Business & Real Estate

The importance of inspections

When you buy or sell a house, inspections are often involved. Following are some commonly asked questions.

Q: What inspections do buyers and sellers typically get?

A: The most common are:

1. A general home inspection (think of it like a general annual physical by your doctor – fairly broad, fairly generic, not very invasive or detailed.

2. A Wood-Destroying Organisms report, typically called a Pest Report or a Termite Report.

3. A roof report.

4. A pool or spa report.

There are any number of other inspections you can get depending on the situation, including foundation, chimney, soils, radon, mold, etc.

Q: How much do inspections cost?

A: It usually depends on the size of the house, but a rough range for nos. 1, 2 and 3 above would be $1,000-$2,000 total.

Q: If I am selling my house, why do I need to get inspections ahead of time? Aren’t those the buyer’s responsibility?

A: In some markets, yes, but typically not in the Bay Area. When prospective buyers have an opportunity to review inspections prior to making an offer, they may choose not to include “inspection contingency” in their offer, which may be viewed more positively by the seller.

Q: But as a buyer, should I rely on the inspections provided by the seller?

A: Most all inspectors adhere to inspection codes, so they typically all report on the same sorts of things. But it is buyers’ responsibility to satisfy themselves that they understand the condition of the house they are buying.

If you have any concerns or questions, you should bring in your own experts and ask questions until you are satisfied that you know what you are buying.

Q: How thorough are inspections?

A: They range from very detailed to fairly generic. For example, some inspectors will test every outlet, while others will just do a representative sampling. If you don’t have experience reading these reports, you should definitely rely on your agent to help you translate and interpret.

Remember, these inspections are fairly generic; the inspector can’t see inside walls, can’t see underground, can’t see behind insulation. As a buyer, you should always plan for things that don’t show up on any report.

Q: What happens if I find something wrong with my new house after I buy it?

A: You will! Unless you can prove the seller knowingly tried to hide some defect from you, you’ll just chalk it up to a learning experience. If you think there was some hanky-panky by the seller, you should consult a licensed California real estate attorney for advice.

Q: I hear all the time that offers need to be noncontingent to even be considered by the seller. How can I compete if I want to have my own inspections?

A: This is the $64,000 question, especially in strong seller markets like we have had for the past six years: “If I want to have inspection contingencies to protect myself, the seller may not accept my offer. If I don’t have any contingencies, I might find out something bad after I have moved in.” You are correct on both points.

The answer is, it’s not black and white – you have to decide how open you are to finding some flaw after you move in. Have you set aside extra cash for the inevitable surprise? Are you handy and flexible and handle surprises well? Do you panic if everything isn’t just right? Do you tend to blame others for things, or are you OK with just working through whatever comes up?

Your realtor should provide you with balanced feedback.

Owen Halliday is a realtor who manages the Sereno Group office in downtown Los Altos. Text or call him with questions, comments and potential column topics at 492-0062 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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