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Having a home inspection is like giving a residence a physical check-up. If problems or symptoms are found, you can confer with an appropriate specialist.
A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home from the roof to the foundation. I highly recommended that you hire an independent, professional inspector to inspect the property as soon as possible after contracting to purchase a home. If the property does not prove to be in acceptable condition, you can then move on and locate a replacement property. This section explains the importance of a home inspection, what it costs, how to find a home inspector, when to schedule an inspection, what to inspect for and what to do after inspection.
Why It’s Important
The purchase of a home is probably the largest single investment you will ever make. You should learn as much as you can about the condition of the property and the need for any major repairs before you buy so that you can avoid unpleasant surprises. A home inspection also points out the positive aspects of a home as well as the maintenance necessary to keep it in good shape. After the inspection you will have a much clearer understanding of the property you are about to purchase and will be able to make a confident buying decision. Even if the house proves to be in good condition, you can complete your home purchase with peace of mind about the condition of the property and all its equipment and systems.
What It Costs
Like the cost of housing, the inspection fee for a typical single family house varies geographically. Within a given area, the inspection fee also varies depending upon the size of the house, particular features of the house, its age and possible additional services such as septic, well, or radon testing.
Thinking about doing it yourself? Even the most experienced homeowner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector who has inspected hundreds or even thousands of homes. An inspector is familiar with the elements of home construction and maintenance and how the home systems and components are intended to function together, as well as how and why they fail. Hiring an objective third party adds value to the inspection and any request for repairs that you might make. Most importantly, if you were to do it yourself, you would lack the professional clout to convince the seller of any defect.
Finding a Home Inspector
The first step in getting a home inspection is to find a professional home inspector. The names of local inspectors can be found in the Yellow Pages where many advertise under “Building Inspection Service” or “Home Inspection Service.” However, because Colorado does not license home inspectors, literally anyone can be a home inspector. Therefore, I strongly recommend that you use one of the reputable inspectors listed below. These inspectors are members of ASHI and/or NAHI—trade organizations that require extensive training, continuing education, general liability insurance and overall professionalism.
Pillar to Post
Rob & Bonnie Abrams
When to Call a Home Inspector
For resale homes, a home inspector is typically called right after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed, and the inspection is typically completed within a few days. New home inspections are typically completed in two phases—just before drywall and just prior to closing. A new home should be inspected to make certain that it is within code compliance, as the Regional Building Department employs human beings who from time to time will make errors.
If you are purchasing a new home, I will work with you to verify that there is an inspection clause in the contract making your purchase obligation contingent upon the findings of a professional home inspection. This clause is standard in the Colorado Real Estate purchase contract, but some builders do not allow home inspections. If a builder refuses, I would recommend that you seriously consider not signing a purchase contract. There is no reason to refuse a request that verifies that a property is within local building standards.
Although it is not necessary for you to be present at the inspection, I highly recommend that you be there. By following the inspector around the house and observing and asking questions, you can learn a great deal about the condition of the home, how the systems work and how to maintain it. You will also find the written report easier to understand if you’ve seen the property firsthand through the inspector’s eyes. Our legal counsel recommends I not be in attendance in order that you as buyer get the best independent opinion of the residence. Your presence at the inspection greatly influences that opinion.
What to Inspect
Have your inspector check with the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department to see if there has been work completed without a needed permit. You may check yourself at http://www.pprbd.org/ .
The standard home inspection report includes an evaluation of the condition of the home’s heating/cooling systems, interior plumbing, electrical system, roof, attic, visible attic insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, basement and other visible structures. A home inspection does not typically evaluate the condition of the sprinkler system or items that are not visible. Certain properties may be on well and septic; some inspectors can investigate these items as well.
• If you wish to investigate for the presence and risks of lead-based paint, you must indicate this on the Lead-Based Paint Disclosure at the time of the contract. Lead-Based Paint disclosures are required for properties permitted prior to January 1, 1978.
• Termites and other wood-destroying insects are uncommon but are present in El Paso and Teller County. You may wish to investigate for this pest. Even if you do not, the VA may require a pest inspection as a condition of loan approval.
• Structural engineers may also be consulted in the inspection process. See our company’s Buyer Addendum and Addendum A for further investigative rights and privileges.
• Radon testing should be considered as well as other tests such as water, well, etc.
• Any suspicious spots may indicate mold, and you may want a professional opinion and/or mitigation.
Inspecting for Radon
Radon is a colorless, odorless, inert radioactive gas that scientists believe is the second leading cause of lung cancer. You cannot see it, smell it, or feel it; yet you cannot completely avoid breathing radon because there is about 0.35 pCi/L of radon in the outside air we breathe. Radon comes from the natural radioactive decay of radium and uranium found in soil. The amount of radon in the soil depends on complex soil chemistry that varies from one house to the next. Radon levels in the soil range from a few hundred to several thousands of picocuries/litre. The amount of radon that escapes from the soil to enter the house depends on the weather, soil porosity, soil moisture, and the suction within the house (from article at http://www.discoverit.com/at/phi/article.html#A3.1).
For homes tested in El Paso County, the average radon score is above the EPA’s recommended threshold for mitigation, which is 4.00 picocuries/litre. Teller County averages a score several times higher than the EPA threshold. Therefore, many buyers choose to inspect for radon. If the radon score exceeds 4.00 picocuries/litre, it can be remedied with a radon mitigation system that pipes the radon out of the house. These systems usually cost between $900 and $1600.
Because a radon test takes 72 hours, decide whether you want to complete a radon test immediately after contracting to purchase a home so that it can be completed within the inspection timeframe. It’s your decision, but I will say that if it were my own house, I would test for it and would likely request that it be remedied should the score come in high.
Colorado and El Paso County do not require a seller to mitigate for radon should the test results come in higher than the EPA threshold, and the real-estate community is left to sort out the negotiations between buyers and sellers. I can supply you with an EPA handout on radon.
What to Do After Inspection
A house can’t “fail” inspection in Colorado, but a bad inspection might sink a deal. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, nor a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what may need repair or replacement. They may provide additional comments as to whether or not the home is in the expected condition based on age, but that is unlikely. It is up to you to assess the data from the inspection and determine what items, in your opinion, require repair. It is assumed by all parties that “ordinary” wear and tear items are not requested by the buyer.
It is important to remember that no house is perfect. If the inspector finds problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the house. It only means that you will know in advance what to expect. A seller may be flexible with the purchase price or contract terms if major problems are found. Paragraph 10 of the Colorado Real Estate Commission contract allows you to request remedies; keep in mind, the seller has equal rights to accept or reject your request. Since you will not likely wish to become involved in future repair work, this information will be extremely important to you.
Also, a home inspection is not a guarantee that problems won’t develop after you move in. However, if you believe that a problem was already visible at the time of the inspection and should have been mentioned in the report, your first step should be to call and meet with the inspector to clarify the situation. Misunderstandings are often resolved in this manner.
The Inspection Notice
When the inspection is complete, you will usually ask for some repairs. I will write these repairs into the Inspection Objection and request the seller make all necessary repairs, usually by a professional contractor. The seller can accept, reject, or selectively accept some repairs and not others. I generally ask for documented evidence that all repairs are complete and that the seller provides paid receipts. At the before-closing walk-through, you can verify the acceptability of the repairs.
In rare instances, sellers will not complete any repairs, sometimes to their detriment. If you no longer have agreement but still wish to purchase the home, you may withdraw your inspection notice. In some instances, sellers may wish to offer a cash credit. This must be approved in writing by the lender. As a rule, it cannot be done on VA/FHA loans, and many conventional loans prohibit credits for repairs.