At press time, Consumer Reports magazine, published by Consumers Union (CU), weighed in on the subject of new-home defects with an investigative report in its January issue alleging that as many as 15 percent of new homes built each year have serious defects. "These serious defects have left homeowners finding that they have more consumer protections for a $20 toaster than for a flawed investment-of-a-lifetime," says a press release that borrows inflammatory language from the report.

The 15 percent estimate comes from Alan Mooney, president of Criterium Engineers, a consulting and engineering firm based in Portland, Maine, with offices in about three dozen states. Criterium canvassed its engineers nationwide last summer to identify common defects and ways to avoid them. (You can read BUILDER's story on this report, "Defective Thinking," in our September issue.)

To its credit, the Consumer Reports article recommends that home buyers give builders a chance to fix problems, though it stops short of backing right-to-repair laws. It also suggests that buyers hire a licensed engineer to perform an inspection, file complaints when they have them, network with others who have similar problems, and, if all else fails, contact a lawyer who specializes in construction-defect lawsuits.

CU also recommends several steps it says would better prevent serious housing defects and resolve disputes. These include expanding the NAHB Research Center's quality initiatives, better funding municipal building departments, and making mortgages contingent on home inspections.