The Basics: Show Homes’ Good Looks Can Conceal Problems

Podcast Episode 29:  “Home Inspections Part 2: Painted Ladies.”

Part two of this mini-series on home inspections covers houses that look good but have hidden flaws. Show homes are sometimes described as “painted ladies.” Despite their designer flair and top-end appliances these homes can conceal a multitude of problems.

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Download the PDF file for parts one and two HERE.
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This is the second part of a two-part series on home inspections. Part one gave us a graphic example of how a home inspection can help find a hidden problem. Part two shows that an inspection can find multiple problems, too.

Show Homes Look Good but Can Be Built Shoddily

“Painted ladies” is what some people call show homes in new real estate developments. Builders construct show homes in new subdivisions to let customers have a look at what their new home might look like. Those show homes often get top-of-the-line appliances and decorating, but they also get a lot of hard traffic in the 2–3 years that they are open. The show home is sold once the subdivision is completed or the builder doesn’t need the show home anymore.

If you are looking at a show home you’re probably asking yourself, “what could go wrong? Surely the builder wants to look good. He must’ve done a great job.” Not so fast…

In this Tale, a client of mine wisely decided to be cautious and get a home inspection. Here’s what she found:

  1. There was a beautiful stainless steel fridge with the requisite high-end icemaker. There was no plumbing to the icemaker so, of course, it didn’t work.
  1. The high-end dishwasher had no plumbing either. BUT, the electrical was connected. Someone had turned on the dishwasher and it shorted out. How did the inspector know this? He looked at the electrical panel and saw one of the breakers was off. He then established that breaker was for the dishwasher, checked the dishwasher, and found the problem.
  1. A furnace exhaust seal was not seated properly causing condensation inside the furnace compartment. The furnace had rust everywhere!
  2. The furnace had a gas leak.
  1. Basement development did not adequately avoid the fresh air intake. That piping was crushed and flattened in numerous places thus greatly reducing fresh air volume, which impacts furnace combustion and air quality.
  1. There were two show homes side-by-side with front drive garages. The builder had constructed a sales area attached to the two garages. When the show homes were being sold, the builder removed the temporary sales area. This left a big hole in the ground, which needed to be filled.Many municipalities require new homes to have grading certificates prepared by an Alberta Land Surveyor. Grading certificates show that final landscaping meets municipal grading requirements, which ensure adequate drainage. Even if this builder had obtained a grading certificate when the show homes were built, removal of the temporary sales area and the big hole in the ground would void that grading certificate. The buyer needs to ask for a new grading certificate.
  1. Lastly, my client attended the inspection with her inspector. All decent inspectors encourage you to attend. While the inspector was doing his thing my client went around the house looking at and trying other things. She discovered that the controllers were not working on the expensive built-in sound system.

Lessons Learned:

  • Show homes can be a beautiful trap.
  • Don’t accept “as is, where is”; get it inspected.
  • Don’t rely on any New Home Warranty program to save you after closing. Identify issues before buying.


If you’re buying Alberta real estate, let Barry inspect your legal documents first. Contact him now!

House/Home Inspection” image by Mark Moz ( used under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.