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Office of the Indiana Attorney General

Attorney General > IndianaConsumer.com > Consumer Protection > Home Buyers Guide Home Buyers Guide

Building a new home is exciting and should be a happy time for you and your family.  The typical house contains more than 3,000 different parts.  All of these components must be assembled with skill in order to meet building codes and make your new home safe.  It can be a daunting task if you are not familiar with the construction process.  This guide is designed to assist you in asking the right questions of your builder before, during and after the home building experience. 

Taking these few steps will help you feel better about your new home and ensure that it meets the standards you expect.

Retain an attorney before signing any documents

Hire your own inspector

  • While the builder will schedule a final “walk-throughs” with you, it is important to invest the money in hiring your own home inspector.

  • Find an inspector that has a good reputation and who will conduct a thorough inspection. 

  • Any offer or contract should be contingent upon (or subject to) a whole-house inspection with a satisfactory report.  Get a right-to-inspect in your initial purchase agreement.

Building codes

  • Research your area’s building codes and certificate of occupancy requirements (remember, some municipalities do not require an inspection prior to move in).

  • Most new homes must also receive a certificate of occupancy.  Request to see your certificate. You can also find the certificate at the city inspector’s office.

Pre-settlement walk-through

  • Consider having your inspector accompany you on twice-monthly walk-through of the home during the construction phase.

  • Be wary of any construction agreement that does not allow you on the premises prior to completion.

  • The walk-through is usually conducted just prior to finalizing your home purchase with the builder.  This is a time when you have the opportunity to closely scrutinize the home. You should be observant, carefully examining all surfaces, fixtures, floors and walls for possible damage.

  • During this walk-through, you should write down a checklist of all the items that need repair before you move in.

  • Do not agree to close until all items on the checklist have been corrected unless you are willing to do them yourself.  Keep a copy of the checklist for yourself. 

Walk through checklist

  • Grading:

  • Does the ground around the foundation slope away from the house?

  • Is the shrubbery placed at least 2-3 feet from the foundation?

  • Are basement window wells clean and graveled?

  • Roof and Gutters:

  • Are the shingles flat and tight?

  • Is the flashing securely in place?

  • Do the gutters, downspouts and splash blocks direct water away from the house?

  • Exterior Appearance:

  • Are the windows and doors sealed and protected by weather stripping?

  • Are the trim and fittings tight?  Are there any cracks?

  • Does the paint cover the surface and trim smoothly?

  • Does the landscaping meet the neighborhood covenant requirements and meet the terms of your contract?

  • Are there future plans to locate any electrical transformers or telephone switching boxes near your home?  There have been cases in which these items have been relocated to within just a few feet of the home after the owner has moved in. Call the utilities.

  • Does brick/siding/stone match?

  • Are there any cracks in mortar?

  •  Doors and windows:

  • Are all doors and windows sealed?

  • Are all doors and windows uniform in appearance and size?

  • Do they open and close easily?

  • Is the glass properly in place?

  • Finishes:

  • Is the painting satisfactory in all rooms, closets and stairways?

  • Did the painters miss any spots?

  • Is the trim and molding in place (check in closets and hard-to-see areas)?

  • Floors:

  • Is the carpet tight?  Do the seams match (check in closets and hard to see areas)?

  • Are there any ridges or seam gaps in vinyl tile or linoleum?

  • Are wooden floors properly finished?

  • Appliances, fixtures, surfaces:

  • Do all of the appliances work properly? Turn all of them on and off, flush the toilets, etc.

  • Are all of the appliances the model and color you ordered?

  • Check all faucets and plumbing fixtures, including toilets and showers.

  • Check all electrical fixtures and outlets.  Check with a voltage meter or plug an electrical appliance in.

  • Do the heating, cooling and water heating units operate properly?

  • Are there any nicks, scratches, cracks or burns on any surfaces including cabinets, countertops, sinks, toilets and tubs?

  • Test the doorbell.  Test the garage door opener and any other options.

  • Basement and Attic

  • Are there indications of dampness or leaks?

  • Is there significant cracking in the floors or foundation walls?

  • Are there any obvious defects in exposed parts such as floor joists, I-beams, support columns, insulation, heating ducts, plumbing, electrical, etc.?

Certificate of Occupancy

  • Has your local municipality signed-off on your house?

  • The City Inspector's office can help you find records.

Warranties and repairs

  • Many builders schedule two visits during the first year you occupy your home.  One is near the beginning and the other near the end to make necessary adjustments and to perform work of a non-emergency nature.

  • This process is designed to let the newly constructed home settle into its new environment, allowing flaws to appear which can be fixed at one time, such as cracked tiles, grout or nail-pops in the drywall.

  • Most builders will also have warranty service procedures to follow.  Request these procedures so that you know how you should interact with the company.

  • Familiarize yourself with your warranty.  Builders are not required to fix problems if the warranty has expired; however, some items, such as appliances, may be covered under manufacturers' warranties and relief may be found through the manufacturer.

What to do if a defect occurs

  • Contact the company and follow-up your conversation with a written letter outlining what needs addressed.

  • Include your name, address, home and work telephone numbers.

  • Type your letter if possible.

  • Keep it brief and point out all relevant details.

  • State exactly what you want done and how soon you expect the problem to be resolved.  Be reasonable and pleasant.

  • Include all documents relevant to the problem.  Send copies and keep originals.

  • If an impasse occurs you have some options

    • Pursue legal proceedings.

    • Contact the local homebuilders association.

    • Contact the Better Business Bureau.

    • Contact the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

    • Contact local television stations’ consumer reporters.