Your Home: Preventing the ‘usual suspects’ during a home inspection

Here’s a question we get a lot: What “usual suspects” that come up during inspections can a seller possibly prevent?

Well, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is certainly the case when it comes to home inspections.

As a seller, when you perform preventative or deferred maintenance on your home, you control the service provider and you decide when the repair is going to hit your pocketbook. If you wait until your home is under contract, then a buyer is involved. They may want to use their own trusted service providers. And that trusted service provider could be twice the cost of yours. Not to mention that during a real estate transaction, there is just a little bit of emotion involved. (Can you sense the sarcasm?)

So let’s talk about the usual suspects that a seller can prevent.

First let’s talk about grading. It seems like such a little thing, but BOY does it make a huge impact on a home. Grading is the slope of the soil away from the foundation of your home. Most drainage professionals recommend a one inch drop per foot for six to ten feet away from your home. By maintaining a proper grade away from your home, a homeowner can prevent foundation cracks, water seepage and leaks, and the cost of foundation repairs. In our experience, approximately 75 percent of all water infiltration in a basement is caused by improper grading and gutter neglect.

Radon is also often a surprise for a seller. What is radon? The EPA explains that radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. It is also the second leading cause of lung cancer according to the EPA. There are radon hot spots all over the USA and we just so happen to live in one here in KC. Of the homes that we have sold, probably 40 percent of them have had elevated levels of radon. Visit the EPA’s radon website for more information. A radon mitigation system can cost anywhere from $750-$1,500 depending on the layout of the home.

Know this: 90 percent of the buyers out there will expect that a seller install a mitigation system if the radon level is elevated. Due to the long-term health risk, it is pretty much non-negotiable.

Now let’s talk about chimneys. If you are dealing with an older home, there are two types of chimneys. Those that have been lined with a stainless steel liner and those that need to be. Whether you are burning wood or just gas logs, the clay tile chimney flues are not a good design and should be addressed for safety reasons. So if you are looking to market your home with a fireplace, make sure that you have had a level two inspection (video inspection from roof top to firebox) completed and have addressed all suggested repairs.

Finally, let’s talk about sewer line repairs. As the homes in our area continue to age, sewer line/waste line repairs are becoming more prevalent. Most of the older homes were built with a clay pipe sewer line. These clay pipe lines are subject to tree root intrusion, shifting and developing low spots, and breaking. A sewer line replacement can cost upwards of $7,000. And that is if you don’t have to repair the street or your driveway if yours happens to run underneath either one (or both). We highly encourage our buyer clients to have a sewer scan. A contractor will run a special camera down the waste line all the way out to the main line. Our preferred sewer scan specialist, John Richmond with Hydro Physics, who even provides a DVD of the scan for posterity.

Most plumbers recommend that you have your sewer line cleaned every other year. If you have a ton of mature trees in your yard, you may consider doing it more frequently.

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