It’s Your Money Column – Inspections are a Crucial Part of Home Buying Process

Question: I have made an offer on a home contingent on the inspection, but I don’t know what to look for.

Answer: The January issue of Consumer Reports states that many home buyers are finding serious defects in their new homes after they move in. The most common problems include faulty foundations, shoddy framing and excessive moisture causing toxic mold.

Unfortunately, getting problems corrected after you move in is difficult. Consumer Reports says that the best protection is the vigilance of the home buyer before signing a contract or going to closing.

Colorado is one of 10 states that support home-warranty programs in which builders agree as part of the warranty to insure that certain home systems work as promised. These warranties provide some protection against home defects.

As a prospective home buyer, here are some things to look for:

– Deep cracks in the foundation or basement walls. It may be that the foundation is on a poor base or soil.

– Sagging floors or leaning walls. The foundation may be shifting or there may be structural problems with support beams.

– Windows and doors that don’t fit well in frames or that don’t close properly. The house may have not have been framed correctly in the first place.

– Cracks in interior walls. This may be a sign of a foundation problem, although fine cracks may be the result of normal aging.

– Water damage. You can detect this from mold or rot on exterior walls or stains and swelling on interior walls.

– Flooding, sewer and drain backups, and/or the hot and cold water switched. May result from poorly graded land and/or improperly installed plumbing.

– Excessive heating or cooling bills. The air ducts may be leaky or not properly connected.

– Shorting or dead outlets. The electrical system may be improperly installed.

– Lack of required permits. Building inspections may not have been done.

What should you do if you find one or more of these problems in a home you’d like to buy? Find a licensed engineer. You may have to pay from $100 to $150 an hour, but it can save you thousands in the long run. The National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers at can provide referrals.

You can also check Web sites of others who have had problems, including Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings at and Home Owners for Better Building at

Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension,