Who knows what a home inspection will find? Perhaps an odd squirrel issue.


By Mary Lynn Bruny

You never know what a home inspection will find. Once when we were selling a house, the inspection report read: “Dead squirrel in upper west front gutter. Advise removal.” And, indeed, when we looked up at our gutter, we could see a very rigid paw and tail hanging out of it. I’m sure this is not what our Realtor meant when she described our home as “full of charm.”

If there’s one thing that strikes fear in the hearts of homebuyers and sellers alike, it’s the home inspection. Like root canals, they are met with grave anxiety. Sellers are concerned as to what defects their home harbors that they’ve been cluelessly living with forever. (How long was that deceased squirrel languishing in our gutter while we lived in blissful ignorance?) Buyers are concerned they’ll find out their dream house is actually a lemon. Either way, everyone is nervous.

It doesn’t help matters that after their work, the inspector gives the buyer an immensely long and detailed report that has more information than a manual on how to build a nuclear reactor. The sheer amount of information – complete with hundreds of photos – is overwhelming and daunting. First-time buyers are especially freaked out as they expected the home to be without imperfections.

Unfortunately homes, like people, always have some imperfections. (Dang!) But also like people, some imperfections are fine to live with, while others are reasons to run for the hills. The trick is to know which are which. Home inspectors – wanting to be as thorough as possible – list all current or potential issues of the home, whether they are small, simple fixes or massive issues. And often the language used in the inspection report can sound scary, especially to folks inexperienced in home buying or home building.

For instance, missing gutter downspout extenders always seem to be noted. Basically, downspouts should be attached to extenders on the ground that lead the water away from the foundation. But a lot of homes don’t have these, especially if there is a walkway or other impediment. In this case an inspector’s report will say something like: “Could result in water damage to the foundation. Further analysis is recommended.”

To the inexperienced buyer, this seems like a huge red flag. They may not know much about homes, but they do know foundation issues are the absolute worst. After reading that line, they flip out and with soaring blood pressure they immediately text their Realtor to terminate the offer. But in reality this sentence most likely means the homeowner needs to buy an extender, like the plastic accordion type that costs $9.88. (I just bought two.)

How is a homebuyer to know what’s important and what’s not? The first step is to review things with their Realtor. They have literally been around the block and know what’s concerning and what’s not. Good Realtors also have professional contacts if further analysis is needed for specific issues.

And just because a home does have issues doesn’t mean it’s a deal breaker. Often these matters can be addressed by the seller before closing or a credit can be given to the buyer based on a bid. Unlike people with problems, homes are very willing and able to change. Given how hard it is to get a house under contract in the Front Range, buyers are smart to address inspection issues if they can.

Take, for example, our deceased squirrel friend. We had his furry tidbits removed from the gutter before closing, and the new owners took possession of a home with only live squirrels scampering about. Perfectly charming.

By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn writes about local real estate and home-related topics. Contact her at [email protected]. To read previous The Lighter Side articles, go to athomecolorado.com/the-lighter-side.