“Thank you for your article about how to avoid home sale headaches. We can appreciate the value of a pest control report in advance of selling our home, but could you clarify how getting a building inspection beforehand would benefit us. What kinds of issues and surprises are you referring to?”
A long-time Santa Monica homeowner
In a typical escrow, the buyer may have up to 17 days to perform property inspections before having to remove their investigation contingencies. Frequently they discover conditions during this period and ask the seller to either repair or replace some things, or to give them a substantial credit before they agree to remove contingencies.
Consider that a typical home sold in the Santa Monica may have been built in the 1920s through the 1940s, and is a one- or two-story floor plan with three bedrooms and two baths, formal dining room and den, and a two-car garage. It may have been kept up in fairly good condition and been upgraded at least three times in the last 60 years.
Even in homes that have been well maintained, there may be several conditions that are unknown to an owner. One benefit of having a professional inspection done before any prospective buyers see the property is that the seller has the opportunity to make some corrections in advance if they so choose. Another benefit is that the buyer has fewer unknowns to worry about or that can become subjects of serious concern during escrow. If buyers discover several of these types of situations during their inspections, they may make demands on the seller during escrow which will result in more work or higher costs than the seller wanted or expected.
The following are some examples of findings made during pre-inspections done by my clients at my suggestion.
Galvanized steel pipes apparently have a life expectancy of about 50 years. Often they are replaced with copper piping only in sections that start to leak and may be improperly connected to the newer copper lines. Leaks may be on-going for many months before finally discovered.
Older heating systems usually used asbestos-wrapped ductwork, and often these ducts have been damaged.
The wiring may be old and have reversed polarity or missing ground connections. Ground Fault Interrupter Circuits (GFICs) may not have yet been installed.
Roots may have penetrated the sewer line and require a rooter-type clearance service once or twice annually. The original cast iron waste lines may have begun to rust out.
The chimney may have gaps between mortar joints and missing or ineffective rain cap or spark arrestor on top.
Moisture may be under the house, due to several different sources. Some examples are: leaking pipes, rusted drain line, broken sprinkler pipe, over-watering, misdirection of water run-off toward the house, non-existent or inadequate gutters and downspouts, periodically high water table, and slope run-off from a neighboring property.
Air conditioning condensers may be missing a drip pan and/or secondary condensate backup line, which could lead to serious moisture issues.
Vent pipes for furnace or hot water heater may have inadequate clearance from flammable materials such as wood, or be partially disconnected.
Wood fences may have termite or dry rot damage or be worn. Tree branches or roots may also impact them.
Pool fences may need self-closing gates for child safety.
Pool equipment may not be electrically bonded or grounded properly. The piping or pool equipment may have leaks under the yard surface.
Mold may be growing under a sink, behind a cabinet, or under carpeting. Water may be keeping some wood wet, which can quickly lead to mold or dry rot, and remediation of such issues can become very costly.
Hardwood flooring may have uneven or stained areas that could have been caused by moisture problems. They may need refinishing to eradicate pet stains or serious scratch marks.
Doors and windows may not open or close easily. Occasionally, latches and locks need repair or replacement.
A slab floor may have a crack, or may have settled more in one area than elsewhere under the house.
To the extent that a buyer knows of such issues and conditions BEFORE MAKING AN OFFER, they cannot claim to have found surprises or unexpected problems during their property inspections. Therefore, the SELLER is far less likely to have hassles due to such issues.
Michael Edlen is available for real estate counseling services to prospective sellers and buyers. More articles and tips are on www.MichaelEdlen.com. He can be reached at (310) 230-7373 or Michael@MichaelEdlen.com.