In yesterday’s story, we explained that a home inspection is like a doctor’s physical examination for a house. Luckily, our home inspection confirmed Josh’s initial assessment that the house was in really good shape for its age. Today’s story is about our positive experience with our home inspector, Dan Schenkel, and some of the findings in his report.
Good home inspectors will explain the condition of the systems and structures inside and outside the house. They crawl and climb all over the property, documenting everything on their clipboard and camera. Our realtor, Laura Gray, recommended Dan because he’s done a thorough job for some of her other clients, but, due to coronavirus-related real estate rules in Colorado, she wasn’t allowed to join us for the appointment. We were happy that Colorado homebuyers can still attend the complete inspection (with masks & other precautions) because we were looking forward to exploring deeper. Dan and Josh talked about many technical aspects of the house, but Dan also explained what he noticed in simple terms that made sense to someone like me who isn’t a buildings expert. We emailed Dan’s report with pictures to Laura and reviewed it together over the phone for her guidance on how to handle any concerns.
We know that roof and foundation issues can be costly, but we didn’t have access to check them during our initial viewing of the house. We were thrilled when Dan said there was no sign of the foundation shifting or water penetration and the roof was in good shape. Also, all of the major appliances that were included in the sale—furnace, hot water heater, air conditioner, refrigerator, washing machine, and dryer—worked properly and didn’t need to be replaced. More good news!
Dan did identify several preventative maintenance and safety issues that we are going to address. Two are outside projects. First, we saw the cracks on the driveway, but he pointed out that the soil under it is eroding, which could cause more cracks and splits. We are going to replace a section of the driveway leading to the carport and add a retaining wall to prevent more damage. Second, there are sections of the backyard that don’t slope away from the house, causing a drainage issue. Fortunately, there aren’t leaks into the house, but there is minor damage along the bottom of the siding from surface water accumulating close to the structure. We are going to correct the grade in those areas, so the water is directed away from the house when the new egress window and patio pad are installed. We’ll also replace the damaged siding.
There were also many building code and safety violations that he found in the basement. We wanted to buy a house where we could finish the basement, so we already included the costs for new framing, drywall, egress windows, electrical, and plumbing in our budget. We’re sharing these findings because they are common issues in unfinished basements.
- We knew that the basement bedroom was not a legal bedroom because it didn’t have an egress window for a safe escape during an emergency. We are adding 2 egress windows to the basement to create 2 legal bedrooms.
- During the inspection, we also discovered that the basement bathroom didn’t have the required window or exhaust fan for ventilation. We have both in our plans for the new combination bathroom/laundry room.
- Josh and Dan both observed that the basement walls are set directly on the floor, which means they will move and cause damage on the main level if the basement slab cracks. Building codes in Colorado require the basement walls to be floated because we have expansive soils that can make the floor slab heave with moisture changes below the house. We will remove all these walls and Josh will build new ones that follow the building code.
- Dan pointed out a safety concern with the Heating Ventilation and Air Condition (HVAC) system. There is an opening for return air to the furnace that’s too close to the water heater, which can depressurize the area causing spillage of post-combustion gasses. We’re hiring an HVAC specialist, Carlos Bustamante, to install new heat ducts that properly circulate air in our new floor plan.
- We also use licensed electrician, Anthony Cordova, on any project that requires electrical work to ensure that it’s done correctly, safely, and to the electrical code. We could see a few, scary examples of DIY electrical work, like spliced wires that should have been in a junction box, so we expect to discover more when we tear down the basement walls. Anthony will disconnect the power in those areas so we can safely remove the walls. When the new walls are framed, he’ll install upgraded, new power lines throughout the house.
THINGS WE LEARNED
For those who are new to home buying (like we are), let me explain when the home inspection fits into our timeline for this specific property. We completed the purchase quickly (in less than 30 days during COVID-19, due in large part to our lender, Jessica Nicolella), but we couldn’t go to the house we were buying whenever we wanted before the sale was completed. The inspection and final walk through were the only other chances we had to be on the property before we closed on it.
- This house was our favorite of the 6 that Laura showed us in a tour de force of 15-minute viewings 1 Sunday.
- The sellers asked for “best and final offers” by 10 AM the next day. To make our offer competitive, we included a short, 1-week inspection period, but we didn’t waive our right to terminate the deal if there were major problems with the house.
- Laura called us at 4 PM on Monday to tell us that our offer was accepted. CELEBRATE!! We were under contract on our first home with the first offer we submitted!
- The first appointment we made was to hire a home inspector who could complete the review and report by Friday, so we had 1-2 days to address any issues.
- If the home inspector discovered any significant concerns, we had the option to negotiate with the seller about the necessary repairs or terminate our contract to buy the house by the following Sunday night’s inspection rejection deadline.