What to Expect with Home Inspections
Home Inspections can uncover information about a home or condo that are unexpected. They are an important part of the home purchasing process and most Realtors highly recommend that several inspections be done. Inspections tell the story of the house that might not be first recognizable. There are however, things that can be missed on a home inspection as they are just visual inspections of the home. There are several types of inspections that are encouraged and this article will outline each giving you a general idea of what to expect with these.
The first and most common type is the general home inspection. These run anywhere from $350-$600 (depending on the size of the home) and take from 2.5 – 4 hours. The home inspector will inspect all major systems in the home. Including but not limited to: the HVAC systems, water pressure, appliances included in the sale, electrical panel and outlets, window and door function, crawlspace/ foundation visual inspection, attic and roof inspection and more. These are visual inspections and without tearing into walls there are things that can be missed. For the most part home inspectors are very thorough and want the buyer and buyer’s agent to be completely informed prior to the closing of the sale. There is an inspection contingency that is written into the sales agreement that generally allows 10 business days for all inspections to be completed and repairs negotiated. Sellers can expect buyers to ask for some things during the inspection period and should be prepared for this. We have seen buyers ask for a punch list of items with new construction, large items like roofs on older homes and some nothing. It all just depends on price, condition and purchasing motivation.
Another type of inspection is the sewer scope. The sewer scope is performed by sliding a small camera into the sewer line to inspect the line up to the street or city main. Sewer repairs that are needed on the property are the owner’s responsibility and can be very costly. Sewer repairs past the property line and in the street are usually the city’s responsibility and are paid for and done by the city rather than the home owner. It is good to know that your sewer line is in good functioning order. If it needs repairs it is typical that the buyer asks the seller to complete the repairs prior to closing or at least pay for half of the repair. On average the repairs we have seen run around $4000-$5000, but I have seen a line that required a $20,000 fix. Sewer scopes tend to run $125 and are worth every penny. Not all lines are perfect and some imperfections do not require repairs, but a separated line or smashed line would for sure need some work. There are parts of town like parts of Lake Oswego and West Linn where there are very old lines that were made of a paper mache like material called Orangeburg. As you can imagine this material does not hold up well over time, and all of those lines need replacement.
Testing for Radon has become very popular in the last 5 years. Radon is a gas emitted from the ground that in high amounts can be harmful to people and animals. Most older homes with basements have radon, it is just a question of how much. A radon inspection can be done, the inspector will leave a machine overnight in the home to measure the radon levels. If they are on the high end most buyers will ask the sellers to install a radon mitigation system. These run on average $1500-$3000 depending on the home. A radon test runs $165 and can be done during the inspection period.
The last inspection that we will cover in this article is the oil tank locate and soil samples around the tank. It is a good idea to decommission a tank that is no longer in service and ensure that the soil has not been contaminated. In order to decommission the tank through the DEQ it is necessary to perform the soil test and properly fill the tank and clean the soil if required. Oil tank locates run $85.00 and soil samples start at $195.00. There are several companies that do these inspections and tests in the Portland Metro area. They will come out and locate the tank, next -if the tank is not already decommissioned- they will take small soil samples around the tank. Some digging is required, but there is not much of a disturbance with this. Depending on the results of the soil samples a cleanup could be required. Cleanups can be easy and simple or very complicated and costly. What the lab is looking for is oil that has leaked into the soil and potentially seeped into the ground water. This is an environmental hazard and should be taken care of prior to closing. Some loans require that this be done and some not. A standard tank decommission starts at around $1200.
Overall inspections are a good idea when purchasing a home. It is very rare that a buyer does not perform any inspections on the home they are purchasing. At times inspections can make or break a deal, but in the end it is worth it to spend $500-$1000 on inspections to insure that you are purchasing a home in good condition or at least know what needs to be fixed. Your Realtor will be able to help navigate you through the inspection process and make recommendations about inspectors and such. After the inspections are done, usually you have 10 business days to do these, you are able to negotiate price and terms based on the findings of the inspections. Most commonly we see buyers ask sellers to decommission oil tanks, fix faulty sewer lines and fix other major structural or system issues. Another way to negotiate repairs is to ask the seller for a credit and complete the work after you close and own the home. For some things I believe that is preferable as you can choose your contractors and work through the process making sure you are happy. Otherwise, the sellers will fix the issues on their dime and with their people. In the end inspections are always worth it! Even if they come up with nothing, it allows you to sleep well at night knowing your new home will be comfortable and functional for years to come.
Written by Amanda Folkestad and Brian Porter