A Buyer's Guide: The Home Inspection

Whether you are in the market for a one bedroom condo or a sprawling 5 bedroom house in the suburbs, your home is likely to be the biggest financial investment you make. Knowing you’ll be spending a hefty portion of your hard-earned income on mortgage payments every month, it makes sense to give your dream home a thorough inspection before you sign on the dotted line. A home inspection is not a guarantee that your home will never have problems; parts wear out, pests move in, occasionally the creek will rise…there are some things you can’t prevent when you own a home, but understanding the inner workings of the home you are about to purchase will allow you to adjust your offer if necessary, walk away if disaster is lurking – and give you a working understanding of your home’s construction and the systems therein. You might not know how to change a tire on your car, and you don’t have to know how to fix the furnace in your home, either. But you do want to be informed enough to perform (or hire out) basic maintenance on your home and spot challenges before they turn into disasters.

No house is perfect...

...and you should attend the inspection of your home expecting that something will come up. Even brand new construction often pops up with an issue or two at inspection. You’ll want to hire a licensed, experienced home inspector with a history in Colorado and/or specific history in your area of town. An experienced inspector will be knowledgeable about builders in your area, water quality, soil make-up and how it might affect your home’s foundation in the future, radon issues and more. The following checklist is not intended as a replacement for a professional home inspection, and should not be used as such. You should hire licensed, ASHI certified home inspector to complete a professional inspection of your home.

Your home inspection will cover the following areas:

Exterior – Grounds

  • Sprinkler systems.

  • Proper grading/drainage away from the home.

  • State of trees/shrubs (dead trees, etc. will be noted).

  • Driveways/sidewalks.

  • Fencing.

  • Sheds or other outbuildings.

  • Signs of pest concerns (termites, wasps, etc.).

Exterior – Structure

  • Siding/paint/stucco – no blistering, cracks, peeling paint. The home pictured here had loose siding, improper flashing, and windows approaching the end of their usable life at the time of the home inspection.

  • Visual inspection of the foundation.

  • Masonry (brick or stone façade or decorative work).

  • Windows/Doors/Wood Trim.

Roof

Depending on the weather, construction of your home and the inspector’s policy regarding roofs – he or she may climb up on the roof or they may simply climb up on a ladder to complete a visual inspection. If your home is older or there are concerns regarding the roof, it may be worth spending extra for a thorough, hands-on inspection with a qualified roof inspector. Talk to your inspector about this when you schedule your inspection and during the home inspection. Discuss concerns with your team here at TRELORA to ensure all inspections of the property are scheduled in line with dates agreed upon in your Contract to Buy and Sell.

  • Wood or composite shingles will be checked for damage or age.

  • Soffits and fascia will be checked for decay or staining.

  • Exterior venting around eaves.

  • Gutters.

  • Chimneys (again – if you are purchasing an older home or the Seller’s Property Disclosure mentions issues with the chimney or fireplace, this may merit an additional or more thorough inspection).

Interior

  • Floors/walls/ceilings checked for stains.

  • Flooring in good condition.

  • No major cracks in walls or ceilings.

  • Windows/doors functioning properly, no broken/cracked panes in windows or fogginess from broken seals.

  • Paint/wall coverings in good condition.

  • Trim installed properly and in good condition.

  • Lights/switches/ceiling fans operating properly.

  • Outlets grounded and working properly – adequate number per room.

  • Heating/cooling source present and functioning in living/bedroom spaces.

  • Adequate insulation in walls and attic spaces.

  • Fireplace – no cracking or damage, damper operating properly, flue clean and lined properly.

Kitchen   

  • Exhaust fan in working order and properly vented.

  • GFCI protection for electrical outlets in place.

  • Garbage disposal functioning properly.

  • Dishwasher running/draining properly.

  • No evidence of leaks near or under sink; adequate water flow.

  • Refrigerator, stove, any built-in appliances operating properly.

  • Cabinet doors/drawers/hardware in good condition, operating properly.

Bathrooms

  • Working exhaust fan with proper termination (not in the attic).

  • Adequate flow/pressure/temperature to all fixtures.

  • Sink/tub/shower drain properly.

  • Plumbing/cabinet floor under sink in good condition.

  • Toilet – operates properly and is stable, no stains around base.

  • Tile/caulking surrounding tub or shower in good condition.

  • No evidence of past leaking around bath or shower.

Basement

 

  • Foundation – no stains, cracks, flaking or efflorescence (crumbly, salt-like residue from former moisture issues). The inspector who performed the inspection tied to the photos above recorded: "Cracking and damage noted on concrete foundation walls, potentially compromising the structural integrity of the concrete walls."

  • No evidence of moisture.

  • No sagging or evidence of pests or moisture on visible structural wood.

  • Finished spaces will be inspected to the same standard as all other interior spaces.

Plumbing

 

  • Plumbing below kitchen sinks will be assessed to ensure proper working order. For example, flexible-type drain lines (see above) can catch debris and clog; an inspector may recommend replacement with a rigid pipe by a plumber.

  • Visible pipes will be inspected for damage or evidence of leaks; nearby material will be examined for evidence of past or current leaks; all drainage pipes should slope properly toward sewage/septic systems.

  • Water heater should show no signs of rust or efflorescence; should be of adequate size to serve the number of bedrooms in the house.

  • Water pump: does not short cycle.

  • Galvanized pipes do not restrict water flow.

  • Well water (if applicable) is acceptable; this is an area for potential further testing.

Electrical

  • Visible wiring is in good condition, no evidence of knob and tube wiring; cables secure and protected.

  • Electrical panel in good working order and showing adequate capacity; no evidence of haphazard DIY methods of set up; fuses and breakers not overheating. Dated electrical panels, such as the one shown above, pose a potential hazard and will incur a replacement cost to the buyer down the road.

  • No aluminum cable for branch circuits.

  • Outlets are grounded and installed properly; there are no apparent issues (such as the charred outlet in the photo above).

HVAC (Heating and Cooling Systems)

  • Forced air systems operate well throughout the home – all levels, all rooms.

  • No rust around cooling unit.

  • No combustion gas odor.

  • Air filter is clean.

  • Ductwork is in good condition.

  • No asbestos present on heating pipes, water pipes or air ducts.

  • Outdoor cooling unit is stable and flat – not angled to one side.

Other

  • Smoke/Carbon Monoxide detectors functioning and in place where required by local building codes.

  • Stairway treads/risers/carpeting solidly in place.

  • Handrails in place and stable where needed.

  • Garage door opener works, garage door safety measures are in place and functioning.

  • Door to garage and materials therein are to code in terms of fire safety.

  • Basement living/sleeping spaces offer adequate egress windows to code.

  • Neighbors are friendly and likely to invite you over for coffee (just kidding – no real test exists for pleasant neighbors; we wanted to make sure you were still paying attention!).

  • Radon Inspection is an additional facet of the home inspection that typically costs more, but most qualified inspectors can add this to your inspection for a fee. This is an issue in Colorado – so do your research and carefully consider whether you should inspect the home for high levels of radon.

Once you have the Inspection Report in hand, you will work with your team here at TRELORA to determine what, if anything, you should request from the seller.

As an example, if it turns out the furnace will sputter and die any day now, you may want to ask for a replacement before closing. Alternatively you could ask for an adjustment of the purchase price or, if you have already negotiated a killer deal and you know the seller may not want to give you a new furnace, you could ask them to meet you halfway on the cost of a replacement.If the guest bedroom is neon green with purple carpet, you are going to have to paint that room and replace some carpet. And won’t it be fun to make your house your own after closing? Likewise a dripping faucet, a loose kitchen cabinet door or a couple of carpet stains are things you may consider tackling post-closing.

You can ask for the moon in your Inspection Objection to the seller, but you want to approach the seller with the Golden Rule in mind: do unto the seller as you would have them do unto you. Some items are a deal breaker (mold throughout the basement, for example, will require a mold remediation or you may even want to back out of the deal) and some issues (a non-working dishwasher or worn carpet in the living room) can be easily be worked out between you and the seller – or resolved on your own after closing.

We’ll be here to guide your response to the seller after your Home Inspection, and to help you negotiate the best possible amendments to the contract based on what comes up. The Home Inspection is a phenomenal opportunity to test drive a home before you buy, and it is a vital step in the home purchase process.