Friday, September 13, 2013

Tips for the First Time Homebuyer—Get a Home Inspection!

Yea!! You just found home the perfect place to call home—Your DREAM HOME!  As you sit with your REALTOR®  to write up your offer, she asks, “Do you want to do an inspection?” And suddenly, all reason and goes out the window because you answer, “Inspection? Do we really NEED an inspection? The house looks perfect!”

As a REALTOR® representing clients throughout the north and east Minneapolis and St Paul metro, I am surprised when someone opts to forgo an inspection. Buying a home is the single most important purchase most people will make in their lives. It is important to have a non-biased professional inspect the property for defects prior to the final papers being signed.

Homebuyers can have a number of questions about a home inspection. Frequently I hear, what does the inspector check in a home inspection? Who selects the inspector? Who pays buyer or seller? What is the cost of an inspection? What really needs to be inspected?

I believe every buyer, first time or not, should inspect a home they purchasing. But there are different types of few different types of inspections. A total home inspection does cover the house, but often additional experts are required to inspect the total property. And sometimes additional or special testing is required so that the buyer can have a better understanding of the home they are purchasing.

Total Home Inspection—$400-600 depending on the size of home and company selected for the inspection. The fee it is paid for by the buyer.  This is a great starting point for most home buyers and it may be the only inspection necessary for most single family homes.  The basic inspection will be a 2-3 hour top to bottom look at the house; usually including a review of the roof, foundation, mechanicals, structure and built in appliances to ascertain if they are in proper working order. Other testing could be recommended if the home inspector notices any particularly unusual situation that will need expert evaluation. Some inspection companies will charge additional fees for checking outbuildings and unusual features so verify what is covered under the basic service prior the scheduled appointment.

Septic Compliance Inspection—$400-500 for the inspection plus $300-$500 to pump the septic system before the test can be performed. This test is requested by the buyer but traditionally paid for by the seller. In Minnesota, if the septic system is found incompliant, the state will be notified and the homeowner will have one year to bring it up to code. In the case of a foreclosure or short sale, the property owner may insist that the buyer pay for all inspections including the septic system. The cost of purchasing a home with the septic system AS-IS can be risky as the cost of replacing a failing or non-conforming system is $15,000-$20,000.

Well Inspection—$150-$250 This is an inspection of the well by a licensed well installer to determine if the well is in good operating condition. The fee can be paid for by either the buyer or the seller.

Well Water Testing—$100-$200 depending on which elements the water is tested for. In most cases, this test is paid for by the seller. The water is collected by the independent testing service and some tests will take up to two weeks for results unless additional fees are paid for rush testing. Most often a test is for will require a water test for bacteria and nitrates. Some buyers will also request a test for lead.

Inspection for Radon—$150-250 usually paid for buy the buyer. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. It is found in many Minnesota homes entering through cracks in basement foundations and open tops of block walls. It is colorless and odorless so most homeowners are not aware of a problem unless the home has been tested. It is estimated by the Minnesota Department of Health Radon Information page, that 1/3 of Minnesota homes have radon levels that pose a substantial risk to homeowners.  As of January 1, 2014, sellers in Minnesota will have to disclose if there is a known radon risk in the home.

Inspection for Lead—$200-300 usually paid for buy the buyer. Home sellers are required to disclose whether there are any known risks of lead in all homes built prior to 1978. Lead was a common ingredient in paint prior before 1978. Many homeowners have not tested so they are not aware of lead risks in the home. It is important to assume that older painted surfaces used paint containing lead. If these surfaces have been painted the risk is limited. But home buyers do have an option to have additional testing completed on the home they purchase. The Minnesota Department of Health has additional recommendations for testing a home for lead on their website lead poisoning can cause permanent problems with health, learning and behavior in children and significant health problems with adults. 


Mold Inspections—$200-$1000 Mold testing is costly and according to the Minnesota Department of Health Mold Information Page, it does not need to be done for most homes unless there is an indication of a problem. Stucco homes built in the late 1990’s with poor air circulation have been known to have significant potential problems. Homeowners with stucco homes will often test the home prior to listing and have a report for the buyer to review. Buyers can also elect to retest the home if the previous report is not acceptable to the buyer.  If a foreclosure and short sale owner does not have the funds to do the expensive moisture testing, the buyer may have to pay for the test or accept the home AS IS. This is a risk as repairs for full mold abatement can run into the tens of thousands of dollars and the home would be unlivable during the process. 

Copyright 2013