Most Buyers’ worst nightmare is to purchase a home only to discover latent defects that cost so much to repair that they lose their investment. Colorado real estate transactions place a substantial burden on Buyers to perform their own due diligence to investigate the condition of the home. This means that it is incumbent upon Buyers to hire inspection professionals with the knowledge and experience to identify the major problems during the inspection process. In order to protect their future investment, here are some basic tips that every Buyer and Seller should know.
The Seller’s property disclosure is the best source of information for a Buyer to understand the performance of a home. First, determine whether the Seller is the first person who has ever lived in the home. If the Seller purchased the home from someone else, ask the Seller whether they have a copy of the the property disclosure provided to them before they purchased the property. This can provide substantially more information regarding the history of a home. Next, Sections A and B of Colorado’s standard property disclosure specifically request the Seller to identify both past and present conditions related to the structural integrity and the roof of the home. Many Buyers mistakenly overlook the fact that the disclosure encompasses previous problems that were identified and repaired by the Seller. Buyers should have a right to learn what problems were encountered and to investigate the adequacy of the repair. Buyers and their agents should ask the Seller whether they included past issues on the disclosure that were repaired and if so, inquire how the Seller resolved the problem. Finally, Buyers and their agents should provide their inspector with a copy of the Seller’s disclosure before the inspection.
Buyers and their agents should do research to ensure that they hire the right inspection professionals for the home in question. Most quality home inspectors will be direct about exactly what services they can offer and more importantly, what areas are outside of their expertise. Especially when inspecting older homes, Buyers should inquire whether their general home inspector has the knowledge to perform all areas of the inspection including the exterior facade, windows, roofs, foundation, sewer and utilities and mechanical equipment. For example, homes with stucco or EIFS typically require inspectors with particular knowledge of these systems and the equipment to evaluate whether they are adequately performing. Another example would be a home with a complex foundation system or a home that had major structural repairs which would require evaluation by a structural engineer.
Many Buyers fall in love with a home and ignore obvious warning signs of problems. Buyers can protect their investment by asking important questions about the history of the home. Most Buyers would not spend money on a used car without carefully reviewing the vehicle maintenance history and accident records. Buying a home is no different. Buyers should ask the Seller about the maintenance, repair and replacement history on the home. For example, has the roof been inspected, repaired or replaced? When was the mechanical equipment last serviced or replaced? Are there any existing warranties on the home that might transfer to the Buyer? When was the last time the house was painted or windows sealed? Has the Seller ever made any insurance claims? Keep in mind that the most homeowners that take pride in their property should readily be able to answer these questions. A Seller’s inability to provide this information should be a red flag.