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What to expect during your San Diego home inspection

Whether you're new to buying a San Diego home or an old pro, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the various steps of the process -- from paperwork, to lending, to negotiating offers, to home inspections and much more. Your first order of operation is to get equipped with a pro REALTOR who guides you through every step and protects your best interests.

Once your offer is accepted and escrow is officially open, it acts like a holding pattern for both parties involved. During this time, the seller should ensure the buyer is qualified and serious, while the buyer should perform due diligence to make sure the home's condition is satisfactory and represented honestly. Therefore, the first portion of contracted days in escrow (before various contingencies are lifted) are like your security blanket before you must fully commit to purchasing the home.

One of the first and highly recommended steps in escrow is for the buyer to have a general home inspection. These can cost anywhere from $350 to $550 depending on the size and type of home. Home inspectors typically have vast experience in construction or a similarly related field. It is important to make sure you use a trusted inspector, whether it's someone you personally know or someone your REALTOR recommends.

The inspection usually takes a few hours, and it is recommended that the buyers are present for at least the end, when the inspector will discuss his findings and answer any questions.

It is important to keep in mind that the general home inspection is just that: a general inspection. Inspectors will typically look for issues on the roof and exterior of the building (if it's a detached home), as well as a visual inspection of the attic and other areas that are accessible. They will most likely inspect the appliances and functionality of things such as doors, windows, plumbing and electrical. Inspectors don't have x-ray vision, so they can't see through walls. They only inspect what is reasonably accessible to them.

It's key to not let the home inspection process scare you. The reality is, most homes have been lived in and will show at least one issue or potential issue. Unless you're dealing with brand new construction (in which case, there likely wouldn't be a third-party home inspection), inspectors are going to stumble across items that they are legally required to report. In my experience, most homes that my clients purchase are at least 20 to 30 years old, so inspection reports usually find a few issues and potential problems to note.

After the physical walk through, the inspector has a few days to produce a report of their findings for the buyer. It will highlight all present and potential issues they feel may pose a problem. If the buyers still have some concerns, they are able to have more specialized inspections done. For example, some buyers may choose to pay for additional inspections that cover termite/wood destroying pests, sewer and drainage, water damage, etc. Although these may provide peace of mind or further knowledge of a potential issue, a buyer can also spend lots of time and money on what may be a paralysis by analysis type of situation.

Following all inspections, the buyer can request some of the repairs be completed by the seller before the close of escrow, or they can ask for a credit toward repairs at the close of escrow. Keep in mind, the seller is not required to perform any repairs and they may not agree to them -- so these requests are simply requests. That's because property in California is sold in "as is" condition. It's sometimes easy for buyers to lose sight of this fact.

Typical requests for repairs deal with health and safety issues, not style preferences or outdated appliances that are still functioning. For my clients, I usually do not recommend they request a new kitchen or updated bathrooms -- mainly because it's a waste of time and can look ridiculous and insulting to the seller. Sometimes, lenders require a certain amount of work to be done, especially if it involves termites or wood destroying pests. However, it's still negotiable as to which party pays for the repairs. In the lender's eyes, they want to make sure the home is not falling apart since they have a financial stake in it.

If the inspections reveal serious issues that the buyer is not able to overcome, and the seller is not interested in repairing or crediting costs at the close of escrow, the buyer is able to back out of the contract and retain their earnest money deposit (as long as they have not lifted the physical inspection contingencies).

At the end of the day, inspections can be a bit nerve-wracking for both the buying and listing side, but I've found that fixes can be easily made most of the time. My clients have seen a range of inspection reports, from light and easy to more serious issues, but there have always been solutions from both parties to keep the deal moving forward. Having the right REALTOR by your side to negotiate fixes or credits during the inspection process is imperative to the final outcome of your home sale or purchase. In fact, it can literally make or break the deal!

Curious to learn more about the home inspection process? I'm here to guide you or anyone you know that may be looking to purchase or sell a home in San Diego County. Call or text 619-993-9559 or shoot me an email here.

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