Clearing up misconceptions of inspections for home sales
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By Ken Schrier  June 20, 2014 12:00 am

There is a lot of talk about exactly what inspections are required and what inspections are optional when you buy and sell a property. What’s the difference between a home and pest inspection? Should I have one done before I list my home? Who pays for what? The list goes on and on.

For sellers, the only inspection that is required really isn’t an inspection at all. It’s a report called a Natural Hazard Zone Disclosure or NHD. This report uses the properties parcel number to determine where the property lies in its proximity to fire, flood, earthquake, seismic, and liquefaction (landslides and sinkholes) areas. They are roughly about $100 and take about 24 hours to get the report emailed to you. On a purchase contract, the buyers usually request this of the seller.

If the property is a condo, townhouse or falls within a PUD subdivision, there may also be HOA or CCRs that need to be provided to the buyer and that package can range from as little as $50 to as much as $300, depending on the property management company. Again, this is usually a seller’s expense.

For the buyer, you can never do enough inspections. Even though they are usually never asked for by your lender, you as the buyer should know exactly what you are getting. Unless you are an expert in everything, get a licensed inspector(s) out to the property.

For most properties, the bare minimum a buyer should do is a home inspection (sometimes called a property inspection), a pest inspection (sometimes called a termite or structural inspection), and a roof inspection (sometimes called, well…. a roof inspection). Of course, there are a host of others as well. Chimney, HVAC (heating and cooling), pool, spa, septic, well, foundation, and sewer laterals are just a few of what is out there.

The biggest misconception is that repairs must be cleared for a home to close escrow. This is simply not true. 

It may be required of the buyer’s lender if it is brought to their attention through the appraisal process or if they are specifically mentioned in the purchase contract.

Repairs are normally negotiated along the way. In some cases, they are corrected by the seller and in other cases, they are simply credited towards the buyer’s closing costs so as to not delay the scheduled close of escrow. Even though repairs are optional and usually a part of the negotiating procedure, there are several items that are mandatory of the seller in any sale.

No matter what, every home in California must have at least one working smoke detector and one working carbon monoxide detector on every level. Some cities and counties require them in every bedroom as well, so check your local ordinances.

In addition, water heaters must be strapped to current codes. There are specific strapping kits sold at any hardware or home improvement store that must be used. These bands surround the water heater and are lag bolted into the studs of the wall to prevent the appliance from tilting over during an earthquake. 


Ken Schrier is a licensed Realtor with RE/MAX PROs and works throughout Sonoma and Marin Counties but focuses primarily in Rohnert Park, Cotati, and Penngrove. He can be reached by email at or by cell at (707) 529-4819.

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