By Jennifer Segelke Jeffers
If you’ve never heard of a builder punch list, you’ll become very familiar with the concept should you choose to purchase a new construction home.
Much like a to-do list, the builder punch list is an inventory of things that must still be completed or repaired before the home is officially finished. While it’s not ideal to move in prior to a complete punch list, many homeowners find themselves in this situation. If this is the case for you, here are some things you can do to help ensure the process is as painless as possible.
The first, and possibly most crucial, step to getting everything checked off on your builder to-do list is working with a well-established builder with a solid track record of getting the job done. Julie Nelson, director of Career Development at Keller Williams in Austin, Texas, suggests working only with reputable builders with solid resources, a presence in the community and a commitment to having very happy client homeowners. “If you’re lacking in this must-have category, I would not do your final close without having everything complete on the punch list,” she advises.
Once you’ve done a walkthrough of the home and the punch list has been established, be sure to keep a record of what still needs to be done for yourself. This list should match that of your builder. Keep track of what gets done and when. Taking photos of problem areas is also a smart way to keep track of to-dos and compare before-and-afters.
If your home is safe to move into with all of your basic necessities covered — electricity, water, appliances, locking doors — you may choose to move in without every detail in place and a few to-dos still on the punch list. “If you have to have an item or two still on the punch list when you go to close, such as a specialty item that is on back-order, an option may be to have your title company withhold some of the builder proceeds, which could then be released upon satisfactory completion of the punch list,” suggests Nelson. “Your lender may have an opinion on allowing this or not. Check with the closing office, lender and builder to assess this option.”
Another key to obtaining a fully completed punch list is to maintain regular contact with your builder. Whether your builder is a national player or a spec builder, Patrick Marelly, of The Marelly Group, a real estate brokerage in San Diego, Calif., says that this contact could be the difference between a completed punch list and a client who falls off the builder’s radar. “Good communication with the project manager is critical, but you also need to be very hands-on,” he says.
While a completed punch list is ideal, it isn’t always possible. In the end, you may decide that a few remaining to-dos are not as important as moving into your dream home. Whatever you decide, make sure to work with someone you trust and be open and honest about your needs and expectations.
Jennifer Segelke Jeffers is a freelance writer and editor with more than a decade of editorial experience. The former editor of Austin Monthly Home and Centro Y Sur, she writes about a variety of home-related topics for NewHomeSource.