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Tips for Closing on a Home

New homebuyers are usually so excited about moving into their new home that they may overlook problems during the walk-through before closing. But, taking the time to carefully inspect your home before your final closing may save you from a future nightmare. It is a good idea to hire a professional home inspector to walk through the home with you. Use the walk-through to familiarize yourself with the new home, receive documentation from your builder, and identify any problem areas. If you discover any problems, insist that they are corrected before closing. You can protect yourself before you close the deal with the builder by following these tips.

Documentation

Before you close on your home, make sure the builder provides you with a list of all the subcontractors and suppliers that worked on the home, copies of all product manufacturer warranties, a copy of the builder's warranty, a set of drawings showing the stamp of the architect and engineers, and a description of the maintenance that should be conducted on the home.  Taking time to get this information now ensures that you will have the necessary documentation if a defect becomes apparent at a later date.

Warranties

Many defects in a new home are not apparent until years after the home was built. It is important to know the warranties -- both express and implied -- and the time limits of those warranties. Each state has a statute of limitations that can hold the homebuilders responsible for "latent" (hidden and not obvious) and "patent" (obvious) defects for certain periods of time.

Many items will be expressly excluded from warranty. The excluded items should be examined carefully before you close, because after closing the builder will not be required to repair or replace those excluded items.

Checklist

Many homeowners are haphazard about the final walk-through because they don't know what to evaluate. That's one good reason to hire a professional inspector. Whether or not you hire an inspector, the following list will help you conduct a thorough evaluation: 

Interior

  • Basements might have small horizontal cracks or slight bulging in the walls. If so, request a written guarantee of structural soundness from the builder.
  • Crawlspaces should be easily accessible and deep enough to allow a person to inspect under the entire house. The floor should be covered with a vapor barrier to keep out moisture. Check for ample ventilation and insulation.
  • Step heights should be uniform; uneven heights can cause dangerous falls.
  • Handrails should be securely fastened.
  • Floor squeaks might indicate poor construction.
  • Cabinets, drawers and doors should glide and close with ease.
  • Drywall should appear seamless.
  • Ceiling stains reveal leaks. 
  • Paint should appear uniform and even.
  • Check all electrical switches.
  • Faucets should not drip. 
  • Tubs and sinks should fill quickly and empty rapidly without gurgling.
  • Check the insulation for weather seals around receptacles, pipe entry holes, vents, and other typical problem spots.

Exterior

  • Make sure the grading in the yard promotes drainage away from the foundation.
  • Gutters and downspout should be even and well sealed. 
  • Use binoculars to look for loose or missing shingles on the roof.
  • Look for smooth seams and surfaces, filled nail holes and even paint on siding and trim.
  • Foundation walls may have some hairline cracks; however cracks that are more than 1/8-inch wide may indicate serious damage.
  • Windows should be square and fit tightly without binding when they are opened and closed.
  • Attic vents should be unobstructed by insulation or other materials.
Next Steps
Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help
guide you through the home buying process.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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