In our previous article we examined what home inspections mean for a buyer and a seller. In this article we’ll examine the type of inspections to get and what is tested.
In the Tri-State area most buyers ask for a HOME inspection, a RADON inspection, and a PEST (termite) inspection. If the property is not on a public water system a water quality test is also usually required by the buyer. In Iowa if the property in question is on a septic then a septic inspection is mandatory and not optional. All inspections must be done by a qualified, independent inspector – so the buyer can’t have their brother-in-law who built an outhouse years ago do the inspection.
THE HOME INSPECTION- This type of inspection usually covers the construction of the property from the footings up. If the inspector notices what they think might be mold or termites, and they do not have expertise in those areas, they will recommend further inspection of those conditions by another inspector qualified in those areas. Home inspections usually cover almost any condition of the property.
RADON- These inspections must be conducted by a state qualified inspector. The home inspector may also be qualified as a radon inspector and thus would be able to complete both inspections. The magic number for the radon test (as set by the EPA) is 4 pcl or 4 pico curies per liter. If the test results are 3.9999999 the EPA says it is not necessary to mitigate. I know what you are thinking!!!-but that’s how it is. So, if the reading is 4 pci and you as a buyer want to request the seller mitigate the radon you will have to list it as a requirement on your response to inspection. By the way, radon is typically mitigated by a process called “sub slab suction”. The technician bores holes in the basement floor, installs pvc pipes and buts a suction fan in the pipes and sucks the radon laden air from under the foundation and deposits it to the outside air. A typical radon mitigation system will cost $1,000.00 to $1,200.00. However, that’s a typical mitigation –it can cost more depending on the circumstances.
PEST (TERMITE) – There is different types of pests but typically a pest inspection test is for termites. You may want to make that clear on your request for a pest inspection. There are lots of areas locally where you might find termites. This is one inspection I insist my buyers always have. In many cases where a property has been infected with termites the condition can be treated and damage is minimal and can be repaired. I have seen a very few cases where damage was beyond repair.
WATER TEST- For properties on a well it is advisable for the buyer to have a water quality test. The chemist that does the test is looking for the presence of bacteria and nitrates. E-coli, which is a form of bacteria, is the bad one. The typical fix for this problem is to have the well shocked or to have a treatment device attached to the well (be aware that shocking a well will usually produce safe water but can be only a temporary fix). It is recommended that children and pregnant women not drink water with high nitrate readings. Although I have seen wells drilled deeper to fix a nitrate problem (very expensive) the simple fix is to install a reverse osmosis system at the water source that will be used by small kids and pregnant women – like under the kitchen sink – and have them take their drinking water from that source.
SEPTIC- As I stated earlier state law (in Iowa) requires a time of sale septic inspection. I’m not going into the specifics of this requirement just be aware that it is required.
LEAD PAINT- I have never had a buyer ask for a lead paint inspection although I’m sure some have. There are special federal disclosure requirements for lead paint – certain pre 1978 property owners are required to make a lead disclosure. Sellers, be aware of that as the fines are very substantial. Ask your agent about this!!
Mold- Usually a home inspector will point out the possibility of potential mold. Mitigation of mold can possibly be very expensive depending on the extent of the infestation. Often times home inspectors will see a little black in the corner of a basement and declare that the property is infected with mold when in many cases it’s not a problem. Mold tests can be expensive. Be aware that there are thousands of different types of mold that we live with in our everyday environment. There are only a few types that can be detrimental to our health.
In a typical inspection addendum to a purchase contract the seller is given what we refer to as the “right to cure” which means if an inspector points out a defect on an inspection report the buyer must give the seller the opportunity to correct the defect – thus if the seller cures the defect(s) the buyer must complete the transaction. However, on the inspection addendum we use there is a clause that states if any inspection identifies certain defects (say the presence of termites) the seller does not have the right to cure those defects and the buyer has the right to void the contract. In order to enforce this though the buyer must list every type of defect that they want to have protection on.
So there you have it – INSPECTIONS in a nut shell. I want to reiterate that if your agent does not give you a complete run down on this subject you need to ask them to do that. If they can’t give you the information you think you need you may want to find a new agent.
There are a number of different types of inspections that a typical buyer may ask for when they make an offer to purchase a particular home-some more than others.