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I object! Often the process of buying or selling a home is so emotional, so stressful, that our every fear is stirred up. That’s why when buying or selling a home, the home inspection is critical. Your home inspection can put you at ease, whether you are purchasing a home you want to feel good about or selling a home you want to feel is safe for the new owner. The home inspection and the resulting INSPECTION OBJECTION and RESOLUTION can be fine points of the negotiation. Of course, the sellers don’t want to reduce their proceeds and the buyers don’t want to take on the extra expense of repairs. So, where’s the middle ground?
hot-wires-carboard
Let’s start with a few basic questions and let the answers guide us to our home inspection answers.
To the Sellers:
1. How motivated are you to sell your home at this time, with these buyers, under the terms of the contract?
2. What is your goal in selling your house? And what effect does this sale have on your life right now? On your future?
3. If I could tell you that the goal you want in question #2 would cost you X amount of dollars, would that seem like a fair price?
4. Is the cost of the repair(s) more or less than the cost of another month, maybe two, of your mortgage payment?
To the Buyers:
1. How would you feel if you let this house go?
2. Are the repairs immediate or can they be reasonably deferred?
3. How many things are you asking the Sellers to repair or credit for? I mean, it’s one thing to ask them to replace the faulty old Zinsco electrical panel or install radon mitigation, quite another to ask for a cracked plastic outlet cover to be changed.
4. Do you feel you are safe in the house without the repairs?

It’s that last question that is the most important. Are the requested repairs, replacements or credit for such, necessary to provide or protect the health and safety of the home buyer? This is where I draw the line. If the home inspection reveals something that would cause any reasonable buyer to feel unsafe they might need to walk away from the transaction. Even if you, Mr. and Mrs. Seller have lived with it for 20 years and nothing has happened, you might as well buck up and agree to make the repairs. You’ll have to disclose the issue to the next buyer if you lose this contract now that you know about it, so the problem isn’t going away.
If the buyers have reasonable expectations of the home’s condition based on its age and understand the responsibilities of home ownership, then health & safety should be your guide. That “honey-do list” the Inspector gave you? That would be yours, not the sellers, but those hot wires or the recalled electrical panel? Definitely calls for the experts. When both parties move away from all emotional or economic considerations and apply fair and equitable logic, the questions answer themselves. Logic, who knew?
Now… back to my clients and that electrical panel.


I live in Denver. The houses here can be pretty old. Beautiful Victorians, Denver Squares and Craftsman Bungalows line the graceful streets with their Dutch Elm trees and cracked sidewalks. As a real estate agent who specializes in the downtown Denver neighborhoods, I know these homes, some of them rather intimately. When my buyers are swept off their feet by a charming Congress Park home, the first thing I tell them before we write the offer is “Don’t get too excited until after the inspection.”
Regardless of the snappy remodel and those shiny granite counters, over 40% of previously owned homes on the market have at least one major defect. Even the ‘gently used’ newer homes, like the Mid-Century Modern homes in my Dream House Acres neighborhood most likely needs some repair or improvement, that’s to be expected. The trick is to find out what problems may be lurking up ahead and avoid them or know the price of the remedy. My suggestion for both buyers and sellers is to get an inspection.
There are many things you can do to gather information on your new home, depending on how deep you want to go and how much you want to spend. A home inspection and sewer scope are essential, though you can add radon and mold testing, meth lab testing, surveys, air & soil samples, you name it. No matter how far you go, there are sure to be some surprises, the trick is to uncover them first. Sellers can benefit from a pre-listing inspection in two ways. 1. Prepare yourself for issues that may concern your buyer and address them before going on the market. 2. For a quick sale, offer your buyer your inspection report along with the neighborhood comps and a price that reflects any pressing repairs. That way you can show the value and be firm on your price.
The most serious things to be on the lookout for are:
• Horizontal foundation cracks. Diagonal stress around window sills and thresholds is pretty normal in an old house, but the horizontal cracks require more information and perhaps the advice of a structural engineer.
• Major house settlement. Everything settles, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re at sea when you’re walking down the hallway. I see homes in Park Hill and the Highlands, as well as other Denver neighborhoods, with hardwood floors that slant or slope. Some of these houses are 100 years old, most of the settling has already occurred. If it feels wonky, have a good talk with your home inspector or ask for one who is a structural expert.
• Broken or cracked sewer line or tap. Always have the sewer line checked before you buy. Always. Even if you have to scope, pay for the roots to be cleaned out and re-scope, it’s worth it. You want to know the integrity of the line, its connections and what that line is made of. Sewer line issues are not always deal breakers, often times the seller (even the banks) will give you a credit for repairs. What you don’t want is for that puppy to break just as you put that last piece of Grandma’s china in the hutch.
• Defective roof or flashings. Putting on a new roof can be expensive and like a sewer line, it’s not too sexy. Cost varies as well, depending on the type of roof currently on the house and whether it can be repaired. If the roof is middle-aged with little or no damage, have your agent (that’d be me of course 😉 ask the seller for a five year certification.
• Cracked heater exchange or failing air-conditioning compressor. Here again, I always ask that the heating and air systems be cleaned and certified by a licensed HVAC technician.
1. Chimney settling or separation. You will want to know if your beautiful wood-burning fireplace is in good working condition or if it can be converted to gas. An inspection of the chimney is your first step, though I would strongly advise you have a chimney expert out to take a look before you light a fire.
• Moisture in the basement. Once again, not always a deal breaker but you want to know the cause and if it’s been fixed. Moisture is the leading cause of foundation problems and mold so follow the water.
• Mixed plumbing. Many times upgrades have been done over time in these old houses, mixing copper pipe with the original galvanized plumbing. Get an idea of what you’ve got and how much it would cost to convert all to copper either now or in the future.
• Aluminum wiring and an undersized electrical system. We use a lot more electricity now than in 1920 when the house was built. Look to see if the wiring is aluminum and how big the electrical panel is. Being under-energized can cause breakers to blow, lights to flicker and present a possible fire hazard. Now, I’ve sold plenty of homes with older wiring and less than state-of-the-art sub-panels but if you have any doubt, call an electrician.
• Infestation. Though termites and carpenter ants are not as common in Colorado as they are in other markets, they do exist here. During the winter, critters like squirrels, pigeons and raccoons can nest under decks and porches or in eaves and attics. Be on the alert for any potential access points so you’re not harboring refugees come springtime.
• Environmental hazards including underground plumes, radon, asbestos, and lead-based paint. Unless they’ve been abated, nearly all of these old houses have some lead based paint somewhere under those layers; radon and asbestos are also common. If the radon levels are in the acceptable range and the asbestos is contained, you may not ever have an issue and both can be mitigated. Many cities have underground plumes or areas where water has been shown to have a higher risk of contamination. You can find out by searching Google as most of this is in public record. . It is always a good idea to hire an environmental expert to assess any health risks or concerns you may have about the home.
Have I scared you right out of the contract? Not to worry. The big message here is to make sure you hire the experts. A certified home inspector will provide clearer and better information than your Uncle Louie, even though he knows his way around a house. Have your agent schedule your inspections as soon as you go under contract and make sure to be there along with your Realtor. You’ll want to ask a ton of questions and make sure you get a complete package of the inspection report.
Knowledge is your best protection against buying a home based more on emotions, rather than as a sound investment. Knowing what is up ahead brings peace of mind.

…with all due respect to the Staples Singers
You’ve found the perfect house! Redone tip-to-toe! That kitchen with the gleaming stainless and the leathered granite is perfect, the master suite, divine, and the water feature will provide a soothing soundtrack for starlit summer nights on the back patio. It’s your dream house… until you see the Inspection Report.
Part “honey-do” list, part diagnosis, a home inspection is the best way to make sure your dream house isn’t a nightmare with a fresh coat of paint. No one wants to shell out $300-$600 to have someone crawl up in the attic and scope your sewer line, but believe me it may be the best money you spend in your home-buying (or selling) process. Last week, I thought for sure we’d fall out of contract once I delivered the Inspection Objection—it was the BIG LIST, and it had to be done by the seller if my buyer was going to go through with the purchase.

1. New roof
2. Sewer line offset repaired
3. Radon mitigation system installed
4. Electrical work on aluminum wiring
5. We overlooked the aging water heater.
So… now you know. What’s next? She had beaten the competing offers so she was paying a fair price, market value, certainly no bargain. With little room for $15-20k worth of repairs, especially on items which are considered “health and safety” issues, which can hold up the loan if left unattended, the buyer has some decisions to make. And I have some questions to ask, the one that tops the list…
Whose problem is it?
Thinking we might be at risk of losing the house, I sat with my client over coffee and asked her how she felt about all of this.
1. Do you love this house enough to stay in the deal?
2. Are you willing to do the work yourself?
3. What on this list is most important to you?
We worked our way through her options, she made her decisions, and I sent over the “final four” on our list of objections to the listing agent. “Do you think they’ll go for it?” my buyer asked, uncertain. “We know what you want, all we can do is ask“ (And I love the ask).
If a seller is motivated, your requests are not unreasonable, and the agents are good at what they do, chances are you can find a solution that suits all. In our case, that’s just what happened, but it ain’t always the case. So… how do you avoid the less harmonious outcome to this situation?
Sellers usually have a pretty good idea about what is wrong with their homes. The problem is they are used to living with that squeak in the floor, the drip in the downstairs bathroom and that little flicker in the dining room light fixture when the kids are on the computer. Many times, they’ll spend time and money preparing to put their house on the market, only to find a slew of hidden problems upon the Buyer’s inspection and a bucket of resentment along with them. It might be a good idea to have a home inspection BEFORE you list your property; that way, you’re able to make pre-market repairs or price accordingly if you choose not to. Buyers write offers based upon their emotional response to a home, but they walk away from contracts based upon practical matters. Chances are, they’ll feel better about a coat of paint or buying a new refrigerator than installing a radon system or a sewer repair. For Sellers, it’s “Be Prepared” and for Buyers “Beware”. In either case you will forget about the $300 check soon enough, but there will be that night at 2 a.m. when you’ll remember the mold report and wonder if it’s growing in your drywall… and if your buyer’s going to find it.