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What would cause a nail to be rusted like this in the drywall ceiling of a new home (built 2019)? Is there anything specific I should request our builder to repair other than just painting over the nail again?

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Short answer is that it's probably fine. Just set it, patch, texture and paint.

More nuanced answer depends on where in the house it's in. If it's a bathroom or other high humidity zone, don't worry about it. (Generally, sheetrock is screwed these days, but it's common enough practice to tack sheets in place with a few nails. Nails aren't particularly rust-resistant.)

If it's below a bathroom or a roof that you might have cause to be suspicious about, then a bit of exploration might be in order. Look for stains nearby; touch the ceiling to see if you can find anything spongy or cooler than its surroundings.

  • yeah, check for dampness it could be that thres's something leaking onto the wood that nail goes into, – Jasen Jun 8 at 22:49

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