Taking Possession/Getting Settled

Inspecting Your New Home Before Taking Possession

When you buy a brand new home, you have an opportunity to make sure you are satisfied with your purchase before you take possession of it.

As your home gets close to completion, usually a few days before you are due to move in, the builder will take you on a tour of the entire house. There are two reasons for doing this. First, the builder wants you to inspect the home in detail to make sure everything has been done right and according to plan; this is usually also a prerequisite for the builder's new home warranty. Secondly, the builder wants to familiarize you with the systems and products in the home—how to operate, maintain and service them.

 

The inspection

Your builder will use an inspection sheet that you will be asked to sign at the end of the tour. Anything that requires attention or correction should be noted on the sheet, even very minor imperfections. That way, there is no debate later about who is responsible. Minor corrections are usually made before you move in; anything else will be dealt with afterwards as quickly as possible.

Here is a list of some of the items you should take a close look at during the walk-through.

Outside

  • Siding—should be even, level and clean; no awkward seams; no nails showing; no gaps in the mortar between bricks; weep holes intact
  • Windows and doors—verify placement, colour and styling details
  • Caulking—check around windows, doors and electrical outlets for even application
  • Paint and stains—look for even coverage and proper colour
  • Shutters, trim and other decorative elements—verify colour, styling details and secure installation
  • Fascia, soffits, eavestroughs, down spouts—check for right colour and secure installation
  • Roofing— verify material, colour, style; also duration of manufacturer's warranty
  • Stairs, railings—check styling details, colours, solid installation
  • Lights, electrical outlets and doorbells—check placement and test that they work
  • Garage—doors should open and close easily; exterior doors should be self-closing
  • Grading around the house—should slope away from the foundation to divert moisture
  • Driveway, walkways, sodding and other landscaping—Is the work done according to specifications? If weather prohibits completion now, when will it be done?

Inside

  • Walls and trim—confirm colour; check for even paint coverage, no visible seams, no nail pops, no nicks and scratches, smooth grouting between wall tiles
  • Flooring—verify selection and installation: colour and grade; minimum of squeaks and spring; no ragged seams or edges and no gaps or scratches; even grouting between tiles
  • Windows—should open and close easily, have proper screens and no cracked panes
  • Doors—must be well-fitted and properly hung for easy opening and closing; check glass or mirror panes for cracks or nicks; test locks on outside doors
  • Cabinets, drawers, closets—check for smooth operation; proper configuration of shelving and dividers; confirm handles and knobs
  • Countertops—no nicks, scratches or uneven seams
  • Faucets—turn off and on to verify smooth operation; no leakage or drips
  • Plumbing fixtures—check for chips or scratches; look for caulking around all fixtures; run water to verify good drainage; flush toilets
  • Electrical, cable and other outlets—verify placement and test if they are live
  • Light fixtures—turn on and off to see if they work
  • Basement—no cracks in the walls or signs of leakage; a floor drain in the lowest part
  • Upgrades and options—refer to the contract to make sure nothing has been overlooked

Getting to know your new home

A brand new home incorporates the latest systems and products. Knowing how to operate the systems and take care of your home will contribute to years of problem-free performance and enjoyment. It will also avoid invalidating the builder's or product manufacturers' warranties due to improper use. In addition to a personal demonstration, professional new home builders often provide a homeowner's manual with detailed information on the home, including basic maintenance inside and out.

Product manufacturers' warranties

Many of the products and materials used in your new home come with a manufacturer's warranty, as well as maintenance information. Your builder will pass these materials on to you, along with any warranties by subcontractors for products and services that went into the construction of your home.

The First Year in Your New Home

Moving into a brand new home is a great experience. Both you and your builder have worked hard to arrive at this point, and now it's time to enjoy the rewards. As you get ready to settle into your new surroundings, it's a good idea to review the processes that will help to ensure that your first year in your new home is a truly satisfying experience.

After-sales service

What happens if a problem emerges after you take possession? Make sure you are familiar with your builder's after-sales service process in detail. What's covered by warranty during the first year and what's not? In subsequent years? Who is your key contact? Does the builder schedule regular follow-up calls during the first year when you can discuss any accumulated work, or should you contact the company as the need may arise?

You should also have an idea of the response time you can realistically expect. Outside of the rare emergency requiring immediate attention, a builder may have to arrange service calls around construction schedules as well as the availability of subcontractors. The vast majority of service calls are dealt with professionally, within a reasonable timeframe and to the homeowner's satisfaction. If needed, the third-party warranty program, which backs the builder's warranty, can step in to resolve any dispute and ensure that the required work is done.

Typical first-year changes

A brand new home typically experiences some drying out of materials and settling during the first year, which may result in minor changes. This is completely normal, does not indicate a defect in your home and should not be a cause for concern.

Most changes are related to moisture, as materials used in the construction of your home continue to dry out. For instance, drywall may develop nail pops or hairline cracks, or small shrinkage cracks may appear in basement walls or garage floors. Occasionally, hardwood flooring may develop a few squeaks as the wood dries out; however, it is important to remember that solid wood products, from floors to doors, will continue to contract and expand throughout the lifetime of your home, in response to humidity levels inside and out.

Talk with your builder about any changes that might occur, and how to best deal with them.

Taking Care of Your New Home

Proper maintenance protects the value of your home, keeps it in great condition and means less work and fewer costly repairs in the long term.

  • On the pre-possession inspection tour the builder will explain how to operate and maintain the heating, cooling, electrical and water systems. You will want to know basic procedures-how to turn the systems on and off and change the settings if required, when to schedule maintenance and who to contact. You also need information for "troubleshooting" before calling in service people. The builder will give you manufacturers' literature for reference, along with any warranty documents for specific equipment.
  • Thanks to modern finishing products, today's new home owners face less maintenance and upkeep than ever before. Before establishing a regular housekeeping routine, take a few minutes to read through the product literature provided by your builder. Follow the directions from the manufacturers to preserve the beauty and quality of your home.
  • A little common sense goes a long way when decorating your new home. Place furniture away from heating and cooling vents. Keep non-carpeted floors in great shape by using easy-to-apply protectors on the legs of chairs, tables and sofas. When hanging pictures or shelves, take care to make as few holes as possible in the walls.
  • Today's low-maintenance siding, windows and trim have reduced or eliminated many of the traditional outside chores such as sanding, glazing and painting. However, you should do a visual inspection of the outside of your home from time to time to look for the effects of any settling or extreme temperature fluctuations.
  • Clean the eavestroughs each fall to prevent a build-up of leaves and again in the spring to ensure proper waterflow. Rinsing the siding with water or washing gently with soap once a year will keep it looking great and in tiptop shape. Again, talk to your builder and refer to the manufacturers' literature.
  • Well-planned landscaping enhances your enjoyment of your new home and can add value to your investment. Your builder can explain the ground rules of landscaping—how to avoid disturbing underground utility services, and the importance of maintaining the grading around the house to direct rain and melting snow away from the house to prevent moisture problems in the basement. You might also want to speak with your builder or a local nursery about the soil conditions on your property, and the kinds of plants that would grow best, and their recommended care.
  • Many builders provide their customers with a complete information package or a home owner's manual to help them understand how their home works and how to maintain it in top condition. If you don't get one with your home, ask for it.

 


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