There's no legal obligation for anyone to maintain a home after it's built.
HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. -
Forbes Magazine listed Raleigh as the "fastest growing area" in the United States from 2000 to 2012.
Local realtor Zach Schabot agrees, as he sees more families flock to the Triangle.
"In certain areas, we have a shortage of homes," said Schabot, as he walked onto the property of one home being built in Holly Springs.
But not so long ago, it was a different story when the "Great Recession" was in full force. Homes built then, just weren't selling.
Flash forward to 2013: WNCN found dozens of homes listed online as new, despite having construction dates from 2012 to as far back as 2009. And according to Schabot, marketing 4-year-old homes as new is perfectly legal.
"Even if no one has lived in the house for a few years, it's still considered new," said Schabot. "But obviously, houses are meant to be lived in, and when it sits there for a few years, we never know what's going on in there, when no one is in there."
Dan Morse, a builder in the Triangle, doesn't think the real estate industry is cheating customers by marketing homes as new, years after the fact.
"If nobody have lived in it, if nobody's driven that car before and it's still in the lot? It's still new in my opinion," said Morse.
But he has advice to home buyers looking at old homes marketed as new.
"The number one question I would ask?" said Morse, "Has the home been properly heated and cooled during that period of time? And was anybody taking care of it?"
However, WNCN checked, and there's no legal obligation for anyone to maintain a home after it's built. And a lot can happen in the years between construction and moving in.
Morse showed one home that WNCN learned the owner started building in 2007. Six years later and the owner hasn't moved in. WNCN found a number of issues including siding in bad shape, loose flashing around windows and, worst of all, open windows.
Pointing to the open windows, Morse said, "If that window has been open for a while, you definitely could have some rain getting in there, wind, whatever it might be." This lack of climate control can play havoc with homes, from causing nail pops to ruining drywall.
And Morse cautions that the clock starts ticking on the warranties for a home as soon as construction finishes.
Schabot said the realtor should do his or her due diligence to find these specifics out. And the buyer should also find out the house's history. Is the builder still in business? Was it bank owned? Also, pay for a thorough inspection.
"If it's a good enough price," said Schabot, "somebody will live with whatever defects they may have found." But that doesn't mean a buyer should settle for new home prices on an older home.
The best way to find out how long an old home has been new is to pull the building permit. Here's a few options on how to do this based on the home's location:
Sean anchors WNCN News at 6, 7 & 11 PM. Raised in North Carolina, he returns home after nearly a decade reporting around the world. Each night, he brings his love of this community and powerful journalism into our newsroom and your home.