10 years ago to see how they've held up/responsive to afterpurchase repair requests.
If development, ask neighbors in this development, and older ones.
Call other reputable realtors separate from yours, and ask opinion of builder.
Visit builder's current construction site and talk to the crew. Get the foreman/contractor guy's phone number, as you'll probably want them anyways for punch list work/handyman work.

Or, pay $$ for an inspector/someone in construction who can really show you what you're looking for. Kind of like an independent auto mechanic eval of a craigslist auto. Even then, I don't put much stock into inspectors and thnk it will still come down to builder's track record. An inspector can reassure you about the R value of insulation, type of siding, and other materials, but they won't definitively be able to discern quality of workmanship behind the drywall/that it all was installed correectly (see BH post about someone's sink/countertop install).

texasdiver
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by texasdiver » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:29 am

Hire a home inspector and be there when he walks through it. One who has been around will also know 100x more about local builder reputations than anything you can find on online reviews by consumers.

Rupert
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by Rupert » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:42 am

Most builders cut corners somewhere, and they're smart enough to do it in ways you won't notice for years, if ever. They may paint walls without priming them, use cheap sheathing to insulate the home and keep water out, nail (rather than bolt) the framing into the foundation, nail (rather than screw) the sheet rock, install substandard plumbing, install improperly-sized furnaces and AC units, etc. If the price of the house seems low given the quality of the finishes, that's a red flag. If the builder balks when you insist on an inspection, that's a red flag. (Note, some inspectors are completely useless. Don't use one recommended by anyone involved in your home purchase transaction, e.g., your realtor. Find your own, and definitely be there and ask lots of questions about everything). I also recommend doing what a prior poster recommended: Try to talk to someone who has actually lived in one of the builder's homes for a few years to see what problems have cropped up.

obgraham
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by obgraham » Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:07 pm

researcher wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:05 am
krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am
How likely is it that they make all of the apparent stuff high quality but average or lower quality on construction like insulation, materials, foundation, roofing, etc.?
The likelihood is 100%.
Agreed.

texasdiver
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by texasdiver » Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:18 pm

Honestly, knowing about the builder isn't necessarily going to tell you all that much either. Obviously you also have to compare apples to apples. You can't compare a national builder putting up cheap entry level homes to a custom builder in a high-end subdivision.

Lennar here in WA is obviously going to be using a whole different set of sub-contractors than Lennar in Texas.

There is obviously one component of the quality of a house that is determined by the decisions made by the builder in terms of design and materials. But there is a whole separate component of quality that is determined by the actual work which is mainly done by sub-contractors. If corners were cut in the plumbing or wiring or other 'invisible' components it may well have been the builder or just as possibly the sub-contractor.

In every home that I have lived in, the few minor quality issues that I have encountered are problems that I would judge to be the fault and responsibility of the subcontractor and not the builder. Most recently I had to tear a wall apart to get at a leaky water supply pipe in a our 14 year old DR Horton home. What I found was a pin-hole leak that had developed in a spot on the supply line that had been nicked by a sawblade and after 14 years the water pressure had finally forced its way through the weakened spot. That sort of problem is 100% on the subcontractor who put in the faulty pipe or whatever framer had accidentally nicked the pipe after it was already installed in the wall.

denovo
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by denovo » Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:19 pm

Best person who know is all is the city/county inspector who inspects new homes.
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln

chevca
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by chevca » Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:20 pm

krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am
There's a specific house that I'm looking at that seems to be very high quality (and the sellers agent also insists that is),
Well, if they say so.. :happy

Unless you went totally custom build down to picking out all materials used yourself, most new homes nowadays are pretty similar as far as materials used like a 30 year shingle, siding, insulation, etc. Most aren't going to go with a 50 year roof when a 30 year will do. Most aren't going to go with plywood all the way around the house when particle board will do. And so on... But, this has been going on for decades now and 20 or 30 year old houses don't just tip over one day, so.. :happy

Most likely all the things you can't see are just fine and of good quality. Having an inspection done by a good inspector would still be worth it though even on a new build home.

We have bought two new home in recent years. No, not financially the best way. But, happiness and all, totally worth it to us. Two different builders and no issues at all with the houses. We bought before they were done and basically got to watch the houses being built. Is that the case for you and this new build? Or, is the neighborhood still being built up? Go look around at the houses in different states of construction to see how foundations, framing, wiring, plumbing, and everything else along the way look on those houses. Are there folks living in the neighborhood already? Drive through and try to catch one or two of them outside to talk to about the house and builder. Makes you feel a bit like a stalker :happy , but totally worth it. Who better to talk to as a potential buyer, and most are plenty willing to talk. We found folks to be very honest, good and bad stuff, as they're not on anyone's side having already bought.

Mostly, if you like the house, go for it, IMO. Do your own homework on the things you can though.

JoeRetire
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by JoeRetire » Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:20 pm

krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am
Can you recommend things to watch for to determine if a done new construction home is low, average or high quality?
A good home inspector will specifically note that on the inspection report. Mine did.

chevca
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by chevca » Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:23 pm

denovo wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:19 pm
Best person who know is all is the city/county inspector who inspects new homes.
Sure, but what are they going to tell you... it passed or it failed. :happy

They don't sit down and talk with every potential buyer of every home they inspect.

Glockenspiel
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by Glockenspiel » Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:23 pm

researcher wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:05 am
krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am
How likely is it that they make all of the apparent stuff high quality but average or lower quality on construction like insulation, materials, foundation, roofing, etc.?
The likelihood is 100%.
This. Spec builders know what materials buyers are looking at and how to make the most profit off the house. They absolutely will go with high quality finishes while the guys of the house are low quality.

London
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by London » Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:24 pm

obgraham wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:07 pm
researcher wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:05 am
krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am
How likely is it that they make all of the apparent stuff high quality but average or lower quality on construction like insulation, materials, foundation, roofing, etc.?
The likelihood is 100%.
Agreed.
Not totally sure I agree. If it's a spec home, I assume corners will be cut. If it's a one-off custom home; some owners can pump a ton of money into the unseen details during the build.

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bottlecap
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by bottlecap » Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:25 pm

Hire a contractor. Home inspectors are worthless for this type of thing.

You'll get charged more, but it will be worth it.

JT

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BolderBoy
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by BolderBoy » Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:32 pm

Look closely at the "custom" kitchen cabinets. Look specifically at the hinges used. Are they cheap or of high quality?
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

krappei
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by krappei » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:00 pm

BolderBoy wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:32 pm
Look closely at the "custom" kitchen cabinets. Look specifically at the hinges used. Are they cheap or of high quality?
Can you be specific? How can you tell if the hinges are high quality?

staythecourse
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by staythecourse » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:02 pm

I designed our newly built house a few years ago. My suggestion, Find out who built it and ask folks in the "community" about their reputation. If you don't know folks in the construction community then find out other houses they have built around 5-10 years ago and find out from the owners if there are re-occurring issues. Another option is hire a home inspection from a group that does a lot of new construction. They will quickly tell you their reputation.

In the end, developers KNOW the average consumer falls in love with finishes and don't pay attention to the bones of a house. It is the bones that matter and not the finishes. Reputation means everything in this field as it is a reflection on their professional ethical values.

Good luck.
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krappei
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by krappei » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:12 pm

Thanks everyone for the feedback.

I do plan to hire an independent home inspector at some point but isn't that typically done after an offer has been accepted but before closing since it can be costly? The home is a flipped home and not part of a community. The builder essentially purchased a lot for 3 homes and split into two. I did get references from 3 previous customers of the builder for new constructions that have lived in their homes for 2-3 years and all of the them had mostly positive feedback. All were happy with their homes which gives me some optimism. Unfortunately, there are no online reviews for the builder - Amazing Home Developers LLC (based in IL).

I'm checking out the home this weekend and wanted to see if there were things I should check for besides the obvious stuff. From what I can tell the constructions seems pretty good, but I'm not an expert.

Spooky
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by Spooky » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:24 pm

I would also look at ventilation. There are calculators online to figure out how much soffit and roof ventilation is optimal. It makes a big difference in keeping your house cool in the summer. We just redid the roof ventilation on our 1964 house, and it's not hard, but I think it tells you something about attention to detail in a new construction house. I would look at all the bathrooms to see if they are vented through the roof and not just into the attic. This is something that should be caught by building inspection, but it seems to happen all the time.

I would also think about drainage--can you run a hose onto the roof and see where the water comes out? Or run the hose or sprinklers on the yard and see if it pools or you get water in the crawlspace etc.

Murgatroyd
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by Murgatroyd » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:27 pm

Owned 7 homes, built 3.

attic: look up, not down. look at how well studs and support beams match where cut. Particularly those cut on angles. Are nails and screws tight and flush. Does it look like anything was removed and replaced. Look at as much of the decking as possible for water stains and do you see daylight anywhere. Do roof vents look clean in their holes, no jagged edges of wood. This will give an impression of the structure carpentry.

Basement: similar to attic- look at all exposed wood for consistency. Look at edges of cement for chipping. There will be some, but if there is significant chipping on all edges and even some flaking then the concrete could have been a cheap mix or wrong for the time of year it was poured. Also look for any signs of water.

Outside: same as above. Also try to determine if ground slopes away from the house.

Inside: look closely at how edges everywhere match. Just like you’d do with a car. Are the seams straight. Especially doors. Do they hang straight around all edges. Same with cabinets and closets. Are light switch and outlets straight? These things will indicate quality of subs and, more importantly, did the builder make them do their jobs.

You will still need an inspection. They can help with hvac and fuse box.

Use your common sense and buyer beware!
Last edited by Murgatroyd on Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

chevca
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by chevca » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:32 pm

krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:12 pm
Thanks everyone for the feedback.

I do plan to hire an independent home inspector at some point but isn't that typically done after an offer has been accepted but before closing since it can be costly?
Yes. I doubt the builder would let you do an inspection without being under contract. It's their house and up to them, I suppose. But, I haven't heard of builders allowing that sort of thing.

My wife's father is a retired contractor and built his own house and all. We had him come along a couple times to walk through with us when we were looking. He checked things out and asked some questions of the sales rep we wouldn't have thought to ask. If you have someone like that in your life, it can be a good way to have a sneaky inspection type thing done on your own. :happy

denovo
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by denovo » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:51 pm

chevca wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:23 pm
denovo wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:19 pm
Best person who know is all is the city/county inspector who inspects new homes.
Sure, but what are they going to tell you... it passed or it failed. :happy

They don't sit down and talk with every potential buyer of every home they inspect.
In my experience, inspectors love to talk. They are willing to tell you beyond pass or fail, about the quality of construction.
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln

denovo
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by denovo » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:54 pm

krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:12 pm
Thanks everyone for the feedback.

I do plan to hire an independent home inspector at some point but isn't that typically done after an offer has been accepted but before closing since it can be costly? The home is a flipped home and not part of a community. The builder essentially purchased a lot for 3 homes and split into two. I did get references from 3 previous customers of the builder for new constructions that have lived in their homes for 2-3 years and all of the them had mostly positive feedback. All were happy with their homes which gives me some optimism. Unfortunately, there are no online reviews for the builder - Amazing Home Developers LLC (based in IL).

I'm checking out the home this weekend and wanted to see if there were things I should check for besides the obvious stuff. From what I can tell the constructions seems pretty good, but I'm not an expert.
OP, can you clarify? Flipper usually refers to someone who takes a home in poor condition and renovates it. Someone who builds the home from ground-up is referred to as a builder/developer, and that's what it sounds like you are describing. Since this is a small-time builder, I would request a thorough inspection and try to track down the inspector. Usually the city/county has that info.
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln

krappei
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by krappei » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:57 pm

denovo wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:54 pm
krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:12 pm
Thanks everyone for the feedback.

I do plan to hire an independent home inspector at some point but isn't that typically done after an offer has been accepted but before closing since it can be costly? The home is a flipped home and not part of a community. The builder essentially purchased a lot for 3 homes and split into two. I did get references from 3 previous customers of the builder for new constructions that have lived in their homes for 2-3 years and all of the them had mostly positive feedback. All were happy with their homes which gives me some optimism. Unfortunately, there are no online reviews for the builder - Amazing Home Developers LLC (based in IL).

I'm checking out the home this weekend and wanted to see if there were things I should check for besides the obvious stuff. From what I can tell the constructions seems pretty good, but I'm not an expert.
OP, can you clarify? Flipper usually refers to someone who takes a home in poor condition and renovates it. Someone who builds the home from ground-up is referred to as a builder/developer, and that's what it sounds like you are describing. Since this is a small-time builder, I would request a thorough inspection and try to track down the inspector. Usually the city/county has that info.
My apologies you’re correct, it’s not flipped but a house that was torn down and rebuilt new.

chevca
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by chevca » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:58 pm

denovo wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:51 pm
chevca wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:23 pm
denovo wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:19 pm
Best person who know is all is the city/county inspector who inspects new homes.
Sure, but what are they going to tell you... it passed or it failed. :happy

They don't sit down and talk with every potential buyer of every home they inspect.
In my experience, inspectors love to talk. They are willing to tell you beyond pass or fail, about the quality of construction.
Interesting. I wouldn't have thought they would have time to do that. Maybe depends on the area and how populated or busy they are?

staythecourse
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by staythecourse » Thu Sep 13, 2018 3:12 pm

krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:12 pm
Thanks everyone for the feedback.

I do plan to hire an independent home inspector at some point but isn't that typically done after an offer has been accepted but before closing since it can be costly? The home is a flipped home and not part of a community. The builder essentially purchased a lot for 3 homes and split into two. I did get references from 3 previous customers of the builder for new constructions that have lived in their homes for 2-3 years and all of the them had mostly positive feedback. All were happy with their homes which gives me some optimism. Unfortunately, there are no online reviews for the builder - Amazing Home Developers LLC (based in IL).

I'm checking out the home this weekend and wanted to see if there were things I should check for besides the obvious stuff. From what I can tell the constructions seems pretty good, but I'm not an expert.
Most folks have a contingency in the sales contract for home inspection which means if the home inspection shows something you can cancel the contract and get the deposit back. I didn't even mean that part. I just meant call an inspection company in the area and find out from them what the reputation of the builder is in the community. Many of them are previous city inspectors. Which as mentioned previous is a good idea if you can track down a city inspector and bend their ear. They work for the city so have no loyalty to any builder so have no reason NOT to tell you the truth.

Another way is ask the builder what developments he had done around 5-10 years ago. Drive by those developments and just ask folks in their lawn what they think of their houses now that they are 5-10 years old.

Good luck.
"The stock market [fluctuation], therefore, is noise. A giant distraction from the business of investing.” | -Jack Bogle

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by carolinaman » Fri Sep 14, 2018 9:08 am

texasdiver wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:29 am
Hire a home inspector and be there when he walks through it. One who has been around will also know 100x more about local builder reputations than anything you can find on online reviews by consumers.
+1. Good idea and a good investment. A common comment from this post has been that framing materials are just that. They fail to consider the difference in craftsmanship of the subs. The higher end builders will typically use better subs and demand more of them. Their work is usually not evident to most people but will make a difference long term.

My son has been in home building for 30 years. At one time he was the primary punch list guy for a major builder in our area. He told horror stories of things he had to fix due to shoddy workmanship. Sometimes it was only fixable with extensive rework, like when two corners are off by a foot.

I have a good friend who is a builder of high quality homes. He has to instruct new subs to slow down and do it right. This is hard for some to grasp because they are so accustomed to doing things fast. He has to follow up on their work every day to make sure they do it according to his high quality standards. Most builders are concerned about speed, quality only is a factor in the things that are visible, and maybe not even then.

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Fri Sep 14, 2018 9:45 am

If the house is built by a big builder who uses one real estate agency exclusively, ask another real estate agent. Our town had a huge development going in. The houses were 20% larger than another development on the other side of town for the same price. While looking at an existing house (in neither of these developments), I asked the agent about both of those. The one with the larger houses was built by a national outfit (brothers) and used some methods to make buyers believe they were getting a much better deal. The basic house was 20% cheaper than other developments. But this did not include a lawn, just dirt and rocks. No bushes or landscaping. A driveway that would need replacement within 5 years as it was essentially just something that looked like a paved driveway. No gutters, industrial looking carpeting, the absolute minimum per code lights and outlets, hardware that looked like it was from goodwill and down the line. Something I remember to this day, after hearing from the agent and then visiting the model home, the exterior wall construction was touted as some advanced thing with everything going in as a unit. This used vinyl outer surfaces. With these houses, if you were to want to break in, you literally peel back the vinyl siding and punch a hole through the outer and inner wall. Total junk. The model home also had a layout of the development. Areas outside the development were listed as "conservation land". I asked if the developer owned this land or if it was state owned land. The agent left and came back with the manager who admitted that it was privately owned and actually was slated to have multi level condos and apartments built on it. I thought it sort of funny that someone might think that their back yard was going to have the view of blue jays, squirrels and maybe some nature trails while the reality was that it was going to end up being the back door of a plumber's truck because he bought condo 99F on the third floor.
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BolderBoy
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by BolderBoy » Fri Sep 14, 2018 10:02 am

krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:00 pm
BolderBoy wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:32 pm
Look closely at the "custom" kitchen cabinets. Look specifically at the hinges used. Are they cheap or of high quality?
Can you be specific? How can you tell if the hinges are high quality?
You'll need to go to a high-end cabinetry manufacturer (if you have one locally) or retailer and have a heart-to-heart with them about what constitutes quality vs junk. Then you'll know what you are looking at. Perhaps you can peruse an old issue of "Architectural Digest" that discusses it.
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Scrapr
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by Scrapr » Fri Sep 14, 2018 12:32 pm

I would ask about how "tight" the home is. Do a blower door test to determine Air Changes/hour. (ACH) The production builders don't care about it because you can't see it. I have seen some ACH above 7. A good tight home will be 1.5-2.0. But after you move in you will feel drafts. And your heating/cooling bill will be $$$. It takes very little to seal the home. Just some attention and pre planning


We built a home in '93. One winter I was complaining to Mrs Scrapr about being cold as she was opening our gas bill. We had a remodeler come in and air seal after the fact and it really helped. Our vacation home was already air sealed during construction and is very comfortable. Plus low energy bills. Our big home was just built in a time that air sealing was not a "thing". We also tightened up our ducts as they were about 50% leakage. This is called duct blasting

If your contractor is paying attention here I would be confident the rest of the home has been paid to the same level of "quality"

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snackdog
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by snackdog » Fri Sep 14, 2018 12:50 pm

I agree that the incentives to cut cost (and boost profit) in ways not obvious post-construction are too significant for most builders to ignore.

There is risk in buying new which is commensurate to your ability to QC the construction after the fact. All new houses have issues and some have catastrophic issues all related to construction quality. The best way to avoid this is to either 1) QC the construction during the build with your own experts or 2) purchase a pre-owned house and hire the best inspector you can find. Many homes have issues during the first 3 or so years with poor roofing, leaking windows, seals, plumbing, electrical, improper stucco, etc. Buying one which has been through the teething phase from an honest seller who discloses all those dramas lets you assess the initial quality and current state much better. In addition, you get the huge financial uplift from a house which already has window coverings, mature landscaping, etc.

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by michaeljc70 » Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:11 am

Scrapr wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 12:32 pm
I would ask about how "tight" the home is. Do a blower door test to determine Air Changes/hour. (ACH) The production builders don't care about it because you can't see it. I have seen some ACH above 7. A good tight home will be 1.5-2.0. But after you move in you will feel drafts. And your heating/cooling bill will be $$$. It takes very little to seal the home. Just some attention and pre planning


We built a home in '93. One winter I was complaining to Mrs Scrapr about being cold as she was opening our gas bill. We had a remodeler come in and air seal after the fact and it really helped. Our vacation home was already air sealed during construction and is very comfortable. Plus low energy bills. Our big home was just built in a time that air sealing was not a "thing". We also tightened up our ducts as they were about 50% leakage. This is called duct blasting

If your contractor is paying attention here I would be confident the rest of the home has been paid to the same level of "quality"
You can also get an inspector with or rent a thermal camera. It can show you how good they were with insulating and sealing the home.
Last edited by michaeljc70 on Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Sandtrap
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by Sandtrap » Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:14 am

obgraham wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:07 pm
researcher wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:05 am
krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am
How likely is it that they make all of the apparent stuff high quality but average or lower quality on construction like insulation, materials, foundation, roofing, etc.?
The likelihood is 100%.
Agreed.
+1
The average minimum standard is "build per code, plans, and specs", then add cosmetics and accessories for the "sell". Something like cars?

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by michaeljc70 » Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:22 am

I am not sure what you are concerned with exactly. Quality is subjective. Most people refer to finishes when judging a home as that is what you see. You don't really hear about houses falling down because they were low quality. I'd be concerned about things like tightness (good insulation, sealing), properly sized heating/cooling system, proper installation of flooring (squeaks), quality of drywall taping (which you should be able to see), pipes strapped down (can make noise in walls), doors and windows level and open/close easily and things like that. Much of that a good inspector can check. Some things are hidden in the walls and you will never know (unless a problem develops later).

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by Scrapr » Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:53 am

Sandtrap wrote:
Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:14 am
obgraham wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:07 pm
researcher wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:05 am
krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am
How likely is it that they make all of the apparent stuff high quality but average or lower quality on construction like insulation, materials, foundation, roofing, etc.?
The likelihood is 100%.
Agreed.
+1
The average minimum standard is "build per code, plans, and specs", then add cosmetics and accessories for the "sell". Something like cars?
Code built home....the worst home you can legally build :D

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Watty
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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by Watty » Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:56 am

chevca wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:58 pm
denovo wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:51 pm
chevca wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:23 pm
denovo wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:19 pm
Best person who know is all is the city/county inspector who inspects new homes.
Sure, but what are they going to tell you... it passed or it failed. :happy

They don't sit down and talk with every potential buyer of every home they inspect.
In my experience, inspectors love to talk. They are willing to tell you beyond pass or fail, about the quality of construction.
Interesting. I wouldn't have thought they would have time to do that. Maybe depends on the area and how populated or busy they are?
Whenever you have a home inspected it is critical to be there while the house is being inspected so you can walk through the house and have an ongoing dialog with the inspector about the house. This is normal at least in the areas I have lived in.

There are often opinions about things that they will say that they would not put down in writing and you can ask questions to really understand what they are talking about.

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by michaeljc70 » Sat Sep 15, 2018 10:02 am

Scrapr wrote:
Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:53 am
Sandtrap wrote:
Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:14 am
obgraham wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:07 pm
researcher wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:05 am
krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am
How likely is it that they make all of the apparent stuff high quality but average or lower quality on construction like insulation, materials, foundation, roofing, etc.?
The likelihood is 100%.
Agreed.
+1
The average minimum standard is "build per code, plans, and specs", then add cosmetics and accessories for the "sell". Something like cars?
Code built home....the worst home you can legally build :D
Code varies by where you live. Where I live all electrical has to be in solid metal conduit (metal whips allowed for short distances). Some places you can use Romex which is wires in plastic and looks like an extension cord.

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by Scrapr » Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:10 am

michaeljc70 wrote:
Sat Sep 15, 2018 10:02 am
Scrapr wrote:
Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:53 am
Sandtrap wrote:
Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:14 am
obgraham wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:07 pm
researcher wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:05 am


The likelihood is 100%.
Agreed.
+1
The average minimum standard is "build per code, plans, and specs", then add cosmetics and accessories for the "sell". Something like cars?
Code built home....the worst home you can legally build :D
Code varies by where you live. Where I live all electrical has to be in solid metal conduit (metal whips allowed for short distances). Some places you can use Romex which is wires in plastic and looks like an extension cord.
just a (smart *ss) comment that code built homes may be fine but you can't build below that point. For instance you have to have outlets every x feet.You can't have 1 outlet in a room. However you "can" add additional outlets in that room. IMO code built homes are "Builder Grade" It's not difficult or expensive to build in a few upgrades above the bare minimum. Or perhaps even pay attention to the air sealing and building envelope

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by chevca » Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:32 pm

Watty wrote:
Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:56 am
chevca wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:58 pm
denovo wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:51 pm
chevca wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:23 pm
denovo wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:19 pm
Best person who know is all is the city/county inspector who inspects new homes.
Sure, but what are they going to tell you... it passed or it failed. :happy

They don't sit down and talk with every potential buyer of every home they inspect.
In my experience, inspectors love to talk. They are willing to tell you beyond pass or fail, about the quality of construction.
Interesting. I wouldn't have thought they would have time to do that. Maybe depends on the area and how populated or busy they are?
Whenever you have a home inspected it is critical to be there while the house is being inspected so you can walk through the house and have an ongoing dialog with the inspector about the house. This is normal at least in the areas I have lived in.

There are often opinions about things that they will say that they would not put down in writing and you can ask questions to really understand what they are talking about.
An independent home inspector and the county inspector are two different things. One you hire on your own, the other you don't.

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by F150HD » Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:14 pm

BolderBoy wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 10:02 am
krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:00 pm
BolderBoy wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:32 pm
Look closely at the "custom" kitchen cabinets. Look specifically at the hinges used. Are they cheap or of high quality?
Can you be specific? How can you tell if the hinges are high quality?
You'll need to go to a high-end cabinetry manufacturer (if you have one locally) or retailer and have a heart-to-heart with them about what constitutes quality vs junk. Then you'll know what you are looking at. Perhaps you can peruse an old issue of "Architectural Digest" that discusses it.
:confused absolutely bizarre suggestion for a course of action IRT hinges. so they should go to a manufacturing plant and....ask.....who exactly? about "hinges"? :confused

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by WhyNotUs » Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:30 pm

krappei wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:45 am
Hi,

Can you recommend things to watch for to determine if a done new construction home is low, average or high quality?
A general contractor of custom homes is usually a manager of various subcontractors that do much or most of the work. During due diligence ask for a list of those subcontractors by trade and their role in the project. You will want a copy of the construction drawings and you can write the names and contact info for the trades on that document. If you live there long, you may want to contact them about modification.
A low quality build will have builder grade windows or a low end vinyl product. Andersen makes lots of different windows. The A series or E series for instance are premium windows. The 100 series is not.
There is quite a bit of money in the lumber package (I am not a big fan of OSB) and the window package and the door package (solid core is a better door). Look for at least Architect grade asphalt if that is the shingle. If a metal roof, then look up the product and grade.
The drawings will tell you the amount of insulation and material specified, confirm with contract that is what they used. A cold roof with some extra space for blown in insulation is an easy upgrade, a warm room with a cathedral ceiling, you are pretty much stuck with what they installed.
The bones of a house are more important over the long haul but buyer are more likely to note the Thermador (check Consumer Reports on that brand) oven), so the building shifts money from the bones to the finishes in response to market feedback not devilish inclinations.
Someone else mentioned the slant of the ground away from the house +1 on that, also look whether adjacent properties are higher for drainage issues. If your local jurisdiction has adopted the 2015 residential code then you are going to be ahead of many older homes.


There's a specific house that I'm looking at that seems to be very high quality (and the sellers agent also insists that is), but I can't tell if it's just cosmetic or not. They installed Andersen windows, quartz countertops, Thermador appliances, custom wood cabinets, built-in BBQ grill, and LG washer and dryer. How likely is it that they make all of the apparent stuff high quality but average or lower quality on construction like insulation, materials, foundation, roofing, etc.?
I own the next hot stock- VTSAX

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by ClevrChico » Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:48 pm

Check the kitchen drawers. It should be obvious if it's builders grade flimsy metal sliders and particleboard sides, or high quality Blum drawers with metal sides and soft close dampers.

I'm always amazed when builders choose fancy counter tops but the cheapest of cabinetry.

If they skimp on the kitchen drawers, they've likely skimped on everything else that's out of sight.

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by jharkin » Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:05 am

Lots of good commentary here.. Like any home, best thing is to educate yourself, hire a good inspector and ask a lot of questions.


First, look at the architecture... Is it a well designed, well proportioned house ? (look at http://www.mcmansionhell.com to see what I mean - lots of contemporary houses have needless complexity in the design that is not just ugly, its a maintenance nightmare waiting to happen)

THen look at material quality. Roof shingles could be 20 year, 30 year, 40 year, or lifetime... or it might be slate, or steel. They could have used OSB or plywood sheathing. There are different grades of sheetrock, and at least 3 different grades even of electrical outlets - ranging form $0.50 a piece for cheap builder grade outlets with snap in wires (ugh) to a few dollars each for heavy duty or hospital grade units. Paint could be $20 a gallon Valspar, or $50 a gallon Benjamin Moore Aura.



And no matter how good the architecture and materials are, there can still be a lot of variation in the build quality.

Did they prep the site well, or did they excavate at the wrong time of year leading to future settling issues?
Did they properly account for drainage, foundation waterproofing, etc?
Did they cut corners with required flashing, water sealing, insulation, etc?
Did the drywall contractors do a good job mudding all the seams?
Did they let things cure properly before painting?
Did they slap up one quick coat of paint, or properly prime and mutliple top coats?
etc etc etc


https://inspectapedia.com/ is a good general reference site to lookup specific building topics.

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Re: How to determine quality of a finished new construction home

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:15 am

jharkin wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:05 am
Lots of good commentary here.. Like any home, best thing is to educate yourself, hire a good inspector and ask a lot of questions.


First, look at the architecture... Is it a well designed, well proportioned house ? (look at http://www.mcmansionhell.com to see what I mean - lots of contemporary houses have needless complexity in the design that is not just ugly, its a maintenance nightmare waiting to happen)

THen look at material quality. Roof shingles could be 20 year, 30 year, 40 year, or lifetime... or it might be slate, or steel. They could have used OSB or plywood sheathing. There are different grades of sheetrock, and at least 3 different grades even of electrical outlets - ranging form $0.50 a piece for cheap builder grade outlets with snap in wires (ugh) to a few dollars each for heavy duty or hospital grade units. Paint could be $20 a gallon Valspar, or $50 a gallon Benjamin Moore Aura.



And no matter how good the architecture and materials are, there can still be a lot of variation in the build quality.

Did they prep the site well, or did they excavate at the wrong time of year leading to future settling issues?
Did they properly account for drainage, foundation waterproofing, etc?
Did they cut corners with required flashing, water sealing, insulation, etc?
Did the drywall contractors do a good job mudding all the seams?
Did they let things cure properly before painting?
Did they slap up one quick coat of paint, or properly prime and mutliple top coats?
etc etc etc


https://inspectapedia.com/ is a good general reference site to lookup specific building topics.
Most of those things you cannot determine on a finished house.

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