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Advice For When You Move Into Your New Home

 Advice For When You Move Into Your New Home
Moving into your new home might mean dealing with a punch list o
It may seem like a long way off -- if you are just starting the process of building your own home -- but it makes sense to think ahead to the end of the project. Understanding what it means to move into a new home will allow you to prepare for this exciting time. If I have learned anything as a builder, it is that people are unique, and what one person assumes is an absolute must, the next person would never consider. If you understand the process of wrapping up a build, and you know yourself, you can plan for how best to transition into your new home.

First, Some Definitions 

Substantially complete: In general, a building that is substantially complete means that it can be used for its intended purpose. A kitchen can be used for cooking. But why substantially complete and not complete? Well, a kitchen can be used for cooking even if one of the recessed lights is missing its trim, the backsplash needs to be sealed and the garbage disposal is acting up and a new one is being sent under the manufacturer’s warranty. These types of line items that make up the difference between substantially complete and complete are what we call the…

Punch list: A punch list is a list of outstanding items like those mentioned above, as well as paint touch ups, flaws in the workmanship that need to be corrected, delayed items that are waiting on parts or labor but do not prevent the owner from using the space. Refinishing the floors is not a punch list item. Installing a custom threshold between rooms is. This list is made during a walk through with the owners, builder and possibly the architect. Every effort should be made to make it complete at that time, and not add to it as the punch list work goes on (which is an inefficient way to approach this work).

Warranty: If you miss something on the punch list, you still have the warranty to fall back on. My company offers a one year warranty on all work. Manufacturer’s warranties often extend beyond this period and these will cover you for individual components in the house, but I find that one year, with the accompanying four seasons of expansion and contraction, hot and cold weather, and simply living over an extended period, is a perfect amount of time for rooting out most of the flaws in a newly constructed home. Which brings us to the last concept.

Commissioning: Flaws you say? Why would a new home have flaws? A wise architect once told me that every house is a prototype. Even if your builder is building you the same house, from the same set of plans that they built for someone else, the site is different, the orientation to the sun is different, and there are surely features inside that are not exactly the same. Maybe you chose a different engineered hardwood floor. There are many factors that interact in a home, and even the most experienced builders encounter scenarios they have never seen before when all the components of each home come together. Though commissioning has a specific definition in the commercial construction world, I am using it here to describe the period of time when you live in and observe a house and determine what needs adjusting, what works wonderfully, and what simply doesn’t work as planned. A plumber will test the shower valve he installed, but he won’t take a 15 minute shower, and he doesn’t know what level of water pressure you need to feel at home. Living in your home will unearth issues you will want addressed. There are hundreds of new products installed in your home. Some will inevitably have flaws that may not be immediately apparent. You should be prepared to play your part in commissioning your new home for the first year.

Plan Ahead: How Comfortable Are You With Disruptions?
It should already be apparent that moving in to your new home is not as simple as putting the key in the ignition of your new car and driving it off the lot. Now add individual differences and preferences and the picture becomes more complicated. You may be the type of person who would like to be in the home while punch list work is going on. You may not have wanted to choose the wall color for the master bedroom until you had time to experience the room and the color samples on the walls in different lights.

Maybe you are the type of person who feels your life will be too disrupted if people are in the house working during the day. If so, make sure it is clear in discussions with your builder that your move-in date will be after the punch list is complete.

Think about commissioning as well. You might not want to invite the whole family over to stay for Labor Day weekend right after moving into your new house only to find out one of the toilets doesn’t really flush quite right and the AC in the guest bedroom is too cold. Moving in to a new home, especially one that was custom built for you, is an exciting thing, but make sure your expectations are in line with reality, and make sure everyone on the team understands what you want your first night in your new home to be like. 

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