How to Make Sure the Home You Buy Isn’t a ‘Money Pit’

When you go under contract to buy a home, the contract will have a deadline for inspection objection, inspection termination and inspection resolution. Every home buyer is well advised to hire a home inspector and make use of the opportunity to ensure that the home you end up buying is in good condition.

During the recent sellers’ market it was common for buyers to waive or limit their rights to object or terminate based on the condition of the home as a way of making their offers more attractive. Even then, however, the smart buyer hired a professional home inspector so they would know what they’re getting into.

Home inspectors are not licensed in Colorado, but they are typically certified by one of two professional associations. Your real estate agent can recommend inspectors that he or she knows are good based on the experience of previous clients.

The home inspector knows enough about every aspect of a home to provide a good overview, including identifying specific defects. In some areas, however, he will encourage the buyer to order a secondary inspection by someone with more in-depth expertise in the area of concern. Although a certified inspector can diagnose most electrical or plumbing problems, in some cases he might recommend a more detailed inspection by a licensed electrician or plumber. That also helps to produce an estimate for inclusion in the inspection objection submitted to the seller.

Most inspectors can recognize a structural issue but will typically urge you to have the matter evaluated by a structural engineer. This can cost a few hundred dollars but, like the general inspection itself, could allow you to demand (and hopefully get) the seller to pay for a repair instead of paying for it yourself later on.

Two routine inspections that you should consider and which your general inspector can often perform himself for an additional fee, are the sewer scope and radon test.

A sewer scope consists of running a camera from a cleanout within the house to the main sewer line in the street or alley. Until the late 1900s, most home sewer lines were made of clay pipes that are susceptible to root intrusion and collapse. A sewer scope will cost you between $100 and $150, but is well worth it. If it uncovers a collapse, the repair, if excavation is required, could cost $10,000 or more. You will want the seller to pay for that repair, not yourself.

A radon test also costs $100 or so and consists of installing a computerized device in the lowest habitable area of the house — a basement, if there is one, but only if it’s habitable, whether finished or not. This device samples the air every hour for 48 hours, and the resulting measurement is an average of those 48 readings. If the result is in excess of the EPA action level of 4 picocuries per liter of air (4 pCi/L), you should demand that the seller pay for radon mitigation. Mitigation starts at about $1,000 for a single family home, but can be considerably higher if it has a partial basement with an earthen crawl space.  Again, the $100 or so that you spend on the radon test can save you much more if you’re able to get mitigation paid for by the seller.

A final thought: The report produced by your inspector will include every little thing he or she found wrong with the house, because the inspector doesn’t want you to come back later and say he missed something, however insignificant. Typically, your inspector will highlight the serious issues which you should consider for your inspection objection. Even then, it may be wise strategically to omit the minor items that you can take care of (or ignore) yourself.


As mentioned above, there are three deadlines in the Contract to Buy & Sell:

> Inspection Objection

> Inspection Termination

> Inspection Resolution

Typically, the objection and termination deadlines are within a week or 10 days of the date on which you go under contract. Since inspection is the most common reason that a contract falls, both seller and buyer want this date to be as early as possible. The buyer can submit an objection or can terminate. If he submits an objection, he can’t then submit a termination. However, if an Inspection Resolution is not signed by both parties before the resolution deadline (typically 2-3 days later), then the contract terminates automatically.

The Inspection Objection and Inspection Termination documents are merely notices to the seller, so they are signed only by the buyer. The Inspection Resolution document is what truly matters, and it is signed by both parties, making it an amendment to the contract which, by the way, must be provided to the lender.

Is Your Home Ready for Winter?

I got the following information/advice from one of my favorite inspectors, Bud Monk. His contact info is at the bottom.

It’s that time of year again, and fall & winter are just around the corner. Are you ready?

Some things to think about in getting ready for Winter.

  • Check your AC condensing unit or your evaporative cooler (swamp cooler)
    • Clean the leaves and debris from the fins with a high pressure water hose or leaf blower, etc.
    • Cover the unit to protect it from snow and ice.
    • Drain swamp cooler and cover to prevent cold air from blowing back into the house.
  • Check your furnace (or have it serviced by a qualified HVAC technician). Turn the thermostat up to 80 and check to make sure the furnace fires and is running properly.
    • Change the filter if necessary.
    • Lubricate the blower fan.
    • Check your smoke and CO detectors to confirm they are working!!!!
  • Check your chimney and fireplace.
    • If you use your fireplace, be sure there are no bird or squirrel nests in the chimney.
    • Verify that the chimney cap is in place and didn’t blow off during a summer storm.
  • Remove and drain your hoses.
    • Disconnect the hoses from the hose bibs and drain the hoses.
    • Turn off the water to the hose bibs and open the valve. Or install the protective foam covers.
  • Drain the sprinkler system.
    • Turn off the water supply to the system.
    • Open all the zone valves and blow out the lines
    • Open the valves and drain the water from the vacuum breaker.
  • Remove the debris from the roof and the gutters.
    • Debris laying in the valley(s) can trap moisture and accelerate the deterioration of the shingles.
    • Debris in the gutters can prevent them from draining properly.
  • Storm windows.
    • If you have storm windows, now is the time to install them.
  • Check the weather stripping on doors and windows.
    • Repair or replace damaged weather stripping.
    • Check and repair / replace caulking around windows and doors.

AND, if you are leaving your home for an extended period of time, have a professional “winterize” your home so that nothing will freeze during your absence. For anyone wanting to do their own winterizing, I have a checklist that is available which will lead you step by step through the process of “winterizing” and “de-winterizing”. The checklist will probably contain several items the average person would not be aware of.

Bud Monk – A-1 Quality Home Inspections – 303.981.6699 – email:


A Reader Asks How to Handle Inspection Objections

Inspection is the first and biggest hurdle in any contract to buy and sell a home. It’s an area in which experience by your agent really counts!

Usually the buyer will only ask for serious issues to be addressed by the seller. The seller rarely agrees to all the demands, nor is that expected. A common practice is to fix the easy items but give the buyer a price reduction or credit toward closing costs in lieu of making the big dollar repairs. When the buyer wants older appliances that are still working replaced, one solution is for the seller to purchase a home warranty covering those and other appliances.

Good luck with your inspections!

Here Are Some Things You Should Expect to Learn From a Professional Home Inspection

A home inspection is the best investment that any home buyer can make, providing you base your decision on the qualifications of the inspector and not by cost alone. In Colorado, home inspectors are not licensed, so look for one like Jim Camp of Metropolitan Home Inspections, who is ASHI-certified. Not only might you find a problem that you could get the seller to fix, but you’ll also learn things you need to know about as the future owner of that home.

The inspector will also show you where the utility shut-offs are located and how to operate them, which can be important during an emergency.

The cost of an inspection varies from one inspector to the next and depends on the size of the home or possibly the purchase price.  Expect to spend between $300 and $500 for the basic or standard inspection. Add-on services which I recommend include a test for radon gas ($100 to $150) and a sewer scope (also $100 to $150).

If a high level of radon gas (over 4.0 picocuries per liter) is detected, the buyer should demand that it be mitigated, which costs a minimum of $900 and as much as $2,000 if there is both a basement and a crawl space.

A sewer scope involves sending a camera through the piping from the house to where it enters the sewer line under your street.  Sewer lines in older homes were built with clay pipes which are prone to root intrusion and collapse.  If root intrusion is discovered, the seller will usually agree to have the sewer line cleaned and rescoped, and if there is a collapse or other break, the repair could cost several thousand dollars, so both tests are money well spent.

The general inspection should be scheduled as soon as possible to allow time for additional inspections as indicated. For example, the inspector may discover evidence of mold or mildew, termite infestation or structural issues, and you’ll need time to arrange those inspections. 

In older (pre-1985) homes, it’s common to encounter a Federal Pacific Electric or Zinsco panel, which can cost $1,500 or more to replace. The inspector should recommend further evaluation and certification by a licensed electrician and recommend its replacement since FPE and Zinsco lost their UL endorsement due to breaker failures resulting in electrical fires. An inspector will test electrical outlets for correct polarity and will also check for ground-fault protection on outlets located within six feet of any water source, such as kitchens, bathrooms, unfinished basements, outdoors or in the garage, etc.

He (or she) will walk the roof if possible (even though it’s not required) to look for hail damage as well as proper sealing around chimneys, etc.

In this article, I have touched on only some of the many tests and inspections which make the money a buyer spends on professional inspection the best money he or she will spend.

Inspection: The Most Important Step in Homebuying

A key element of every contract to buy a home is the inspection contingency, giving the buyer the opportunity to inspect the home for hidden or not-so-hidden defects.

The process begins with a general inspector, who looks at every component of the house. Expect to pay $300 or so, depending on house size. This inspector will typically…

> Run all the appliances—washer, dryer, disposal, dishwasher, cooktop burners, ovens, hood fan, etc.

> Fill, then drain, all sinks and tubs and run all showers, searching for leaks.

> Test the garage door opener, including checking to see if it has working sensors which reverse the closing door if something is detected or if it will reverse upon hitting an obstruction.

> Check the garage for holes in the fire break (drywall) and if the door between the garage and home is fire rated and has a working door closer.

> Use a moisture meter to detect moisture within or behind the drywall.

> Operate all electrical switches to see if they are working.

> Check a sampling of (or all) electrical outlets for correct polarity, and all outlets within 5 feet of water sources (and in the garage or outdoors) for ground-fault protection.

> Open the breaker box, checking for proper wiring and no double-tapping of individual breakers. Note whether the breaker box in Federal Pacific or Zinsco, which lost their UL approval due to fire risk.

> Determine whether to recommend a secondary inspection for asbestos (such as for popcorn ceiling), mold (if moisture has been detected), sewer scoping (if the home might have clay sewer pipes), or a more thorough electrical or plumbing inspection based on observations made by the inspector.

> Look for foundation problems.

> Check all windows and doors for operability and for missing or damaged screens.

That’s just the beginning! Your agent can recommended a trusted inspector.

Regulation of Inspectors Nixed by Sunrise Review

Home inspectors are the last remaining professional in the real estate transaction process who is not regulated by the State of Colorado. I have long recommended that they be regulated.

Typically, home inspectors are given the lockbox code to enter a home, since the buyer’s real estate agent may not be there to provide access. That alone should justify the regulation, including criminal background check, of inspectors by the Division of Real Estate. 

However, Colorado will remain one of the few states that doesn’t register or regulate home inspectors, based on a “sunrise review” by the Colorado Office of Policy, Research & Regulatory Reform.

Video Is Finding Its Way Into Buyer Inspection Reports to Illustrate Issues

Video has been a great listing tool at Golden Real Estate for a decade, but it is finding its way into other aspects of real estate, too. For example, we will often shoot a rough-cut video tour of a listing for an out-of-town buyer who has asked us to preview a property for them.

At a closing last Wednesday, the wife of the out-of-state buyer told me that she saw the listing for the first time in person during the final walk-through. The husband had seen it in person, but she said our narrated video tour was enough for her to agree with her husband to submit an offer..

So, yes, narrated videos like ours are a great listing and selling tool.

But last week, a home inspector came to our office seeking our patronage and said he includes videos in his inspection reports.  What a great idea!

I had been so used to getting printed inspection reports (PDFs) that it hadn’t occurred to me that reports could include video.  But an increasingly common delivery method for inspection reports is to have the report “in the cloud” and provide a link to it.  That approach opens up the possibility of having video clips and not just still photos.  I will recommend that inspector to a future buyer, but you can be sure that I also got on the phone and shared that idea with the inspectors I’ve been referring heretofore, some of them for over a decade.

I’ve received inspection reports that were in the cloud before, but none of them contained links to video clips, which could really help to illustrate some of the defects which inspectors uncover.

I hope this idea takes off and becomes a standard in the inspection industry.  Now that every cell phone and every digital camera has video capability, it would require no additional hardware for an inspector to shoot video instead of still photos when a video would do a better job of illustrating the issue or defect being described.

One of the advantages of videos is that they include sound. It’s a great way, for example, to illustrate an overly noisy fan motor or garage door opener or the sound as well as the motion of water under a plastic vapor barrier.

With narration by the inspector, a video can also provide more context to a problem, such as its location.