Home Inspection & Appraisal for Buyers

Does Your Home Have a Firewall?

Last Wednesday on November 15th this home in Rapid City, South Dakota sustained minimal fire damage. The damage could have been much worse and completely destroyed the entire home were it not for the firewall which saved it.  Most people don’t understand what is a firewall in a house. A firewall is a fire-resistant barrier used to prevent the spread of fire for a prescribed period of time. In this case, the firewall between the storage area and living space was able to contain the fire and prevent it from consuming the whole house.

Houses usually have a firewall between the garage and the interior living space. This firewall consists of fire rated sheetrock which can contain a burn up to one hour before it penetrates the interior of the home. The intent of it is to slow the spread of fire from the garage to the living space.

In order to accomplish this, several components of a house must be made of fire resistive materials, and all must be working together for the system to work. Drywall used on the garage side of walls shared with living space must have a one hour fire resistive surface.

Firewall House: What is a Firewall in a House

If the garage ceiling is not covered with drywall, then the common walls between the garage and living space must be covered all the way up to the underside of the roof sheathing. You may see open rafters in the garage which is OK as long as there is no living space above the garage. In this example, if a fire starts in the garage, it cannot easily spread to the living space or the attic above the living space. It will be contained in the garage.

If there are breaches in the firewall they must be addressed to restore the integrity of the firewall. A breach in firewall could be a hole or crack in the sheetrock or even voids where sheetrock is missing altogether. Smaller breaches could include a missing switch plate cover to an electric outlet.

When a buyer gets a home inspection, the inspector will examine the firewall(s) in the home ensuring they are intact. Any voids will be noted as hazardous and should be addressed between buyer and seller prior to closing.

Sheetrock isn’t something we think about every day. And most of us don’t go around wondering if our sheetrock can contain a fire. But I’m sure the owners of this Rapid City home are grateful their sheetrock was intact and worked properly.

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Sump What? What You Need to Know About Sump Pumps

We’ve had record amounts of rainfall this past summer. Colorado is known for its sunshine, 2nd behind in Florida with nearly 300 days of sunshine a year. However, this past summer was a bit different. In July, 6.23 inches of rainfall compared to our normal 2.83 inches fell (usclimatedata.com). By the middle of August, we already had 2.02 inches of rainfall. That’s .41 inches from the total amount of rainfall we had in August of last year. AND it’s .29 inches MORE than the total rainfall in August of 2015. This last week of September carrying over to the beginning of October brought us more cloudy, Seattle-like weather with grey skies and even more rain

Colorado Springs ended September with 1.6 inches of rainfall. Our normal September rainfall? 1.18 inches.

We can all agree that rain is better than forest fires, so I’m thankful we’ve had a good amount this year. We’ve had a true monsoon season which is typical in these parts during July and early August. Yet, it was more than a typical monsoon season by 3 and a half inches. That’s A LOT of rain for a high desert mountain climate.

So, YAY for rain. It makes “Colorful Colorado” just that — COLORFUL!

The grass is growing with less water from our sprinklers, the trees and bushes are greener, the wildflowers are blooming everywhere, and the red rocks seem more vibrant with all that color popping in and around them. Colorful Colorado is showing up in all its glory. And now we’re enjoying fall with some vibrant, stunning colors throughout aspen groves as far as the eye can see. Lots of rain makes for a stunning fall season around here.

With all this rain it may mean beautiful colors everywhere you look outdoors and lack of forest fires, but it does come with other challenges. Flooding! Which is so hard to comprehend in such a dry climate that we would deal with floods. I grew up in Louisiana, so I totally get floods. Not only would neighborhoods flood anytime there was the smallest of hurricanes, sometimes a bit too much rain on any given day would flood certain parts of town. When you live at a low level, sometimes below sea level, tropical climate area floods are to be expected.

Floods in a High Mountain, Arid Desert? Yup!

In Colorado Springs it has always seemed so strange that anything would flood. I am always using so much lotion, chapstick, eye drops, and other products to keep from shriveling up in this dry climate! How could we flood in such a dry place? Well, it’s our soil. In most of Colorado, we have expansive soils. Basically, the ground here is laced with layers of various types of clay (Homeowners Guide to Soil in CO). This type of soil doesn’t like too much water too fast. It doesn’t drain the water quickly. The water it does take on causes it to swell. And due to our semi-arid climate, usually, a good amount of the water runs right off it like you got a Rain X windshield treatment. Then that runoff follows the path of least resistance and piles up somewhere. And wherever that somewhere is…well, it causes floods and expands the soil in that area. Bottom line…

Too much water too fast…NOT a good thing.

That brings us to the actual topic of this post. Sump pumps. With all the water that has accumulated around your house’s foundation in July, August, and September, it is a critical part of protecting your home from water damage and maintaining the structural integrity of your home.

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump removes water that has accumulated in a water-collection system’s basin. And it’s a key component to protecting from water damage not only in your space and personal items located in the lowest level of a home but also critical to the protecting your most important structural feature in a home — your foundation. What does that word “sump” mean?

Sump. That was a funny word to me for a long time too. In this context, “sump” refers to a low area that collects unwanted water.

Kinda like swamp…but sump. Low area that collects water. 

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

The sump pump system located in a basin at the lowest level of your home. Usually, you find the basin in a crawl space or basement. As we covered above, the sump refers to the low-level area. In that basin, you’ll find the pumps. Comprised of the main and a secondary backup pump, the sump pump is part of the overall water collection and removal system.  These pumps in the basin, remove all the water collected in the basin from the drain pipes or tiles located around the perimeter of your home’s foundation.

Your main sump pump runs off of an electrical connection. The pump has a dedicated electrical connection or plugs into a wall outlet. It sits in the bottom of the water-collection basin, and when the water level gets high enough a switch is triggered. The most common trigger is a float switch. Once triggered, it pumps water out of the basin through the discharge pipe outside to a safe point away from your home. There should always be a check valve on the discharge pipe to make sure water only runs in one direction — out.

Any sump pump system should include a battery backup. This is critical! It’s not a matter of if but when your main pump will have some sort of failure. The primary pump can fail due to a switch failure, main pump clog, main pump dies, or loss of electrical power. And that last reason the main pump could fail is all too common during storms when you’re getting the most amount of rainfall accumulating in your water collection system. It has its own trigger switch, discharge pipe, and check valve.

Again, your sump pump system is NOT complete without a battery backup pump.

Why Are Sump Pumps Are Important?

Protecting your home from unwanted water in and around the foundation is CRITICAL! And, of course, no one wants water to get in their home causing damage to walls, flooring furniture, personal belongs, etc. And here in Colorado, water accumulation in the soil around your home affects the expansion of the ground which impacts your foundation and the structural integrity of your home.

There are many important choices a homeowner can make to protect your home from water damage. Sump Pumps may be at the very top of that list!

If you have any other questions about sump pumps or other ways to protect your home, please contact me! As your neighborhood Realtor, I’m not only interested in helping you buy or sell a home, I want to make sure you are an educated Buyer and have your eyes open during any real estate transaction.

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What You Need to Know About Appraisals

Congratulations, you have finally found the house you wanted! But you should ask yourself one question before signing all the paperwork, is the house you are planning to buy really worth the money you will invest? Can’t decide?

The asking price on the house is an amount which your lender has already approved, so you probably won’t have any issues with the mortgage. Actually, this is not always true, and there are instances in which you can have an issue getting a mortgage if the investment is not worth the approved amount. In such a case, the lender will provide you with a lower loan amount or none at all.

The situation may seem a bit complex, but this is exactly why you need a mortgage appraisal. Once you go through this process, you will find out the true worth of your house to be, and accordingly, you can make a decision on whether the purchase is a smart decision or not.

A home appraisal is a process in which an expert evaluates the house, performs a thorough analysis and then determines the worth of the home. The appraiser is hired by the lender through an Appraisal Management Company or the AMC, but you will have to bear the costs. Once the results have been prepared, they are reviewed, and accordingly, the deal is finalized.

The lender orders an appraisal when you have a house ‘under contract’. Your Realtor will establish a value of the house by performing a Comparative Market Analysis or CMA.  Negotiation is carried out on the offer and a written contract is prepared. If this is accepted, it is sent to your lender, who then gets in touch with an AMC and appoints an appraiser.

Purpose of an Appraisal

The main purpose of a mortgage appraisal is to determine the value of the house which you plan to buy. The process does incur fees, and you will have to pay them, but you should still get a home appraisal conducted considering the magnitude of the overall investment. By doing so, you will know that you are not paying an unfair amount of the property. Your lender will also be sure that they are not lending you excessive amounts, which may eventually lead to a foreclosure should you default on the mortgage.

In other words, a mortgage appraisal protects both you and the lender by ensuring that the deal you are about to finalize is indeed, worth the invested amount.

Types of Appraisals

A mortgage appraisal can be conducted by many methods, but two of them are popular. One is the sales comparison approach and the other is the cost approach.

The Sales Comparison Approach

In this method, the appraiser will compare the home with a number of other homes that are of the same size and located in the same locality. These are referred to as the comps or the comparables.  While comparing, many factors are considered such as the area, amounts of finished and unfinished space, age of the house, design features, kitchen styles, garages, fireplaces, and so on.

The Cost Approach

The Cost Approach method is primarily used to appraise new property. The appraiser will figure out an amount which will be required for reconstructing the home if it was completely destroyed. The analysis is also based on other things such as depreciation and land value. Accordingly, an appraiser determines the true worth of the house.

The Appraisal Process

When you decide the house which you want to buy, you get it under contract. This means that your Realtor performs a Market Comparative Analysis or CMA, and determines the value of the property. Using this, an offer is made and negotiated, and then a written contract is prepared. Once accepted, this is sent to your lender who then orders an appraisal through an AMC.

The appraiser will then visit the home to initiate the process. During that time, your presence is not mandatory but is still recommended so that you can get better insight.

Here are the main steps of the process.

  • The appraiser will perform a visual inspection of the home and assess its condition. He will note down details such as the construction quality, number of rooms, floor plan and the design. If there is any need of repairs or improvements, you will be notified and also provided with an estimate of the costs involved.
  • The appraiser will take photos of the property for record purposes, and conduct necessary measurements of the floors.
  • The appraiser will analyze the neighboring area and if any amenities are located nearby such as a park, shopping mall or hospital, they will determine their influence on the home’s worth.
  • The appraiser will get in touch with the local planning department or another governmental body, and determine the zoning rules and taxes for the property. This information can be used for figuring out the highest and best use, which serves as critical data in the home mortgage appraisal process.
  • All appraisers have access to a lot of data, which they get from agents and brokers. Using these resources, an appraiser will determine the average value of homes in the locality and go through recent sales report. In this step, the MLS and legal data of your chosen home is also reviewed.
  • The appraiser will then use any of the above methods to determine the worth of the home and will prepare a report. This will include a summary of the method, a review of the house’s conditions and the improvements that were carried out. The report will also contain details of problems such as cracked foundations and wet basements, a summary of market trends and their effect on the property and a complete analysis that will support the results. Maps, sketches, and photographs are also included for reference.
  • A copy of the report is sent to the lender.

The Appraisal Outcome

A home appraisal can have two results; the asking price is equal to or less than the appraised value or the asking price is more than the appraised value.

In the former case, the sale can proceed as per the plan. But what if the appraised value is lower than the amount which the seller demands? Should this be the case, the lender will not provide you with a big enough loan.

There are a number of options which you can take to deal with such a situation.

  • Negotiate with the seller and convince him to drop the price.
  • Pay the difference in amount yourself.
  • Have another appraiser go through the process one more time.
  • Forget about that home and search for another one.
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Are Home Warranties a Good Idea?

We have all heard the stories, someone we know buys a house and has problems right after they move in. Big problems like the water heater bursts, the furnace stops working, etc… Although these problems are a normal part of home ownership, it always comes as an unwelcome surprise. Additionally, the financial stress can be an even bigger problem.

The best way to ease some of the financial strain is to have a Home Warranty in place before the problems happen.

A home warranty is an insurance policy that typically covers the repairs and or replacement of your home’s major systems during the term of the policy.

What a Home Warranty Covers

There are a myriad of options for home warranty plans but here is a list of the basics that a plan should cover:

  • Heating System
  • Ductwork
  • Plumbing System
  • Water Heater
  • Built-in-Whirlpool Tub
  • Sump Pump
  • Electrical System
  • Garage Door Opener
  • Central Vacuum
  • Doorbell
  • Kitchen & Bathroom Exhaust Fans
  • Refrigerator
  • Oven/Range
  • Dishwasher
  • Built-In Microwave
  • Garbage Disposal
  • Trash Compactor

More extensive plans will cover items like:

  • Washer
  • Dryer
  • Roof Leaks
  • Well
  • Septic

It is important to read about the extent of a warranties coverage before purchasing. There are often unexpected costs associated with claims, especially for major systems. Warranty companies won’t cover the cost to bring a system up to current building codes. For example: On an older home requiring a furnace replacement. The warranty will cover the cost of the furnace but not the cost of bringing the supporting ductwork up to current building code. This can cost hundreds of additional dollars, the homeowner still ends up with a new furnace but might be surprised when the contractor asks for a check to cover the work not covered by the warranty.

Most home warranties have a deductible. This is usually paid to the repair person at the time of their first visit. These deductibles are generally in the $50.00 to $75.00 range.

Home Warranties are negotiable between Buyer and Seller. Buyers will often ask for a home warranty in their initial offer. Additionally, sellers will often offer them as a buyer incentive.

As a home buyer, it’s a good idea to ask the seller in your initial offer to include a home warranty. If they are not willing to do this, it’s still a good idea to buy one prior to closing.

Sellers should really consider offering a warranty when it’s time to sell. This acts as tail coverage in the event of a problem and the warranty could keep the buyer from pursuing the seller should there be a problem with any of the major systems.

These policies are affordable ranging from $300 to $800 depending on the level of coverage and the premium is usually recouped in the first claim.

Although problems with a home are inevitable, a home warranty can really take the sting out of paying for those surprises.

 

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Your Inspection Rights and Approximate Costs

Finding that perfect home can be quite the task, but getting under contract begins a whole other process. Now that you and the sellers have agreed on a price, you would be wise to order a home inspection. Your Realtor can help by providing several choices for an inspector.

As a Buyer, you have the right to an inspection of the property prior to closing.  Once inspected, you then have the right to object to any conditions that are brought to your attention.  You may either ask the seller to fix them, or you may terminate the contract.  It’s important to know what to look for because, after closing, you own any problems with the property.  What many buyers don’t know is just how many inspections are available.   Below is a list of options you may want to consider before you close. Your choices will depend on the age, condition, and location of the home. Let’s cover just a few.

Home Inspection

The purpose of the home inspection is to determine the condition of your home. One usually runs between $300-$400. Price is based on age and size of your home and is pretty much a top to bottom inspection of the home. Be sure to ask your inspector what they include in the overall package.

Radon Test

The purpose of the radon test is to determine if your home has unsafe levels of radon gas within it. It is worth the extra money to determine if there are unsafe levels of radon seeping in from the ground. This test usually runs $130 and takes over 48 hours to complete.

Sewer Line Scope

The purpose of this test is to see if sewer lines are obstructed, cracked or outdated. You will want to make sure the line is working properly as the cost to repair and tap into the city main line can be very expensive. This test usually runs about $150 and most plumbers will provide a digital recording as your proof that it is working properly.

Lead-Based Paint Assessment

This test is a good idea for homes built prior to 1978 due to the fact that paint manufactured during that time contained lead. Lead poisoning could be potentially fatal to young children if swallowed. A test usually runs $300.

Meth Lab Test

If you think that your home was used to manufacture methamphetamine or it was disclosed to you that this has occurred, it is a good idea to order this test. One usually runs $600 for whole house or $1000 for specific area testing.

Mold Test

You can also see if your home contains dangerous mold which can form in basements or bathrooms and kitchens due to the high moisture content in those areas. This type of test usually runs $300.

The list of tests goes on but these are the most common and will address some major issues. Be sure to check with your lender if you are financing as they may be required in some cases. The main thing is to protect your investment and your family. You will be glad you spent the extra dollars should something be discovered that could be very expensive to repair.

*prices above are an estimate and may vary

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Everything You Need to Know About Radon

You’ve found your home, you’ve written an offer, it’s been accepted and you are “Under Contract”. Now it’s time to find out what the real condition of this property is. In order to accomplish this you are going to want to do a Property Inspection. When you schedule the inspection, you should be asked to decide if you want the inspector to perform a radon test. In all but the rarest cases the answer should be yes.

What is Radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring, inert, odorless, colorless, radioactive gas. It is formed by the radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil, and water. So, without a test, there is no way to know if your home has it.

What does it do?

Radon is right behind cigarettes as the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is associated with 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States annually.

Here is a good description, written by the National Cancer Institute of what Radon does to cause cancer.

Radon decays quickly, giving off tiny radioactive particles. When inhaled, these radioactive particles can damage the cells that line the lung. Long-term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer, the only cancer proven to be associated with inhaling radon. There has been a suggestion of increased risk of leukemia associated with radon exposure in adults and children; however, the evidence is not conclusive.

Radon is actually a controversial topic and while there are many credible sources that question the effects radon has on human beings, the evidence and research that it is harmful is too overwhelming for us to ignore, especially when representing home buyers. Here is a list of organizations that state Radon is a health threat:

      • U.S. Surgeon General
      • American Medical Association
      • American Lung Association
      • Centers for Disease Control
      • National Cancer Institute
      • National Academy of Sciences
      • Environmental Protection Agency

Testing and Measuring

Here’s the science of radon, levels are measured and talked about in terms of “Picocuries” this is an international unit of radioactivity that is defined as 1 Ci = 3.7×1010 decays per second. This is approximately the activity of 1 gram of the radium isotope 226Ra, a substance studied by the pioneers of radiology, Pierre and Marie Curie, for whom the unit was named.

The important number to remember for the purposes of radon in a home is 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). This is the number above which the EPA recommends mitigation.

It’s important to note that we often hear about higher acceptable levels in other countries, the point being the US is “unreasonably” low. This might be the case but as far as the United States is concerned 4 pCi/L is the magic number.

Testing for Radon is important, especially here along the front range because radon is prevalent in the entire State of Colorado but especially high right here in El Paso County.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) produces a “Radon Map”. This map categorizes areas into three zones to assess radon potential. All of El Paso County is in “Zone 1”

  • Zone 1- Highest Potential: These are counties that have a predicted average indoor radon screening level greater than 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter)
  • Zone 2- Moderate Potential: These are counties that have a predicted average indoor radon screening level between 2 and 4 pCi/L
  • Zone 3- Low Potential: These are counties have a predicted average indoor radon screening level less than 2 pCi/L

The criteria used to develop this assessment are as follows:

      1. Indoor radon measurements
      2. Geology
      3. Aerial radioactivity
      4. Soil permeability
      5. Foundation type

As far as testing methods are concerned, most certified home inspectors will use a handful of different testing methods. Some require post inspection processing therefore requiring a wait to see the results. It’s important to keep track of your inspection deadlines, you don’t want to end up with elevated radon levels but ask for mitigation after your inspection objection deadline.

How does radon get into a house

The primary entry point for radon into the home is through the foundation. If you have a basement, the gas can seep through small cracks and voids in the slab. Crawl Spaces are generally left uncovered thus providing no barrier for radon gases. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water.

Mitigation

There are a handful of different methods used to mitigate radon from a home. The most popular method here along the front range of Colorado is Active soil depressurization (ASD).

Active soil depressurization (ASD) essentially keeps radon gas from entering the home by changing the pressure differential, essentially depressurizing the force that pushes the gas from below the foundation slab or crawlspace into the home. Radon is drawn from beneath the slab by an exhaust fan that vents the radon gas through a PVC pipe up and over the roof of the home to the outdoor air where it dilutes into the atmosphere.

It’s important that radon mitigation systems vent above the properties roof. Since radon gas is heavier than air the possibility exists that the gas can be picked up and redistributed through the homes HVAC system. By venting above the roof the concentration of gas falls off significantly before it has the opportunity to be reintroduced.

It’s important to note that the active soil depressurization system is a separate system and is not related to your homes HVAC or any other system except that it draws a slight low voltage feed from your electric system. So, the cost to operate an ASD system is low as well. The system fans typically use 90 watts per fan. The cost to operate one of these units is approximately $25 to $45 per year.

The cost of installation varies based on the size of the home and the type of foundation. Here along the front Range of Colorado, systems run from $800 on the low end to $2,500 on the high end. Newer homes with perimeter drains tend to be easier for installation of mitigation systems and therefore cost less.

We test for radon during the inspection because it’s generally something we want the seller to pay for. In some cases the buyer may be willing to accept the cost of mitigation, this generally has to do with the purchase price and terms.

If the seller ends up installing the system it’s important to get documentation about who installed the system what the numbers look like on the retest and what the warranty is. All of this should be wrapped up prior to closing.

Frequently Asked Questions about radon:

Can radon levels change over time?

    • Yes, changes in temperature, Moisture and Dryness can cause the uranium levels to rise which results in an increase in radon levels. If the ground around your home becomes saturated, frozen or covered with snow, it keeps the radon in the ground not allowing it to escape. Wind can also change the pressure around your home, which could cause radon to diffuse into your home. It is recommended not to test during severe weather or high winds.

How often should we test?

    • If you have a system in your homes the EPA and IEMA recommend that you test every two years. How long do Mitigation Systems Last? Usually, the manufacturer warrants the fan for 5 years. The national average for the life of a fan is 11 years. Some last as long as 20 years.

Should we test for radon if a mitigation system is present?

    • Yes, if it has been 2 years since it was installed.

What is the cost of operating a mitigation system?

    • $25-$45 a year.

What is a Picocurie?

    • This is an international unit of radioactivity that is defined as 1 Ci = 3.7×1010 decays per second. This is approximately the activity of 1 gram of the radium isotope 226Ra, a substance studied by the pioneers of radiology, Pierre Curie and Marie, for whom the unit was named.

What’s the fastest way to test?

      • The quickest way to test is with a short-term test. These kits remain in your home for two days to 90 days, depending on the device.
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Top 4 Things you Need to Know about Appraisals

The appraisal of a home is a vital part of any real estate transaction, and the role of an appraiser is possibly one of the most critical parts of the entire transaction. See below as to how you, as a Seller, can be way ahead of the learning curve with just a few helpful hints from me when are you ready to put your home on the market for sale!

1. Appraisers are always hypersensitive to contributing to potentially over inflating any real estate market. And, with multiple offers being the norm in most price ranges here in Colorado Springs, they are even more so.  Encourage your real estate broker to have comparable sold data ready to present to an appraiser. This data should support whatever sales price the buyer and seller finally agree to…ESPECIALLY vital if that sales price is OVER what the original list price was.

2. Most real estate brokers are ridiculously busy right now, but that ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT excuse your real estate broker from not showing up to your home, with comparable sold data and a list of every improvement made to the home in hand to meet the appraiser for his or her site inspection. Your real estate broker knows your home better than the appraiser does, so make sure your real estate broker shows up and represents!

3. Your real estate broker should be as descriptive as possible about your real estate listing and include if at all possible, ALL 36 photos that the Pikes Peak MLS allows. It helps an appraiser immensely to include photos of the front of your home, the rear of your home, the street view of your home, and all major rooms in your home as well as the features of the home itself. Again, your real estate broker knows your home better than the appraiser does.

4. What your real estate broker should tell you, from the very beginning, about the role of an appraiser in a real estate transaction? The role of the appraiser is actually NOT to confirm the sales price, but to provide the Buyer’s lender an independent, objective, and completely impartial opinion of the value of your home. This value of your home is considered the collateral to which the Buyer’s loan would be based.

Happy Selling!

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Colorado Appraisals Get More Expensive

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People often confuse a home inspection with a home appraisal. To clarify, a home inspection is to determine the condition of the home and inclusions. A home appraisal is a formal opinion of value to determine what the property is worth.

If you’re getting a new mortgage your lender will require an appraisal in order to justify the sales price. Your lender will order the appraisal for you. And it will be paid by you, the buyer. Typically lenders will require that payment up front, at the time appraisal is ordered. 

Here in El Paso County, appraisals usually cost around $350-400. But I just read those rates are going up. Effective November 1st the cost for a VA appraisal is now going to be $750. That’s a big jump. But it makes sense. Our area sees so many VA loan, and those VA appraisers are swamped with the increased workload of the past few years. In speaking with a lender friend of mine, she said that there is no new set appraisal rate for Conventional and FHA loans, but she thinks they will hover around $650 and VA ones will be at $750.

Increased home sales is obviously a good thing. Our housing market has been on the upswing for the past seven years in a row. Cool! But our buyers are going to feel more of a sting when they are confronted with these new, higher fees. 

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Why Buyers Should Get Sewer Inspections

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A lot of first time homebuyers may not be aware that sewer inspections are not part of your routine home inspection. This is so important. Buying a home & moving is stressful enough as it is. Finding out that you have a bad sewer line after closing would just add to that list. Sewer line inspections can range from about $150-$300. Plumbers will inspect the line to see if its bellied, split, offset, collapsing or clogged with tree roots. They will also check the material of the line as well. This has become important because construction in the 1950’s, utilized a tar like cardboard called Orangeburg. This type of material is known to just fall apart & collapse resulting in very costly repairs.

Even if your potential dream house wasn’t built in the 1950’s, a sewer inspection might be a worthwhile cost. If there are issues encountered during the inspection, you’ll want to be sure to have your plumber record a video of the line so that it can be provided to the sellers. Sewer line replacements or back-ups can cost thousands of dollars and the repair or replacement of the line is usually EXCLUDED by most insurance companies. Sewer inspections are easy. You can ask your Realtor for a recommendation, or call a plumber of your choice. It’s worth the peace of mind & security, knowing that there aren’t any hidden issues in your new home.

Negotiating After the Home Inspection

Negotiating After the Home Inspection

As real estate agents, we’d like every home we show our home buyers to be in perfect condition. Unfortunately, even homes that appear to be in pristine condition can have serious problems under the hood. This is why we even recommend a property inspection on every home we sell, including new builds.

Colorado’s Contract to Buy and Sell Real Estate Contingencies

Contingencies represent short spans of time that afford the home buyer an opportunity to perform investigations or “due diligence”. These are clauses within the contract that protect the home buyer and they cover the following:

  • Home inspections
  • Financing
  • Title

For this discussion, we will take a look at the “Property Inspection” contingency. In short, the Colorado Contract to Buy and Sell Real Estate provides the home buyer an opportunity to perform inspections in order to assess the condition of the property. From The Colorado Contract to Buy and Sell Real Estate:

Inspection. Unless otherwise provided in this Contract, Buyer, acting in good faith, has the right to have inspections (by one or more third parties, personally or both) of the Property and Inclusions (Inspection), at Buyer’s expense. If (1) the physical condition of the Property, including, but not limited to, the roof, walls, structural integrity of the Property, the electrical, plumbing, HVAC and other mechanical systems of the Property, (2) the physical condition of the Inclusions, (3) service to the Property (including utilities and communication services), systems and components of the Property (e.g., heating and plumbing), (4) any proposed or existing transportation project, road, street or highway, or (5) any other activity, odor or noise (whether on or off the Property) and its effect or expected effect on the Property or its occupants is unsatisfactory, in Buyer’s sole subjective discretion, Buyer.

We have discussed the real estate inspection process at length in previous articles, so we won’t rehash that here. The purpose of this article is handling the results of that inspection.

What Happens When Property Inspections Show Unsatisfactory Conditions?

If you have followed our previous advice, you will have done your inspection with a certified professional inspector. This type of inspector will provide you and your Realtor with a report of the inspection. This inspection report should contain a list of items that require attention. These items generally fall into one of the following four categories:

  • Repair/Replace: This is for broken or damaged items.
  • Mitigate-Hazardous Conditions: Radon, Mold, odors or pests.
  • Provide Historical Background: This is used when the inspector sees something that appears to have been damaged and/or repaired in the past. If the inspector cannot make an assessment without further damaging walls or flooring, they will ask the seller for more information.
  • Further Evaluation-The inspector is a generalist. If something on the inspection raises a red flag but falls outside of the inspector’s “field of expertise”, he will recommend further evaluation by a licensed professional. This usually pertains to electrical, plumbing or structural issues.

After a thorough review of the inspection report, the homebuyer should meet with their Realtor in order to formulate a plan of action.

The Negotiation

The buyer and their Realtor should sit down and go over the inspection report. The idea is to establish a couple of different things:

First of all, we are looking to establish the overall condition of the home and property. There are times we have this discussion and decide there are just too many issues and choose to terminate the contract without any further negotiation or attempt at finding a resolution, this is rare.

Once we establish the overall condition, we start to delve into those items on the inspection report the buyer feels are “unsatisfactory” These items begin to form the list which they will ultimately present to the seller’s agent. We first look at health and safety issues, things like radon, mold or asbestos. Since mitigation on things like this can be so costly, we look at them first. Next, we look at things like building code violations, construction defects, and materials that may have been part of any class action suits. At this point, we are trying to protect the buyer from getting stuck with any serious financial burdens down the road.

The next we look at things like deferred maintenance; things like furnaces, exterior grading, and roofs. These are items that can cause problems down the road due to replacement costs or uninsurability.

From these discussions, the homebuyer and Realtor will put together a list of items ranging from most serious to least serious. At this point, they decide what to ask the seller to address and what if anything to take care of themselves. This discussion is always conducted in light of the current market conditions.

Once the buyer decides on those items that need to be addressed, the Realtor puts together a document named “Notice of Unsatisfactory Conditions”. This document outlines any concerns the buyer voiced as well as proposed remedies. Many times the Realtor will include a copy of the actual Inspection Report, this helps the seller’s agent clarify any misunderstandings the seller might have as to what the request is addressing. All of this needs to be delivered to the seller’s Realtor prior to the Inspection Objection deadline.

The Ball is in The Seller’s Court

Once the “Notice of Unsatisfactory Conditions” is delivered, it’s time for the Seller to meet with their Realtor. At this point, the Realtor should break down the requested items for the Seller. In order to present this material, the Agent must have a good grasp on what repairs or remedies will cost. In many cases, the agent will need to get bids in order to realistically give the seller an idea of how much money the inspection items will cost.

Once the seller understands the cost and scope of the requested inspection items, they have some decisions to make. The seller can either accept the objection and proceed with repairs, reject the request in its entirety or further negotiate with the buyer by proposing an alternative resolution. This means the seller might be willing to do items: 2,4 and 7 but not 1,3, 5 and 8. This is negotiation is done with a form entitled “Sellers Alternative Resolution”.

If the seller accepts the Inspection Objection and chooses to move forward with the repairs, the deal remains intact and the Buyer is still ”Under Contract”. If on the other hand the seller chooses to reject the request or looks for an alternate resolution, the buyer then has the choice of:

  1. Rejecting the “Alternative Resolution”. This means walking away from the deal with their earnest money intact.
  2. Accepting or rejecting the “Alternative Resolution”.
  3. Moving forward knowing the seller will not do any repairs

Note: If the Buyer rejects the “Alternative Resolution”, they are not in default so they do retain their earnest money.

While the overall process seems clear, it is often emotional. The property is the seller’s home, and the buyer is pointing out problems. Granted, some buyers nit-pic just to get a better price but most are just trying to minimize the money and time they will have to spend once in the house.

Sellers on the other hand often feel like buyers are asking for too much. For example, if the seller came off of their price, they feel like the buyer is just hitting them for more money, or that they have already discounted for these types of issues in the asking price. In short, the process can be problematic.

A good Realtor will prepare their clients for this beforehand. Experienced Realtors will help both sides find a balance that works for each party. By being willing to help both the buyer and the seller to navigate this process, they keep the deal intact. Hopefully, both sides agree on a solution.

Smart Strategies

The best strategy when approaching a property inspection is almost always dependent on the kind of market we’re in. For example: if we are in a strong buyer’s market, (this means market times are greater than six months) it’s unlikely there is a lot of interest or multiple offers for a property. In this case, home sellers are more inclined to thoughtfully consider a buyer’s inspection objection requests. On the other hand, if we are in a strong seller’s market, the chances are pretty good there is a lot of interest in the property. In this case, the sellers are likely to be less inclined to deal with lengthy repair lists.

No matter what type of market we’re in It’s always important to treat the home sellers with respect. Buyers often forget they are looking at resale homes. It often feels unreasonable to bring a laundry list of repairs to a home seller that address normal wear and tear or cosmetic issues on a home that is 15 to 20 years old. The reason this becomes difficult is that the Realtor addressed or should have addressed wear and tear and cosmetic issues when they priced the home before listing it. The inspection is intended to discover issues that weren’t disclosed by the seller, presumably because they didn’t know about them.

Another important point to consider is structuring the items you asked for by considering how to measure quality. For example, if there is a plumbing issue the buyer’s Realtor can write in the objection: “Seller to have leaking pipes under kitchen sink repaired by “licensed plumber”. Asking for a repair like this makes a lot of sense, in the first place the house shouldn’t have leaking pipes. Secondly, this kind of repair isn’t something the home seller should necessarily do period. By stipulating “licensed plumber” if there’s a problem with the work the home buyer can subsequently ask the plumber to come back and make it right. Conversely, let’s say the buyer objects to the condition of the caulk in the shower. The Realtor can’t really put teeth in a request like this, primarily because there’s no license for someone that does caulk. This is something the homeowner should maintain. Home buyers often regret making requests like this because the quality of work isn’t something they’re happy with and they end up wishing they’d have done it themselves.

In summary, it’s important to be reasonable and pragmatic when preparing your inspection objection request. It’s also important to consider the condition of the market in conjunction with the severity of the items you’re considering asking for. Your Realtor should be able to counsel you as to what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate. Often home buyers feel like their Realtor is advocating for the home seller during this negotiation. If you feel this way it’s really important to discuss this with your Realtor in a non-confrontational manner. For example, you might ask questions like: ”You seem to be uncomfortable with the things I’m asking for. Am I being unreasonable”? “ if this was your house what would you ask for?”

At the end of the day, inspection objections are difficult. Market dynamics and human emotions just throw fuel on the fire. All of that aside next to negotiating the price, inspection is the most important hurdle to get over in order to have what the home buyer will ultimately consider a successful transaction. We think it’s important to discuss this with your Realtor before making an offer. When it comes time to negotiate with the home sellers, you and your Realtor should have an understanding of what’s reasonable as well as what’s important to you.

One final thought, it’s essential that you have the home buyer feel like you have been treated reasonably as well. During strong seller’s markets, buyers often feel like they got the short end of the stick. Once again this is it a good topic of discussion to have with your Realtor. Ultimately, If you’re not going to be happy with your purchase, you probably shouldn’t buy the house.

Here are some additional resources from other real estate websites about property inspections:

home inspection

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