California Home Inspection Basics |  2019

Written by Posted On Thursday, 01 November 2018 23:21

What is a home California home inspection?

California is home to the countries most most expensive house , currently on the market. Real estate is booming, and why shouldn't it? I mean, the weather is almost perfect. Where else in the country can you snow ski and surf on the same day, all in the middle of January? For anyone who has purchased a home or condominium here in Southern California, they probably had the place inspected by a professional home inspector. That is, unless you did your own inspection with the use of a home inspection checklist. A home inspector in short, is an individual who will systematically evaluate and scrutinize most, if not all of the accessible areas of a home both inside and outside.  Otherwise known as a  “physical evaluation of a home” or “physical inspection” in the real estate industry, the job of the inspector remains the same. Protect the home buyers financial interest.

The Home inspection

The home inspection, however, is the process of systematically evaluating the systems of a home or building. What are these systems? Systems can include but are not limited to;

  • Exterior Grounds
  • Roof
  • Electrical Systems
  • Plumbing Components
  • Interior Systems -   doors, floors, wall ceilings
  • Attic
  • Foundation

A physical home inspection is also a limited evaluation of the systems a home. In other words, a home inspector performing a home inspection has limitations as to what they can inspect, cannot inspect, can visually or otherwise access and what is considered beyond their scope. What is within the inspectors scope? The (CREIA) California Real Estate inspection Association standards of practice can be found here.  Wikipedia defines a home inspection in this manner;

A home inspection is a limited, non-invasive examination of the condition of a home, often in connection with the sale of that home”.

Many states require minimum licensing requirements for persons to work as home inspectors and perform home inspections within their state. California, however, is not one of them. As a home inspector here in California, we’re simply governed by the Business and Professions Code 7195-7199. In short, it more or less sets the standard for what a home inspector is and is not. Home buyers who choose to hire a home inspector in the State of California should read this law thoroughly before they choose a home inspector. Afterall, you are about to make one of the biggest purchases in your lifetime.

Why get a home inspection?

Los Angeles Home inspector For some, a home inspection is just a formality. Something that just has to “get behind you” in order move forward and one step closer to closing the escrow and finally, occupying your new home.  Yet for others, a homes evaluation is a potential game changer and without a doubt, the single most important component to the entire home purchase experience.  Why, with a really thorough inspector, there may be much discovered which could result in the reconsideration of the home purchase altogether. On the other hand, with a house investigator who knows very little or does a poor job evaluating the property and thus finds very little wrong, it may leave the new buyer with thousands of dollars in unexpected repair costs.

What a property inspector is not...

Just to be clear, a property inspector's job description does not include a pest inspection (although it can). A home inspection is not a building code or mold inspection nor is it a real estate appraisal.  

How easy is it to become a home inspector ?

Business and professions Code 7195-7199

Becoming a home inspector in Los Angeles is almost as easy as reading home maintenance for dummies or how to become a real estate inspector and then throwing up your shingle outside your office in less time that it took to read that sentence. As previously mentioned, the state of california has no minimum requirements to work as a home inspector. In accordance with California Business and Professions Code 7195-7199, an individual who conducts home inspections for a living is a “generalist”. Those are actually my words, but you can see here in the words of, BPC 7195 (d), “ A “home inspector” is any individual who performs a home inspection.”  It’s somewhat vague, but then again, it does say “anyone” which leaves the topic subject to interpretation. Reading further we find that the BPC 7196, states; “It is the duty of a home inspector who is not licensed as a general contractor, structural pest control operator, or architect, or registered as a professional engineer to conduct a home inspection with the degree of care that a reasonably prudent home inspector would exercise. So essentially, an inspector is not any of the aforementioned specialists but again, a careful and prudent generalist.

More facts you may not have know about Los Angeles home inspectors...

Los Angeles Home inspector Here’s a few interesting tidbits of information regarding California home inspectors which are unknown to most looking to hire a home inspector.

  • Home inspectors are not allowed to accept work from the home buyer for up to a year. 7197(1).
  • Inspectors cannot inspect a home with any financial interest or any interest for that matter in the property whatsoever
  • Home inspectors must inspect for swimming pool safety when a pool or spa is present
  • They cannot offer or deliver any compensation, inducement, or reward to the owner of the inspected property, the broker, or agent, for the referral of any business
  • As much as home inspectors try to decrease their liability to the cost of the inspection, they cannot. “Contractual provisions that purport to waive the duty owed pursuant to Section 7196, or limit the liability of the home inspector to the cost of the home inspection report, are contrary to public policy and invalid”.7198
  • Lastly, building inspectors are responsible for anything they may have missed for up to four (4) years. “The time for commencement of a legal action for breach of duty arising from a home inspection report shall not exceed four years from the date of the inspection”. 7199

Who gets a home inspection?

In most cases, when a home buyer enters into escrow on a property, scheduling a home inspection is their very next step. Depending on the details within the contract, the home buyer may have up to 17 days here in California to get their home inspection accomplished.   Home buyer will get the house evaluated in hopes to discover any latent or otherwise visible defects which might cause them to reconsider their purchase. Many ask the question, “what do they do during a home inspection”? The answer is quite simple really… protect the home buyer.   Home inspectors, with the use of various tools, testing instruments and inspection methods, will attempt to uncover any issues which may be lurking within the dwelling.

Sellers can get home inspections too

On the other hand, the seller of a home will often get a home inspection prior to the house becoming under contract, with a buyer. Sellers will often do this in order to preemptively attack issues (repair them) which may otherwise come up in a physical inspection of their house (hired by the buyer).  

Do you need a home inspection on a new home?

Builders of homes build and sell homes. Most times, the home builder will not perform an initial inspection of the systems prior to delivering a home. There is a walk through or orientation, but by no means is this and inspection nor should it ever take the place of a physical evaluation of the home’s systems. New or not.  Some builders construct great homes with few to little issues. Conversely, there are some home builders which build, well, let’s just say these homes are less than perfect homes. In my opinion, It’s not really in the best interest of the home buyer to trust any home builder when it comes to ensuring the home they wish to buy was built without significant issues. The buyer owes to himself or herself to perform their own due diligence by a neutral third party individual. As a home inspector for over 25 years, I have to admit, new homes are absolutely not without issues. As a matter of fact, some with some very significant issues.   Buyers should proceed with the understanding that by no means is any home ever perfect, new or old.

Why do you need a home inspection?

Admittedly, the home buying process in Southern California is a pretty stressful ordeal. Add in the building evaluation and you’ve just increased the stress level exponentially. The fact remains however, the need for an inspection outweighs the risks of not getting one. People choose to get these inspections for many different reasons. For example, here’s a couple different scenarios which may necessitate the building’s evaluation.

The Price Reducer Buyer

This buyer is looking to reduce the overall cost of the building. For example, some get inspections in order to reduce the price of the home via concessions or money taken off the purchase price based on findings within the building inspectors report.

The Safety Conscious Buyer

Yet some home buyers, will choose to get a home inspected primarily to know of any serious or safety related concerns such as mold, asbestos or structural issues. Typically, the less than serious conditions such as superficial items are not necessarily overlooked, but placed in a position of importance after these serious issues.

Just Gotta Know Buyers

Still, there are others who will get home inspections “just to know”.  That is..., just to know what issues both significant or superficial, which are lurking within their home. These buyers understand that there may be various issues on multiple levels of importance discovered, but love the home “no matter what”, and will budget for any repairs at a later time.

Who can perform a home inspection?

Los Angeles Home inspector Anyone in the state of California can be a property inspector with absolutely zero experience. As a matter of fact, to be an inspector in Los Angeles, one doesn’t even need to know the first thing about construction.  Aspiring residential home inspectors can easily enter the workforce by attending any of the many hundreds of home inspection training schools throughout United States.   Afterwhich, these new inspectors will want to join a accredited association in order to get a better a handle on the “rules” of being a Los Angeles home inspector.

Home Inspection rules

Everything has rules right? Well, at least they should. Not California however. The inspection industry here in California is without any formal standards. The rules (Standards of practice) are not set by the state because as you know that there are no licensing standards thus, no formal inspection procedures. For this, the California inspection associations such as ASHI or CRIA for example, stepped up and created standards of practice (SOP’s)  for the California home inspection industry.  Many inspectors here in California join these associations as a way to create uniformity within the industry and hence conform to their respective organizations SOP’s.

NO licensing (or formal building experience) needed to be a residential property inspector

Keep in mind that the Business and Professions Code 7196  proclaims, a home inspector here in California is not required to be a specialist such as a contractor or engineer. Although these two examples do require state licensing, a state proctored test and proof of experience prior to sitting for their individual tests, a home inspector again, does not. Here… let’s try to put this into perspective.  As an inspector here in Santa Clarita, CA, I advertise that I have oodles of real genuine construction experience. But how as a new home buyer, can you prove that I really do? Then again, how can you prove that I do not? Without a formal unified form of licensing set by the state, home buyers will continually run into this predicament time and time again. Unfortunately, until the state changes their position, home buyers will simply have to rely on their instincts and due diligence when acquiring the services of an inspector in California.

How much is a home inspection in california?

Historically, the local flea market is where you go to find high quality, name brand items at a discount, right? Conversely, attempting to hire a physical home inspection here in Los Angeles is not where you should attempt this. You may just get exactly what you pay for, in a bad way. Most professional, experienced home inspectors pricing will hoover around the upper region of the home inspector pricing averages. As a matter of fact, the average cost of home inspection here in Los Angeles varies depending primarily on the individual smaller surrounding cities. Beverly Hills inspectors for example charge 3xs what inspectors charge from the city of Palmdale which is roughly 64.3 miles according to Google maps.

Factors which contribute to inspector fees

In a previous blog, we did a little research, called roughly 40 different home inspection companies near me and come up with an averaged price for a home inspection in Los Angeles, based primarily on square footage. Although we stuck to a basic query when calling, there are other factors which can alter the average price of any inspection. These items are as follows but not limited to;

  • Additional buildings
  • Additions to the existing building
  • Age of the structure
  • Swimming pool or spa
  • Condition of the structure     

(ExK)+Y=$

Other key components in determining the cost of an inspection is the home inspectors actual experience backed by actual years in business, construction knowledge and number of inspections performed (experience).

Start your inspection business tomorrow… easy (and charge less)

Those inspector who are fresh out one of the many internet or classroom based “home inspection training schools” will hit the pavement hard, trying to make a name for themselves. Generally speaking, these individuals will tend to price themselves on the lower end of the average inspection fee scale just to “break into” the business. What makes this important to the consumer?  Statistically, new and sometimes inexperienced individuals who perform property inspections are more likely to charge a lower (more enticing) fee than would the veteran inspector who’s been in business for multiple years.

Part time home inspectors fees

All things considered, there really shouldn't be any difference between the pricing of full time and part time home inspectors, right? Not exactly. You see, historically, at least in Southern California, those individuals who perform home inspection in their spare time as a way to “make a few extra bucks”, also trend in the less expensive category.

In conclusion

In conclusion, when it comes to choosing your inspector the price should never be your primary determining factor. You may just get what you paid for (not in a good way). If there’s one thing that seems to always hold true in the inspection biz, it's this (as an inspector), ”the more you know the more you find”. In other words, “if you don’t know that a component is wrong, damaged or otherwise defective, you aren't going to know if it's correct”.  Moreover, the better educated the inspector is on the systems which make up a home, problem-solving, convergent-thinking and troubleshooting issues, the better they can protect their client, the client's safety, financial interest and their clients family. By and large, these inspectors will tend to always be more expensive.

Who attends a home inspection?

Los Angeles Home inspector Traditionally, the home buyer attends the home inspection with their respective real estate agent. After all, it's in the home buyers best interest to protect themselves from making a bad investment. Home buyers may want to be present during the homes evaluation to go over any findings the inspection may have discovered.

Sellers may attend

Sellers will oftentimes attend the inspection of their own home. Although this can be uncomfortable on many levels for the buyer (and others), the seller absolutely has that right. After all, it’s their home. Then again, sellers of property can in many cases be an asset during the inspection process, explaining systems, moving furniture or offing other useful advice to the prospective buyer. With that said, however, sellers can also be a detriment to the inspection process.  On a few different instances during my years as an inspector, I’ve seen sellers become agitated and even combative as the inspection process unfolds.

Realtors may attend

In like manner, the real estate agents will almost always attend the home inspection. It’s rare when an agent does not, after all, here in California it’s sort-of their job to attend inspections. Besides, there is an enormous liability for agents who do not attend a home where an inspection is being performed. A few things that can go horribly wrong

  • Things can go missing or stolen
  • Individuals can get hurt
  • Damage to the building can occur

Instances where an agent may not attend.

  • When the buyer and seller are mutual friends
  • They may not attend if the home is vacant and / or their listing
  • Simply disinterested in the process, sends their representative in their place

Home inspectors near me

Los Angeles Home inspector Although I live in a fairly small city compared to Los Angeles, home inspector are-a-plenty even here. Home buyers looking to find a professional qualified, knowledgeable inspector has a number reliable options to choose from.

  • Yelp
  • Google
  • Friends / family
  • Real estate referrals

For the purpose of simplicity, we’ve narrowed the list of places to locate an inspector to four of our favorites, listed above. The internet is a fantastic place to locate an inspector based on what others have experienced. Friends and family Friends and family referrals can be a valuable asset since these individuals are close to you and will generally tell you the truth without embellishing their experience, good or bad. Realtor referrals Generally speaking, realtor home inspection referrals have long been a topic of much debate. There are some who feel that a real estate agent referring a home inspector to inspect a home that the agent stands to make money on, it like wolf guarding a hen house.  These same individuals contend that so long as realtors refer inspectors, there’s always an opportunity for collusion.

How long does a home inspection take?

The length of time it takes to perform a home inspection varies from inspector to inspector. As I mentioned, the more you know the more you find right? Well if that ever applied to anything, it applies to the inspection industry in a huge way. Home inspectors fresh out of home inspection classroom training, are far more likely to know very little about home inspection, inspector procedures not to mention, the way a house ages over time, and goes through the normal wear and tear process. Confronting issues while on the job, takes time. Contrast that with a person who has been deep in the trenches for 20 plus years with a General Construction background. Take a person who’s conducted over 15,000 home inspections for example, as far knowledge goes, there is no comparison. How does this relate to the length of time it takes to conduct a home inspection? Easy, the more experienced you are the easier inspections are just naturally, thus, the faster they can take

A home inspection is not a sprint… it’s a marathon

Not only is experience a huge factor in how long an inspection takes but lets not forget about the house itself.  The house’s size and condition are the biggest contributing factors in how long a home inspection will take? Equally important in determining the length of time it takes to effectively and thoroughly sift through a house and find all of its issues, are just a few additional conditions.

  • Total square footage of the house
  • Additional square footage like a room addition
  • Swimming pool or spa
  • The age of the house
  • A home’s condition
  • Is the house a flip
  • Foundation which is raised
  • Is the homebuyer following  / asking questions

Home size is the most significant contributing factor when attempting to establish a timeframe to complete your home inspection. As a rule of thumb, a 1500 square foot home in generally good condition on a slab should take approximately 3 hours.

Even more contributing factors

Furthermore, for every 1000 square feet over 1500 square feet, an inspector will usually allow an extra hour, to an hour and a half.  Swimming pools on the other hand will add an extra 45 minutes whereas a home in poor condition could tack on a whole 2 hours or more to the same 1500 square foot home. Believe it or not, homebuyers can in fact add a great deal of time to the overall home inspection process. The heck you say? Yes, the heck I do say. Every time the inspector stops and has a answer a series questions with long-tail answers, it adds time.  Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely not advocating that you NOT ask your inspector questions or even follow them around, actually, I'm in favor of you doing all of that. Just be careful, if the house is occupied, the sellers may want to return home at some point. Ok… sometimes it is a sprint I’m really just speaking for the minority of inspectors who sees their job as just that... a paycheck. Get in, get out... fast and just get it done. This isn’t surely isnt representative of all inspectors but these guys are out there, trust me. When choosing an inspector ask how many inspections they perform in a day, this information should help expose these individuals..

What happens during a home inspection?

If you’ve never been on a home inspection, it's quite a process to watch unfold. To be perfectly honest, as a home inspector myself, I find that the entire process never gets old, probably because it’s fun. Assuming you have an inspector and they are scheduled to show up at a specific time; the very first thing you may wish to do to become more familiar with the process is research the internet for terms such as;

Reason being, is that you may want to prepare yourself for what’s to be expected during the next few hours and beyond. All things considered, you will at the very least have a good handle on the overall process. All house inspectors will do things a little differently. Overall, however,  the systems of a home are very close to the same thus the process by which inspectors systematically walk through a home, throughout the industry is pretty similar.

Have a home inspection Checklist

You may wish to have a checklist with you in case you want to follow along the process. Most inspectors tend to stick to the same inspection format with a few subtle differences. Home Inspection checklists are a great way to become familiar with the different areas throughout the home at your own pace.

Take pictures

You will find that almost all home inspectors will take images while they are inspecting. Reason for this is one, they will populate the report with these images for reference. Two, your inspector will reference them later while preparing his / her inspection report. As a buyer you too should take as many images as you feel necessary soo later, after you have left the property you can revisit some of the issues your inspector may have discovered. Perhaps for a second opinion or a different perspective of an issue.

Ask questions

Los Angeles Home inspector By all means. Ask tons and tons of questions. Take notes. The next few hours you have alone with this professional is your opportunity to learn as much about your new house as you can fit into your brain. Make sure that with every step you take with your inspector that you have him describe the systems and components they’re evaluating. Of course this is assuming you are in fact following this individual. Which is a great segway to the next point.

Follow the inspector like a puppy dog

At no other time during the purchase, will you have an opportunity like this one, to gain so much information about so many different systems within a home at one given time. I say  safely follow the inspector everywhere you can. In contrast, many inspectors do not like for the homeowner to follow along beside them. Why is this you ask? Well, for many inspectors have an individual on their coat-tails is a distraction. My advice is ask your inspector what he / she prefers, and take it from there.  For me? I love having the homeowner hanging out with me. I have to tell you, I love teaching my clients about their home. Sure it adds to the time it takes to inspect a home but really, who cares. Inspectors should want to spend time educating the client. In the long run, all of the questions and notes you take will be an asset when you have to actually work on your own house or hire a professional to perform work on your home at a later date.

Where to start?

Los Angeles Home inspector Most inspectors will start at the outside and work their way inside the building. They’ll work their way around the building from top to bottom.  From the inside they’ll systematically sift through just about everything visible or physically available to them. Inspectors will test windows, doors, smoke alarms look at the flooring and ceilings just to name a few. The majority of all property inspectors will not move furniture or the occupant's belongings despite what some believe. The home inspection checklist you download will have a full and complete list of the items inspected for you to again, follow along with. Once your inspector has completed their evaluation of your home, they will typically, have everyone involved gather around to discuss the issues which are in the inspector's opinion, the most significant of all their findings. Most professional inspectors won't waste your time with superficial findings because really, that may take all day long to go over.

What happens after a home inspection?

After the inspection is completed, a professional inspector with the use of home inspection software, will generate a home inspection report and distribute this to the buyer and in some cases their representing agent(s). Immediately following the home inspection you will receive a report, more than likely over email in a PDF format. Some inspectors will deliver their report on-site, while others may take up to 48 hours to deliver. It's worth noting that with every home there are always special situations or conditions which require special non-boilerplate, custom text to be generated.  With respect to on-site reports, I personally find it difficult to achieve this level of “customization” in such a short period of time. On average, a home examination report will take at least an hour or so to prepare. Upon receiving the report and thoroughly combing through each section with the scrutiny of an IRS auditor, you’ll want to take a lot of notes. After reading and taking copious notes, you along with your agent will prepare a list of requests.  In these requests you may ask for;

  • Repairs of damaged or defective systems by the seller
  • A credit for damaged and defective systems so you can hire your own contractor to repair
  • A deduction in the overall price of the home

Of course this list (above) is not complete or otherwise exhaustive. It’s just a few examples of the most popular requests which I am aware of. There are more but for our purposes, these should give you an idea of this part of the process. What's not inspected… beyond the scope With all inspections there are some things which are not included during the process of an inspection. These are considered “beyond the scope”. There is a list of what inspectors do and do not do within the course of a home inspection. These limitations are found within the inspectors Standards of Practice or SOP’s.  Most of the association websites such as ASHI or CREIA and others, have complete SOPs. Here’s ASHI’s website and their SOP’s. Here is a copy of the CREIA (California Real Estate Inspection Associations) standards of practice. We suggest all buyers get familiar with these SOP’s so you will know what the inspector does and doesn't look for or evaluate during your time with them.

Risks of not getting a home inspection

Los Angeles Home inspector Not getting a home inspection is in my opinion, a really really terrible decision. Within my tenure as an inspector I’ve seen a lot of things. Helped my clients dodge a few bullets, and avoid catastrophic disaster. Im talking about fireplaces and chimney systems in flip homes constructed entirely out of wood, internally.  Or in other examples, chimneys which terminate into the attic… and not through the roof as they should. In examples such as these, they are genuine. Furthermore, not only did they really happen, but they were very real hazards which were avoided and had the buyer chose to “not” perform their due diligence, had the potential to cause serious harm and even death, to the occupants.

You just bought the house of your dreams without a home inspection (and all of its issues)

Home inspections are not mandatory nor are they required before you buy real estate. Home buyers choose to hire inspectors as a safety mechanism.   For those who choose to omit home inspections run the risk of closing escrow on a home which possesses unknown issues. Issues which can cover just about any level of significance. It this a risk that home buyers should be concerned about? I think so.

Home buyers inspection checklist

Los Angeles Home inspector For those who wish to conduct their very own home inspection can do so by downloading a DIY home inspection checklist online. By using this checklist, the average person can conduct a home inspection and systematically evaluate a home just as the professionals do.

What happens of a home inspector misses items?

“My home inspection was conducted over 4 months ago. We just moved in and there are several things that appears to have been missed by my home inspector. What do I do?” I have to say, as an inspector myself, we can’t see everything.  We’re not superhuman with x-ray vision nor can we predict the future. That said, however, there is a level of competence once expects when hiring a person to evaluate a home you wish to buy. As a matter of fact, even the California business and Professions Code requires home inspectors to inspect a home with prudence. “It is the duty of a home inspector who is not licensed as a general contractor, structural pest control operator, or architect, or registered as a professional engineer to conduct a home inspection with the degree of care that a reasonably prudent home inspector would exercise”.

Inspectors are not super-human

Los Angeles Home inspector Despite this law, our expectations of the abilities of inspectors is that they are in fact (or should be) super-human. As buyers we often feel as if home inspectors should in fact be able to find everything wrong within the home, during the 2 or 3 hour inspection time frame no less. If you find that your inspector may have missed an item, which for all intents and purposes should have been found, it is suggested to first re read your inspection report to see if it’s in there. After Which, if the item was not listed in the report, we suggest you then call the inspector and confer with him or her and let them know your grievance. Home buyer should know that the time in which you can sue an inspector is four (4) years from the time of the inspection. BPC 7199  “The time for commencement of a legal action for breach of duty arising from a home inspection report shall not exceed four years from the date of the inspection”. Another interesting fact is that home inspectors in California cannot limit their liabilities to ONLY the home inspection fee, as it states in so many inspection contracts.   BPC  7198 “Contractual provisions that purport to waive the duty owed pursuant to Section 7196, or limit the liability of the home inspector to the cost of the home inspection report, are contrary to public policy and invalid”. Marc Mazza The Mazza inspection Group https://mazzainspections.com

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