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Once a home is under contract, buyers have the right to do any number of inspections depending on the condition of the home and the buyer’s desires.  All of this can and should be negotiated up front in the original contract.

 The types of inspections can include:

  • Buyer Home Inspection.  This is the inspection most buyers are familiar with as it is the general, overall inspection.  Typically a professional home inspector is hired to perform a visual inspection of the main systems of the home to ensure operability and verify condition.
  • Termite / Pest Inspection.  This is typically required by the lender for every purchase contract in the Des Moines market.  It’s a visual inspection of the main structure along with any outbuildings to verify no current or past evidence of termites or other wood destroying insects. 
  • Radon.  Radon is the breakdown of uranium in the soil and is relatively common in Iowa due to the composition of our soil.  The EPA recommends a radon level below 4.0.  Buyers have the right to test for high radon during the agreed upon inspection period and may ask for remediation if the results come back high.
  • Septic.  Since 2009, properties in Iowa that are served by a septic system (typically rural homes) are required to have the septic system inspected and certified within the last 2 years before it can be transferred.
  • Private Wells.  Iowa law does not require private well water quality to meet any drinking water standards but wells fall under a handful of different regulations.  Thus, some buyers may desire to have a well inspected as part of the inspection process.
  • Sewer Scope.  Older residential homes – especially in certain parts of the Metro – may want to have a sewer scope done to verify the condition of the sewer line that connects to the city’s sewer main.  A line in poor condition could potentially cost thousands of dollars to repair if it were to fail.


The most common and universal inspection done after a home is under contract is the Buyer’s Home Inspection.  So this section will provide additional detail and insight into that process.


The Buyer’s Home Inspection is a visual inspection of the various components and systems of a home to provide visibility for potential homeowner(s) about their new home.  The inspection will look at the major systems and components available to view or behind readily removable access panels.  

A few key points to understand about a home inspection include:

  1. The inspection will likely take 1 – 2 hours, depending on the size and condition of the home.  It takes time to do a thorough inspection, and a thorough inspection is good business for all parties involved.


  2. All homes (including new construction) have issues and buyers should anticipate the inspector finding things.  The purpose of the inspection is not to have the seller fix or address every issue identified.  Instead, the purpose is to determine if there are any major safety issues or major material deficiencies in the home which alter the financial dynamics of the transaction i.e., a roof that requires a $7,000 replacement changes the financial impact to the buyer.


  3. The primary emphasis is on safety and major issues.  A major material deficiency is defined in the Greater Des Moines market as an item that will cost (in the opinion of the inspector) more than $500 to repair or replace.  Cosmetic items should not be included.  The inspector does not check to see if the home is currently “up to code”; nor is the seller required to bring the property in compliance with current building codes.  The inspector will be looking for items that in his/her opinion constitute fire, health, or other safety issues.


  4. The inspector is not there to advise one way or the other regarding the purchase of the home.


  5. It is best for buyer(s) to be present for the inspection.  The best way to eliminate misunderstandings about the inspection process is for buyers to be available during the process.  I will also make every attempt to be at the inspection based on my schedule availability.


  6. Once completed, we will discuss the inspection results and determine if it’s necessary to make further requests of the seller.  It is perfectly legitimate to not require the seller do anything as long as there are no major issues or safety concerns.  If, however, major issues or safety items are found we will, and should, go back to them requesting those items be addressed to protect your interests.  If this occurs it essentially re-opens negotiations and can potentially be an obstacle to the purchase of the home.  We will discuss the best approach to this as the situation warrants.


Some common items a home inspection typically identify are:

  • Maintenance problems such as rotting decks, paint chips, water damaged ceilings, etc.
  • Electrical problems such as dated breaker boxes or ungrounded outlets
  • Drainage problems which could include water intrusions below the home
  • Roof leaks and /or defects from aging
  • Poor ventilation especially in an attic
  • Excess air leakage due to poor weather stripping and / or subpar caulking around fixtures
  • Failed window seals routinely found with dual pane windows
  • Environmental contamination caused by asbestos, mold, formaldehyde, lead paint, radon, soil contamination and/or water contamination
  • Faulty lines in water heaters, overflow piping, and/or hazardous flue conditions.

Helpful Tip

Every home has issues identified during the inspection and we should anticipate this since no home is perfect (even new construction).  It is unrealistic to expect the seller to address every item identified.  Instead, focus on those issues that are of most concern to you – specifically anything that is (or could be) expensive to fix and / or potential safety issues.  

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