While the majority of real estate sales and purchases include a physical inspection, it can be a gray area for many people. Whether you are buying/selling a rehabbed bungalow in Venice, a brand new home in Playa Vista, a tear-down oceanfront home on the Marina Peninsula, there’s a few basics to keep in mind when it comes to your home inspection.
What is it and why do I need one?
According to the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA): “An inspection is a visual examination of the structure and systems of a building.”
As a buyer, it’s important to make sure your agent includes an inspection contingency clause in the real estate contract, which will allow the buyer to proceed based on what the inspection reveals. As a seller, it can help identify potential problems that were previously unknown. As the CREIA points out, “Many problems frequently encountered after the buyer moves in, are a routine discovery for a qualified home inspection.”
At the very least, the inspection is a key part of what should be an informed real estate process for everyone involved.
What does it include?
According to the CREIA:
A complete inspection includes a visual examination of the building from top to bottom. The inspector evaluates and reports the condition of the structure, roof, foundation, drainage, plumbing, heating system, central air-conditioning system, visible insulation, walls, windows, and doors. Only those items that are visible and accessible by normal means are included in the report.
What happens if there are problems?
Depending on the type and severity of any discovered problems, the buyer may or may not decide to request that the seller make repairs, and the seller may or may not agree to make them. For some buyers, its enough just to know what types of maintenance to expect in the future. Other buyers might feel that the potential maintenance might be too much of a financial burden and opt not to buy the property after all.
Do I need an inspection even if the house is brand new?
A home inspection, advises CREIA, is always a good idea, even if the home is brand new. As they point out:
No home, regardless of how well it is constructed, is totally free of defects. The construction of a house involves thousands of details, performed at the hands of scores of individuals. No general contractor can possibly oversee every one of these elements, and the very nature of human fallibility dictates that some mistakes and oversights will occur, even when the most talented and best-intentioned tradespeople are involved.
What can I do to maintain my home?
One of the best things homeowners can do to ease the inspection process and minimize property damage is through regular maintenance. The CREIA offers a number of excellent tips for cost effective home maintenance:
- Clean both rain gutters and any roof debris and trim back excessive foliage from the exterior siding.
- Divert all water away from the house (for example, rain-gutter downspouts, sump pump discharge locations, and clean out garage and basement interiors.
- Clean or replace all furnace filters.
- Remove grade or mulch from contact with siding (preferable 6-8 inches of clearance).
- Paint all weathered exterior wood and caulk around trim, chimneys, windows, doors, and all exterior wall penetrations.
- Make sure all windows and doors are in proper operating condition; replace cracked windowpanes.
- Replace burned out light bulbs.
- Make sure all of the plumbing fixtures are in spotless condition (toilets, tubs, showers, sinks) and in proper working order (repair leaks).
- Provide clear access to both attic and foundation crawl spaces, heating/cooling systems, water heater/s, electrical main and distribution panels and remove the car/s from the garage.
- And finally, if the house is vacant make sure that all utilities are turned on. Should the water, gas or electric be off at the time of inspection the inspector will not turn them on. Therefore, the inspection process will be incomplete, which may possibly affect the time frame in removing sales contract contingencies.
You can find more commonly asked questions on the FAQ page of CREIA’s website. For more information about inspections and what to expect, visit CREIA’s Homebuyers/Sellers page, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.