Brenda Nelson

Brenda Nelson, president of the Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors for 2018

Most homebuyers know they should get an inspection before purchasing a house, but some may not know about important tests beyond the scope of a basic inspection.

When you buy a home in Utah, you purchase it in its current condition. While sellers are required to tell you about any problems they know about that are not readily discoverable, it’s your job as the buyer to thoroughly inspect the home. This is especially important because the seller may be unaware of problems with the house, including serious issues that are often unseen.

While a standard home inspection covers important items like the condition of the roof, foundation, and heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing systems, it doesn’t include everything. Here are three inspection upgrades every buyer will want to consider as they seek to find out if a home has invisible problems.

Meth inspection

Methamphetamine is an illegal drug that when used or produced inside can contaminate a home with toxic chemicals. Without testing, there is no way to know with certainty if a home is affected. In fact, contamination is found in all types of neighborhoods and at all price points. Even some homeowners may be unaware of contamination because they didn’t know someone with meth entered their home or that someone smoked meth inside.

That’s why it’s important to test for meth before buying a home. Many home inspectors will allow buyers to purchase a test in addition to their standard inspection. Or some health departments offer do-it-yourself kits for meth testing.

Don’t take the risk of not doing an inspection. It’s costly to decontaminate a meth house as it requires using a certified decontamination company that often has to scrub the walls, clean the ducts and tear out the carpet.

Radon inspection

Another unseen problem in homes is elevated radon levels. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally as soil breaks down. It seeps up from the ground and can become trapped in homes. At high levels, it can cause lung cancer. In fact, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends homebuyers conduct inspections to identify elevated radon levels. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, and it occurs in both new and old homes and in all neighborhoods. Testing is the only way to determine whether there is a problem. The EPA recommends mitigation for homes with levels at 4 picocuries per liter or higher.

While a radon test is usually not included in the standard home inspection, it is an important upgrade. Fortunately, radon mitigation is relatively affordable. If discovered early enough, the seller might even be willing to help pay for the cost as part of the sale.

Stucco and mold inspections

When stucco is not properly installed, water can become trapped between the stucco and wood, leading to mold and rot. This problem can occur in any house with stucco — either in a starter home or a multi-million-dollar mansion. Oftentimes, the seller may not even realize there is a problem.

If there is unseen rot occurring, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair. Inspectors offer a variety of ways to look for problems, including visual inspections and infrared moisture detection. Ask your inspector to learn more about the options for testing for leaks and excess moisture.

Other inspections

While these are just three inspection upgrades, there are many more. You may need a special inspection for septic tanks, swimming pools, soil stability, sewer lines or sound systems.

These are just some of the many important items to inspect when buying a home. To learn more about what to research, talk to a Realtor who will provide you with a Buyer Due Diligence Checklist. This is a list of many of the items you should examine before you buy, including zoning, property boundaries and much more.

To find a Northern Wasatch Realtor who can provide you with more information about what to look for before you buy, visit

Brenda Nelson is president of the Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors.

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