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The Home Inspection: What Every Buyer Needs to Know


Home inspector holding helmet and drawing house project

For most buyers, a home inspection can be both reassuring and exhausting. It is possibly the first chance a buyer has to go inside the home after they have made an offer. But more importantly, it’s a buyer’s opportunity to make sure they know what they’re getting themselves into when it comes to the condition of their new abode.

READ: The Sweet Spot for Luxury Homebuyers: Not Too Big, Not Too Small

A home inspection isn’t just a list of problems you’ll want your realtor to negotiate with the seller. It’s a detailed report. Think of it as a new homeowner’s manual. But most importantly, a home inspection can uncover something catastrophic that may make a buyer decide to back out of the deal altogether.

Preparation is key in home inspections and there are few things a buyer can do ahead of time to make sure they get the most out of the process. Here’s how to prepare and what to expect:

Home Inspector Holding A Clipboard And Writing, Out Door
Finding an inspector

You should hire a licensed, professional inspector: someone you can count on to conduct a thorough inspection. How do you choose one? Any reputable real estate agent will offer suggestions. Lenders and other home pros can help, too. Before making a decision, buyers should ask for a sample report.

READ: Montecito Homebuyers: Should You Pay Cash Or Take Out a Mortgage?

Besides seeing how the inspector works, the sample report will help buyers clearly understand exactly what is and isn’t included. In Santa Barbara, check this Yelp page, with reviews of the top 10 local home inspectors. Or, just ask me to recommend one of my go-to inspectors.

Whether you’re in the process of buying your first home or your tenth investment property, a home inspection can feel a bit overwhelming. After all, there are many aspects of the property to inspect, especially when it comes to the luxury market here in Santa Barbara. In the end, an inspection can get rid of that gnawing worry over the possibility that something could be truly wrong with a buyer’s dream home.

Here are the top 10 things a buyer needs to know about home inspections:

1) Inspections are Optional
Although it’s true that inspections are optional to the buyer, I believe they are important because they allow buyers a chance to negotiate with the seller to cover the cost of some necessary repairs.
2) Buyers are responsible for inspection costs
In reality, inspectors work for you, the buyer, not the seller.
3) Home inspectors must be certified
Make sure you’re working with a certified home inspector. The best way to ensure you choose the right inspector is to ask your Realtor for a referral. I have my favorites!
4) What inspections cover
The American Society of Home Inspectors lists everything a qualified inspector will check.
5) What inspections don’t cover
There are some items that are not included on the list, including roof or chimney repairs, but you can have those checked by a local professional prior to signing the sales agreement.
6) You can attend inspections
In fact, it is recommended that the home buyer or his or her representative attend inspections to ask questions on the spot.
7) Request an inspection report
By working with a Realtor, the seller will automatically receive this report, but you can request one for yourself or your representative as well.
8) Repairs are negotiable
Your Realtor will use the report in negotiations.
9) You can simply walk away
As long as you don’t sign off on the inspection, you can walk away from the purchase should the report turn up something catastrophic like toxic mold, or severe structural damage, or if you and the seller cannot negotiate positive terms to move forward with the sale.
10) Keep the paperwork for all repairs
Mortgage and title companies will ask for these documents at settlement.

Full disclosure

Before home inspection day, you should also get a seller’s disclosure statement, which will help you identify any additional issues you want your inspector to look at. If the seller disclosed that the property had a leaky window replaced or repaired, make sure that gets extra attention from your inspector.

READ: 6 California Real Estate Laws Buyers Need to Know About

One important thing to look for is whether any unpermitted work has been done. If so, the new owner could be on the hook for bringing the house up to code should they need to remodel. Unpermitted work needs to be carefully inspected, particularly electrical and plumbing.

Inspection day

Block out an entire morning or afternoon for the home inspection. It’s important not to rush this process. Your agent can be present, along with the seller’s agent, who can provide answers to any questions the inspector might have. During this time, buyers are invited to follow along.

Remember, you aren’t being a pest. You’re being a student. Along with identifying any potential problems, inspectors will explain the home’s systems and give you maintenance tips, which should also be in the final report, along with pictures.

Inspectors aren’t perfect

What happens if your inspection comes back clean, but you find problems after you move in? It depends. First, the inspection will only cover things the inspector can see without tearing down walls. The inspector won’t claim responsibility for problems that are truly hidden, unless they missed what should have been obvious signs of a potential hidden problem.

Look carefully at your contract to understand whether the inspection company will pay for repairs related to issues they should have caught, but didn’t, or whether they will only refund your inspection fee.

Most importantly, take time to gain a clear understanding of what constitutes a major problem. A structural failure that leads to the home being condemned? It’s probably worth talking with your real estate attorney. A leaky faucet? That’s just the joy of homeownership.

If you’re planning on buying a luxury property in Montecito or any of the surrounding areas, I personally know the best home inspectors that will steer you in the right direction. Let’s discuss your real estate needs and find you the home of your dreams. Give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at


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