If you're about to sign a contract for a new condo, hire an inspector to look at the unit and as much of the building as he or she can gain access to, keeping an eye out for problems like those identified in The Top 7 Construction Defects.
In addition, you may want to consider these suggestions put forward in a recent UrbanBaby discussion on new-condo inspections, starting with who not to hire as your inspector:
- "Make sure the inspector was NOT recommended by your real estate agent or anyone connected to your transaction....The broker has every incentive to make sure this transaction goes through smoothly. That includes recommending inspectors who may let substantial defects "slip through the cracks" to make sure the transaction goes through and the real estate agent gets his commission. I have heard some amazing tales."
- "Just because it's new doesn't mean the plumbing isn't faulty or the construction....look for cracks, turn on all appliances, faucets to make sure they drain (not leak), flush the toilets, look for signs of covering up shoddy workmanship (panels covering floor boards, etc.)." [For an excellent example of covering up, watch this video clip.]
- "I guess it's hard to check this, but in our new condo, anytime anyone cooks we can smell it. I think it's coming in through the kitchen hood. Also downstairs neighbor smokes various legal and illegal substances that we can smell."
- "Tap all the tiles and see if any sound hollow underneath. We had this problem in our kitchen - new floor but they did not level it properly so all the tiles cracked within the first year."
So what happens next, besides seeing that your lawyer creates a punch list escrow?
"The inspector will give you a list of things he finds," explains one weary-sounding UrbanBaby commenter. "Then you will come up with a long list yourself. You forward these to the builder and ask for correction/repair. Whether they do anything or not is another matter. You will learn concepts such as 'builder's tolerance' which basically means 'close enough for government work--we aren't going to fix it' and you will spend many hours dealing with crews coming in fixing things. Code violations usually get the builder's attention, but not always. Then you get to fight it out. It's a nightmare. New does not mean problem-free."