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April 25th, 2022 at 11:00 am

Is a home inspection required to sell a home?

The process of selling your home can come with complexities. While the broader process of selling a home is fairly static, no two home selling experiences are exactly the same. Real estate market forces, basic communication, and a whole host of other factors mean that you have to approach every home sale with clear eyes.

There are numerous different components in the process of selling a home, like understanding what is a seller’s market, however one that frequently gets brought up is the home inspection. Home inspections can serve a vital role in building trust between seller and potential buyer, but they also tend to add time and slow down the process. Is a home inspection required in California? Should you do a home inspection before selling your home? Read on to learn more.

What is a home inspection?

Home inspections occur later in the home buying process, typically when the home buyer and seller are waiting out the escrow period. During a home inspection, a qualified home inspector will go through the entire property to look for any defects or things in need of repair. That includes the home’s foundation, roof, structural components, HVAC, electrical systems, and plumbing. The real estate inspector will also look for any potential water, insect, or fire damage to the property.

Once the licensed inspector has finished, they provide the home buyer with a full inspection report. This report essentially informs the potential buyer of the home’s safety, and depending on the repairs necessary, the buyer may renegotiate the price, request repairs from the seller, or cancel the contract entirely.

How a home inspection works

As mentioned, home inspections typically start once the seller and potential buyer have signed the sales contract or purchase agreement. However, it is not uncommon for a seller to get a home inspection prior to putting their property on the market.

The main thing that home inspectors do is to determine if the property is up to code. That means assessing the physical structure of the home and all of the systems that keep that home running. A full home visual inspection will usually take two to four hours, though that can vary based on the size of the property, the complexity of its systems, and any complications that arise. Following the property inspection, the licensed inspector may take a few days to write up and send the full report.

Home inspections are fairly comprehensive and include nearly every aspect of the home:

What home inspectors won’t look for

It is important to understand that a certified  home inspector cannot identify every single thing wrong with a property. Home inspectors only check for general visual cues. They will not tear up your floorboards or make holes in your drywall. For example, if a door does not close properly, or the floor has dips or slants, they can generally understand that the foundation may have an issue. However, they may not be able to identify the exact problem with the foundation.

Most home inspectors are considered generalists. They can tell you that you might have a problem with your electrical system or plumbing, or other home system, but they typically cannot diagnose or fix these issues on their own. Most will also provide an estimate for the repairs. If they do detect an issue, home inspectors will recommend hiring an expert to verify and remedy the issue.

Furthermore, although home inspectors will check fire safety elements, like your smoke detectors and the fire rating of your walls, they will not check for all safety and damage components. This means that most home inspectors do not specifically look for:

These tend to require other types of specialized inspectors, like a pest inspector. Some home inspectors will check for radon but only as an add-on service. 

It should be noted that no home is perfect. Unless the home was newly built in the past few days, the home inspector will likely find something to include in the report. Most of the items in a home inspection report are typically minor and will not require any immediate repairs. Focus on bigger issues, which may be dealbreakers for the buyer.

Working with the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties can help you navigate home inspections. Our team offers the knowledge, experience, and expertise to help you throughout the home selling process, allowing you to optimize your sale.

Home inspections vs. home appraisals

At first glance, home inspections may seem the exact same as a home appraisal. While both involve professionals checking parts of your home, they serve two entirely different purposes. Home inspections check your home to make sure it is safe and up to code. Home appraisals specifically determine the value of your property.

The latter is performed by a certified appraiser. Home appraisals are required and scheduled by mortgage lenders to determine the amount of money that the buyer can borrow. While a certified home inspector only evaluates the overall condition of the home, home appraisers check the lot size, the general size and quality of your home, neighborhood comps, and other methods of valuation.

Understanding home inspection contingencies

Most sales contracts come with contingency clauses. These clauses essentially state conditions or requirements that must be met in order for the sale to actually go through. Failure to meet these contingencies allows either party to back out of the contract. In this case, it could mean the potential buyer backing out of the deal and getting any earnest money returned.

Home inspection contingencies are relatively common, which should give you an idea of how important they are. Home inspection contingencies usually allow the buyer to back out of the offer without any penalties should the property inspection reveal any significant problems. This essentially saves the buyer from potentially purchasing a home that may be unsafe or otherwise unfit for habitation.

Not all home inspection contingencies are make-or-break deals. Depending on the extent of the defects or problems, the seller and buyer may be able to negotiate a deal. For example, the seller may offer to repair the issue out of pocket or reduce the asking price.

Is a home inspection required in California?

Exact laws for home inspections will vary from state to state and municipality to municipality. Even neighborhoods may have their own laws regarding home inspection requirements. In California, home inspections are not required in order to sell a property. No law or governing body requires sellers to provide a home inspection.

There are exceptions depending on the city and neighborhood. Some cities, like Long Beach, require city parking inspections in zones designated as parking impacted areas. The inspector checks the property to make sure there is enough space for parking. Other cities may require garage inspections.

Should you request a home inspection?

As a seller, not needing a home inspection can seem like a good thing. A home inspection adds time to the selling process. Without a home inspection, that process gets sped up a bit, meaning a faster sale.

A home inspection is a must for buyers. It ensures that you do not move into a house with a damaged foundation or faulty electricity. A home inspection keeps you and your family safe, and it protects you against more costly repairs in the future. A visual inspection also ensures that the buyer is making a sound investment.

Why should a seller request a home inspection if it is not required? Simply put, there is no good reason not to. It can provide peace of mind, and from a basic human standpoint, it is noble and right for a buyer not to move into a hazardous or outdated home.

Pre-inspections are becoming more common for home sellers, and these may actually benefit you in the long run. Pre-inspections occur before a seller puts their property on the market, allowing them to identify and take care of any issues. This helps to set you apart from other sellers, and it shows potential buyers that you are an open book.

A pre-inspection may also save you money. Home inspections typically cost around $300 to $500. That money can help you identify and take care of any problems, which can then go toward increasing the asking price for the property. That can also contribute to a quicker sale.

Even though home inspections are not a requirement in California, they are a regular part of most home sales. If you have questions about home inspections, how does earnest money work, or need help with your home sale, consider contacting Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties today.

Sources: The Mortgage Reports, Investopedia, Investopedia, Investopedia, BP Fund, Forbes

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