What is a New Construction Inspection?

Tom FreyAn inspection of new construction is not the same as a typical home inspection primarily because of the added complexity of assuring that the home is code compliant. Inspection of code compliance is the MOST important part of inspecting new construction. Not all home inspectors are qualified to offer this service, but the process listed here is provided by our preferred vendor FBI Group.

4 Phase New Construction Inspection – Start to Finish

Even a new home should be inspected by an unbiased professional. Many of the defects we discover as we inspect older homes date back to the original construction.  Some builders cut corners and even honest builders make mistakes.  A new construction inspection can help provide peace of mind knowing that your beautiful new home is well built.

The typical sequence of a residential phased new construction inspection consists of 4 Phases:
*Phases can be arranged or eliminated depending on your needs.
PHASE I: Foundation Pre-Pour Inspection: This inspection is performed just prior to the placement of concrete. We inspect items such as Excavation, Shoring and Re-Shoring, Forms, Footings, etc.

Shoring and Re-shoring
Moisture Barriers

PHASE II: Lintel Inspection: This phase is for block constructed homes.  The block, window layout and a pre-inspection of the lintel and block cells are inspected.  Re-Bar connections, proper size steel, and proper stationing of poured cells are checked.

Post-Tension Cabling


Lintel and Block cells

PHASE III:  Pre-Drywall Inspection: This inspection is performed following the installation of framing, plumbing and electrical rough-in and just prior to the placement of insulation and drywall.
Electrical Rough-In
Plumbing Rough-In

PHASE IV: Pre-Final Inspection & Final Walk-Through: The Pre-Final Inspection is performed a week prior to your scheduled final walk-through with your builder and our Final Walk-Through Inspection would be immediately prior to your final walk-through with your builder. The Final Inspection includes all of the items in our Standard Pre-Closing 21 Point Inspection plus a complete follow-up to address cosmetic defects on all Interior Finishes including cabinets, drywall floor coverings, plumbing fixtures, etc. PLUS all Exterior Finishes such as sod and landscape, and mechanical, plumbing, electrical condition, etc.
Interior Finishes
Exterior Finishes
Trim Carpentry
Door and Window Installation
Adherence to Materials Manufacturers’ Installation Instructions
Crawl Spaces
Lot Drainage
Retaining Walls
Gutters and Downspouts
Exterior Walls
Interior Walls
Stairs and Railings
Water Penetration
Doors & Windows
Insulation (Visible)
Plumbing Systems
Electrical Systems
Heating Equipment
Air Conditioners
Built-In Appliances
Gas Leak Tests
Porches and Steps
Sprinkler Systems
Security Systems
Outdoor Cooking Equipment (Built-In)
Swimming Pools/Spas
Elevators (Optional)
Detached Buildings (Optional)

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11 Reasons to Sell Over the Holidays


Is there a better time to show your home than when it is dressed to impress? The holidays are a perfect time to get your home listed and sold – here are 11 reasons why:

11.  By selling now, you could be a non-contingent buyer in the Spring when more homes are listed for less. This means you can sell high and buy lower!

10.  You can sell now for more money and we can delay closing or extend occupancy into the new year.

9.  Showings can be restricted in the six to seven days around the holidays.

8.  We see a lot of relocation and job transfers in January. These buyers are searching for homes and contracting over the holidays. Don’t miss out!

7.  Some buyers must purchase before the end of the year for tax reasons.

6.  Most buyers have more time to look at homes over the holidays than during a regular work week.

5.  Buyers are more emotional over the holidays and more likely to pay top dollar.

4.  Houses show better when decorated for the holidays.

3.  The supply of listings dramatically increases in January. Put supply and demand to work for you now!

2.  Serious buyers have fewer homes to choose from over the holidays. Less inventory means more money for you!

And the #1 reason to list during the holidays. . .

People who look at homes over the holidays are more serious buyers!

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So You Have Decided to Build . . .


Well you’ve done it. You walked smack into that brand new model home and fallen in love.  Level 4 flooring, travertine wall tiles, granite counter tops and top of the line cabinetry have sold you on all the pluses of having a brand new home versus a resale. Then you ask the price to duplicate what you see. Ouch. $200,000 more than the base price? What the heck? So what do you do now? Get your Realtor on the line  and tell her you are ready to negotiate.  There are definitely some things to consider before moving forward:

  1. Always work with your own agent. The salesperson works for the builder, not you and not all salespeople are created equal. You can pick your Realtor, but not your salesperson. Your Realtor will partner with the salesperson and negotiate on your behalf. If your agent is not with you, have some of their cards on hand so that when its time to register, you can put your agent’s information down rather than yours. Be sure to let your agent know you visited the model center!
  2. Model homes are most often upgraded beyond what the average person would do. Make sure you are falling in love with the layout, location, and features of the home – NOT how it is decorated.
  3. Negotiations on new homes are not the same as those with existing homes. You will usually not get much (if any) money off the sale price of the property. If a builder reduces a sale price, it will affect the appraisals and value of all the other homes they are or will be building in the community. Instead, expect to negotiate for upgrades and incentives. There is also a difference between a new build and an inventory home, so negotiations will reflect this.
  4. Remember your budget. Once you contract for your home, you will have an appointment at the builder’s design studio. It is very easy to get swept away by all the bells and whistles you have to choose from: flooring, tiles samples, paver samples, cabinetry, the list goes on and on. The best thing to do is choose your structural upgrades first and then choose your decorative ones. For example: do you plan to put in an outdoor kitchen at some point in the future? Then it is worth the money now to have the gas and water lines put in while the home is being built rather than waiting until later. Want double sinks in the secondary bathrooms? Now is the time to choose that option. Once you have chosen your structural options, then you choose your decorative ones.
  5. Hire a licensed home inspector. We have a preferred inspector who arranges for four inspections at strategic points in the building process. It is a package deal and well worth the small fee you pay to have peace of mind when you finally get to the closing table.
  6. Expect delays. If you are building from the ground up, please remember you are at the mercy of the weather, not to mention the county planning department. With all the new construction going on, your home could sit in permitting for up to two months before a permit is granted. Please plan accordingly. Move into a month-to-month temporary home or consider signing a 7-month lease.

This is just a very brief overview of what to expect. When we have a client building a new home, we generally provided periodic updates and photographs of the home and the neighborhood as it grows. Remember, it is worth your time to take your time and make sure your new build is done right.

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What is the Housing Market Like?

Market conditions have a significant impact on negotiating power when choosing to buy or sell your home or investment property. The market type is directly correlates to the current inventory of homes. There are three types of market conditions you should understand before embarking on a purchase or sale: balanced, buyer’s, and seller’s.

  1. Balanced Market – A six month inventory of homes is called a balanced market. If there were no new listings added to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) effective today, it would take six months to sell all the actively listed homes.
  2. Buyer’s Market – When there is an inventory of more than six months actively listed, a Buyer’s Market is in effect. The power here rests with the buyers as they have more homes to choose from and have greater negotiating strength as a result.
  3. Seller’s Market – If inventory falls below the six month mark, the market is transitioning into the seller’s favor. The means demand for housing is high and supply is low, allowing the seller to become more selective in choosing the right buyer for their house. This drives up prices and tends to reduce seller concessions.

Ideally, you want to list your home for sale in a Seller’s Market and buy your home in a Buyer’s Market. This can pose quite a challenge when time is a factor, but at the end of the day understanding how the housing market works will help you and your Realtor negotiate for the best deal possible.

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Ten Commandments of Buying a Home

Everything in life has rules with a goal to keep you out of trouble. These are a few to keep in mind when buying a home.


  1. Change Jobs – Do not quit your job just before or while in the process of buying a home as it will obviously affect your income and could cause the lender to deny your loan. Income reduction affects your debt-to-income ratio, which in turn affects the perception of your ability to make a mortgage payment. If you are moving due to a job transfer, be sure it is the same type of job, you have a letter of hire, and you inform your lender as soon as possible. They will guide you further regarding possible additional requirements.
  2. Buy New Vehicles – Lusting after the latest sports car or SUV? Hold off until AFTER closing on your new home. Applying for credit will appear on your credit report and could affect your score (not to mention a new car payment affecting your debt-to-income ratio).
  3. Use Your Credit Cards – Do not charge anything unless specifically authorized by your lender to do so. Your credit report is a snapshot in time and if the lender (as many do) re-pulls your credit report just before closing, you do not want added debt to appear as it could sink your loan approval. Likewise – do not pay off ANY debt unless you clear it with your lender first! Payoffs can lower your score and you could end up dropping below the lender’s baseline score.
  4. Spend Money – You must show you have money in the bank to cover your closing costs and prepaids. Do not spend large sums of money while your loan is being processed as you won’t know your final costs until just before your closing. These costs are estimates until your loan is approved and the HUD is prepared.
  5. Buy Furniture – Of course, you will need to furnish your 2500 sq ft beauty, but do not spend money decorating and furnishing until that baby is yours. Remember, a lot can happen within the 60 days from contract to close!
  6. Omit Information – Be honest with your Agent and your Lender. If you have a spouse, don’t pretend you do not. If you are married, even if you haven’t seen each other in decades or are legally separated, we have to know. Florida requires a spouse sign off an acknowledgement that you have purchased a new primary residence. If you quit your job halfway through because you decide to become a novelist, it is better to let us know than avoid disclosing it. When the lender does employment verification, they will find out and in the meantime, you may have paid for inspections, appraisals, etc. unnecessarily.
  7.  Apply for Credit – Throw those credit card offers in the trash. See above and re-read Commandment #3 – same rules apply.
  8. Make Large Deposits – If you have been hording tips in a jar to save up for your down payment on a new home, it doesn’t count. The lender has to see it in a bank account and they have to be able to document where the money came from. If you don’t have receipts, account statements, check stubs – etc that clearly show the exact amount, the money will be disallowed and you will have to qualify for your loan without it.
  9. Change Bank Accounts – Lenders are required to document EVERYTHING! This means if you close an account and open a new one, they may still require statements and proof of deposits for the old account – yup, the one you closed. Additionally, the amount you transfer from one account must be the EXACT amount (to the penny) that appears in the new one. Much easier and less stressful to stick with your current bank until after you close on your home.
  10. Co-Sign for Anyone – When you co-sign for someone, it does count against your debt-to-income ratio and it does appear on your credit report as your debt. If they are late one time, your credit takes the hit too!

There are plenty of other ‘do nots’ when getting ready to buy a home, but these are the big ones. It is imperative you select a lender and an agent you can trust to guide you through both the lending and purchasing process. If you are transparent up front, you give us time to circumvent or even prevent obstacles that could stop your purchase in its tracks. This is perhaps the largest monetary investment you will make in your life, don’t sabotage your chances of a successful transaction.

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How Do I Interview An Agent?

With so many agents to choose from, how do you select the right agent for you?Here are a few tips to help you find your perfect match.
1. Experience – How long has he/she been an agent? How many transactions have they closed? Every transaction is unique and the more completed, the more experienced the agent is.
2. Full-Time – Is he/she a full time agent? How many transactions has he/she closed in the last year? If it is less than one per month or a total of 12, are they really full time? A full time agent is best equipped to be there when YOU need them.
3. Reviews/Recommendations – How many reviews do they have? Are they all positive? On how many sources do these reviews appear? Some sources are open and anyone can write a review, whether the reviewer has used the agent’s services or not. Other sites require the reviews meet certain criteria to determine if they should be considered based on validated client experiences.
4. Do they play well with others? – Real Estate is a very small community and is based on relationships that could affect your transaction. Networking is key to a win-win agreement for both buyer and seller. It’s that whole honey vs. vinegar thing – real estate does not have to be a cutthroat business because at the end of the day, it should be about customer satisfaction, not agent ego.
5. What about brokerages? Is this important? – It can be. Numbers and statistics are important and how a brokerage rates within the field can show how they support agents and their clients. These numbers are indicative of the level of trust agents and clients have in the brand. Additionally, with a top brokerage you can get a leg up on the competition when in a Buyer’s or Seller’s market.
6. Should you interview more than one? – Absolutely! An agent confident in his/her expertise will have no problem with you making sure you find the right agent for YOU. At the end of the day, purchasing a home will be one of the largest monetary investments you will make. It is essential that you be able to trust your agent throughout the process.
7. Do agents offer discounts or rebates on their commission? YES!!! Most agents will match rebate programs offered by lenders or other agents. Don’t be afraid to ask!

At the end of the day, purchasing a home should be about you and your family. Make sure you select an agent who not only understands this, but endeavors to keep you and your family the focus of the deal.

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New or Resale Home? Which is the better deal?

DSC00160 - CopyIf you are on your way to Macdill Air Force Base and are looking to buy a home, you are likely wondering if it is a better deal to buy a new or existing home. The answer is: it depends on what you are looking for. Right now there are new developments popping up everywhere and builders are offering great incentives to homebuyers. Step one is always going to be to find a good realtor who will negotiate on your behalf with selling agents and builder reps. Remember – there is no charge to you as the buyer and the other side has representation so why shouldn’t you? Here are a few points to consider when making your decision:

Pros For New Construction:
■Builder may pay closing costs
■Realtor can negotiate upgrades
■May have special incentives for military
■Can be customized to suit your lifestyle
■Shiny and new! You are the first to live here!

Cons For New Construction:
■You will have to buy window coverings
■If in a new community, you could be living with construction in the area for a Very long time
■Taxes for the first year are on land only and you could see a significant increase the next year
■You may have to pay for the upgrades you want at the builder’s prices
■Your closing costs could be higher because there are fees the builder does not pay that a seller would

Pros For Existing:
■Seller may have already put in the upgrades you were looking for (such as a swimming pool)
■Seller may have more incentive to negotiate price, repairs and closing costs
■Window coverings are usually included
■The neighborhood is likely established with mature landscaping
■You don’t have to find temporary lodging while the home is being built

Cons for Existing:
■Home may have blemishes (scuffed walls, stained flooring)
■You will likely have to pay some of the closing costs and/or prepaids
■There may be hidden defects (always do your inspections)
■The home must appraise

Every family has different needs and wants that can be met through new or existing homes. Talk to your real estate professional for help in identifying the right type of home for you.

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Do I Need a Realtor When I Want to Buy New?

Many buyers believe they will get a better deal if they negotiate directly with the builder themselves. After all, the salesperson at the model home knows the product and can help them through the financing process so where is the benefit to using a real estate agent for this transaction?

The answer is simple – your realtor is there to protect your interests. The responsibility of the the real estate agent is to make sure you are aware of all your options when purchasing a home – including where the best deals can be found. There is no one better equipped to explain the features and benefits of the new home than the builder representative – after all it is a product that they are most familiar with. But what if the builder down the street is offering better incentives to you as the buyer? Maybe they will help with closing costs or offer better upgrade packages. Your realtor can use this knowledge to help you negotiate a better price.

It costs you nothing to use your Realtor’ s expertise to gain the perfect home for you. Using a realtor does not cost the builder representative any portion of their commission, so why wouldn’t you take advantage of the expertise of both professionals?


Photo taken of model home by Westbay Homes in Starling at FishHawk

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How to Choose a Real Estate Agent

The first thing I did when my husband came down on orders for MacDill AFB was to start researching places to live. When I typed ‘real estate near MacDill’ into the search engine, pages of real estate websites popped up, each vying for my attention and it was a bit overwhelming. How do I choose the right agent? After spending time in the real estate industry here in Florida, I’ve interacted with agents on varying levels: as a client, as a lender servicing clients, as a systems trainer to other agents, and yes as an agent myself. There are several things you can do as a consumer to help choose the right agent:

  1. Knowledge of the current state of the industry – does your chosen agent know market statistics for the area? Like how many months of inventory are currently available or hard numbers that identify if it a buyers or seller’s market.
  2. Set the expectations – Your agent should set your expectations within the first couple of meetings. Has he/she fully explained short sales and foreclosures? Have the timelines been disclosed? Has he/she explained the differences between gated communities vs. non-gated communities, Community Development Districts vs. Homeowner’s Associations? Have they communicated if your requests are feasible at your required price point?
  3. Listening to your needs – In addition to asking about home size, style and location preference, etc, your agent is responsible for asking questions to further refine your requirements so he/she can be more effective in finding the perfect home.
  4. Communication – This is a big one for me because my family has had to find a home in a short period of time and to make those decisions from a distance. You and your realtor should discuss communication frequency and then stick to the agreed upon plan. With all the stresses involved in making such tremendous decisions, lack of communication should not be adding to your burden.

I hope after reading this you will carefully consider your decision about the right agent for you and if you are moving into the Tampa Bay/MacDill AFB area, drop me a line. I would love the opportunity to be of service in meeting your housing needs. Happy house hunting!

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How to Know the Neighborhood is Right for You and Your Family

When my husband and I moved into our first apartment as a young married couple, we thought we had arrived! A large three bedroom apartment on the third floor with a great view of greenspace in Augusta, Georgia. We were close to the golf course, shopping, and a major highway that went straight to Fort Gordon (where he was stationed at the time). After about a month, we noticed some things that we were not too happy with – high traffic going into and out of the second floor apartment, teenagers hanging out outside of the groundfloor apartment, and evidently a thief somewhere along the way who broke into our truck. We have learned a lot since that time and here are some things that can help you identify if the neighborhood you are moving into is right for you:

  1. Check the crime statistics for the area – lets face it, there is probably going to be some crime, but is is property or violent crime? Are there a lot of drug offenses in the area? Or are they mostly petty theft and traffic infractions?
  2. Decide if schools are important – If you homeschool your children being in an area with good schools may not be a priority, but you may want to live in a community with a lot of activities or one that is close to cultural centers.
  3. Is the commute to base (or work) a factor? – The closer you get to the city, the more expensive the homes and the smaller the lots and sizes become. Are you willing to compromise a long commute for what you really want in a home for your family?
  4. Community Development Districts (CDDs) – Many moving into Florida have hear stories about the dreaded CDDs, but in actuality they aren’t that bad. CDDs are generally accompanied by lower Homeowner Association (HOA) fees, but they help to preserve the atmosphere of the community. As someone who lives in a community with CDDs, I have no problem with paying them because the benefits outweigh the cost!
  5. Pet Restrictions – Are there special considerations you need to take into account regarding pets? If you have pets that may be considered undesirable (i.e. aggressive breeds, oversized animals, or animals that can be considered livestock), be sure to let your real estate agent know about the accommodations you will require for your pets.

The best source you can have to identify your neighborhood of choice is your realtor. As the acknowledged experts in properties, your agent is in the best position to find the perfect home for you in the perfect neighborhood for your family.

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