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Home Buyers Furious Over Defects

Some homebuyers in Delaware got more than they bargained for recently when they bought into a new townhouse community. Expecting the home of their dreams, they ended up with plumbing leaks, doors that don't close, bad paint jobs, and a plethora of repair and construction problems. Other homebuyers should pay heed to this tale of woe and try to avoid potential problems, before they move into a new-construction home.

The story coming out of Riverwalk, a development in New Castle County, is one of frustrated homebuyers who feel abandoned by their builder or just disappointed by bad construction and poor workmanship. One resident who moved in months ago is still dealing with ceiling beams that sag, water leaks from a second-floor tub, and no air conditioning on the second floor--not exactly luxury living. The problems continue despite the best efforts of repairmen sent by the builder. Finally, the homeowner paid an independent air-conditioning contractor to fix the A/C, and was told the culprit is bad engineering. Poor drainage and flooding plague other owners in the 38-home community. Especially common at Riverwalk are bowed doors that don't close properly.

The hard lesson learned in Riverwalk is that new-construction homes are not bullet proof just because they're new. How can a homebuyer learn from this story? First, think about prevention (always worth a ton of cure) BEFORE you move in. Consider hiring an independent home inspector to inspect the structure and systems for any problems or defects. Then discuss the report with your builder. You can expect that your builder will complain to the tune of, "Inspectors just look for problems to justify their fees," or, "This isn't part of our contract." Don't buy it. Any builder has a contractual obligation to deliver the home free of serious defects. And any builder who's serious about maintaining their reputation should resolve any flaws to the customer's satisfaction. Remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It may take weeks of persuasion and several visits to the site.

You may also want to ask about warranties while you're still shopping around among builders or developers. Some construction firms go beyond the usual one-year warranty or construction bond with longer-term warranties. For example, some offer a 2/10 warranty that covers the new home against certain defects for up to ten years. FHA and VA loan terms usually require a 2/10 warranty. In the past, home warranties have earned a reputation for being almost impossible to collect on. Be sure to ask for a copy and read the fine print to see what is covered and what isn't.

In addition, thoroughly investigate the builder's reputation before you sign a sales contract, and that means whether or not they make good on warranties and repair work. What is their typical turnaround time for repairs? Get everything in writing--don't rely on gestures of good faith as in, "If something goes wrong, we'll fix it." Warranties for appliances are provided by the manufacturer--make sure you get copies.

Sources used to create this article include the Newark Post.

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