In this week's LRA blog, I wanted to share a fact that is not widely known about the home buying process in Colorado. The little known truth is that home inspectors are not licensed to operate in our state.  Unlike real estate agents, bankers and appraisers, who all have strict regulations to follow, there is no regulatory body that oversees Colorado home inspectors. There is no knowledge-based testing or continuing education required and inspectors are not mandated to hold liability insurance. That is why experience and reputation matter when it comes to home inspections. First, I'll back up a bit in the process and answer the question, "When and why would you need a home inspection?".

A home inspection is typically part of the home buying process. Once a buyer presents an offer to a seller, and after the seller discloses any known or latent defects with their listed property, the next step in the sales process is usually ordering a home inspection.  The buyer will usually select, schedule and pay for the home inspection and in return the buyer will receive an inspection report summarizing the property's condition.  Depending on where you live and the demand for your chosen inspector most inspections will cost about $400 to $600 for an average single family home.

A thorough home inspection should include hands-on testing and evaluation of the outside and inside of the property including the roof, windows, plumbing, electrical, heating, ventilation and insulation. According to Angie's List, the list below reflects the key areas you can expect to be in your inspection report.

  • Structural components including foundation and framing of the home

  • Exterior features including siding, soffit, porches, balconies and driveways.

  • Roof system including shingles, flashing and skylights.

  • Electrical system including service panels, breakers and fuses.

  • Heating system including equipment and venting.

  • Cooling system including energy sources and distribution equipment.

  • Interior features including walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, stairs and railings.

  • Insulation and ventilation including those in the attic and other unfinished spaces.

  • Fireplaces including chimneys and vents.

In a nutshell, a good inspector's report should be able to give buyers a good sense of the integrity or the "bones" of the home. This information provides buyers in depth details about the "health" of the appliances, structures and fixtures of the home. The report should attempt to answer how long these components will hold up during the buyers' upcoming home ownership. 

However, keep in mind that a home inspection report is not a guarantee that every nook and cranny of the home has been studied.  For example, at LRA, we always recommend that our buyers pay a little extra to hire a plumber to snake the pipes of a home with a camera so that we can detect any latent issues under the house, which may not be caught in a typical home inspection. Additionally, since we are in Colorado, we highly recommend radon testing, which is a real concern in Colorado and some other states.

Be aware that there are many things that a home inspector won't necessarily cover. Since home inspection is an unregulated industry in Colorado, the final reports among inspectors in the same market may be quite varied.  The website How Stuff Works cites several areas of a home that an inspector may not dive into. "If there's something (or nothing) in your walls, don't expect a home inspector to start knocking holes in the drywall to take a look. Yeah, he'll check the electrical outlets, but if the insulation on your northern-facing family room wall is non-existent...invest in some heavy duty socks...come next winter, because your house will be cold."

As a final word on this topic, unless you want to hire a specialist, such as an engineer (which could run you thousands of dollars), you have to make a judgement about continuing the purchasing process based on your inspector's report. And that said, you may now see why experience is so important.

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