In the home buying process, one of the most pivotal events is the home inspection. An inspector’s report can determine whether or not the contract sails through or becomes awash in further negotiations over repairs and price.
When it comes to inspections, the focus is on “safety and habitability.” An inspector’s job is to look for problems with the house that will impact the home’s livability and cause owner’s trouble down the road. Sellers should understand that problems are to be expected, even in the most well-maintained homes.
Here are the 5 most common issues sellers are likely to face:
Roofs: If a roof is older and showing age, buyers customarily expect a “5-year roof certification” from a reputable roofer to demonstrate that it’s still in good condition. If a certification cannot be obtained, it’s likely a buyer will request that the roof be replaced. A roof that’s in poor condition may have insurability issues for the buyer. On the bright side, if a roof has been damaged by hail, it may be covered by the seller’s hazard insurance.
Sewer lines: Broken or cracked and leaking sewer lines can quickly lead to the kind of issues no homeowner wants to encounter. Most older homes have clay tile lines that deteriorate over time and with root intrusion. It’s a good idea to have your sewer line cleaned (rooted) prior to the buyer’s home inspection so that the buyer will be able to inspect the line without obstructions.
Sewer repairs are rarely inexpensive, but experienced real estate agents have contacts with repair companies the cut out the middle-men. Sewer repairs are most expensive in public right-of-ways (alleys and streets) and usually less costly on personal property. Even newer homes can have sewer line issues, and savvy buyers will inspect them. Generally newer plastic lines do not require cleaning.
Electrical: The electrical service panel, wiring, outlets, switches and fixtures in a home are all expected to be operating safely and in compliance with industry standards. Undersized panels, aluminum wiring, Federal Pacific and Zinsko Panels, ungrounded outlets, reverse wired outlets and GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) issues are the top electrical inspection issues. The most common problems can be resolved for a few hundred dollars or less, but a panel replacement, aluminum wiring and some ungrounded outlet situations may be considerably more.
Heating: Heat is a critical habitability issue in Colorado, and a safely operating furnace or boiler is paramount to buyers. The heat exchanger in gas or forced air furnaces expands and contracts during thousands of heating cycles. Eventually the metal will crack, creating the possibility of carbon monoxide leakage into the heated air delivered through the ducts. If a cracked heat exchanger is identified, a furnace is not safe to operate.
While heat exchangers can be replaced, it is rarely economical to repair rather than replace a furnace. Furnaces are expected to last 15-20 years. Boilers, on the other hand, are far more expensive to install but will typically last many decades and can usually be repaired. Verification of a safely operating heating system usually involves a certification by a licensed heating contractor.
Structural Issues: Many structural issues are related to poor or improper drainage away from the foundation. Inspectors always stress that nothing should be planted (or watered) within 5 feet of the foundation walls. Grading that does not properly slope away from the foundation and clogged or damaged gutters and downspouts that overflow near the foundation (usually at the corner of a home) are the biggest cause of drainage-related structural issues.
Expansive soils are also a factor in our area – and require proper foundation design for the soil conditions and construction techniques that accommodate soil movement. Issues usually exhibit themselves within 5-10 years, and newer home code and permit requirements have been updated to avoid expansive soil issues. If a structural concern is suspected, most buyers will want an opinion from a structural engineer – and for the seller to make recommended repairs.
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RE/MAX of Cherry Creek