Home inspections in Silicon Valley are unique, even by California standards. Usually, home inspections are arranged by the buyer once their offer is accepted. But on the Peninsula and in Silicon Valley, the seller provides the inspection and disclosures prior to listing the home. While this order of operations and responsibility is completely different from the rest of the country, there are other guidelines and details surrounding home inspections specific to Northern California. Below we outline what the home inspection will cover, specific additions for California and Silicon Valley homes, how sellers can prepare for a home inspection, and what buyers should know about this unique arrangement.
Prepare for the Inspection
To prepare our sellers for inspections, the J+J Team Homes maintenance crew will go through the house and fix really simple things that we know will show up on the inspection report. Our team cleans gutters, tests outlets, caulks, and reseals windows and doors. If we are aware of any faulty grading, we strongly advise our sellers to remediate those issues prior to listing.
What Does a Home Inspection in California Entail?
A home inspection is a broad overview of the property for sale. If the home inspector finds an issue, they will not be specific about the exact nature of the problem. For example, if there are foundation issues, the home inspection report will say something to the effect of “please contact a foundation specialist.” Home inspectors are not handymen – they will not bid on or fix any issues noted in the report.
California Home Inspection Guidelines
There are more specific guidelines for California home inspections. With the potential for earthquakes and fires in Northern California, inspections will require the water heater to be strapped and braced. And also note the minimum number of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These items are non-negotiable in California and the seller must do them in order to close escrow.
Some cities along the Peninsula, like Hillsborough, San Mateo, Burlingame, and Belmont, have sewer lateral ordinances. Sewer laterals are the pipes that connect the house to the city’s sewer lines. With these ordinances, the seller must pay to have these lines inspected to ensure they are not leaking, cracked or damaged in any way. If there are concerns, the seller has to pay to correct them. Sewer lateral testing can range in cost from $300 to $1,000, and repairs can be upwards of $5,000. Once the sewer lateral passes inspection, the seller receives a certificate allowing them to close escrow.
All California homes also require a termite inspection before closing. This Wood Destroying Organisms report covers any active subterranean termite infestations, and all unhealthy wood, whether you have termites or not. These findings are separated into two sections. Section one items the inspector recommends doing sooner rather than later, so it does not turn into more future damage. This doesn’t need to be completed before the close of escrow. Section two items are more maintenance items that they recommend monitoring over time (for example, to make sure there is caulking around tubs and sinks). Unlike the overarching home inspection, the termite inspector is from a reputable pest control company and can bid on any repairs that may be needed. The price depends on the size of the house. A 2,000 square foot house averages around $4,000 in damage.
If the seller knows the roof is in the second half of its useful life, the seller may provide a roof inspection. This goes with a chimney inspection as well. Some sellers may want to invest in a specific foundation inspection. This is especially true if the home is built on a hill, or if there have been any past issues with drainage.
What the Buyer Should Know
Prior to placing a bid on a home in Silicon Valley, we like our buyers to read as many inspection and disclosure packets as possible. This gives them a good baseline of what is considered normal with homes. In doing so, when the right property comes up, the buyer is not scared off by something that is considered minor or common with houses of that particular age. There may be a situation when it is time to walk away after a home inspection, but it is far less likely than buyers think.
When the buyer has put an offer on a house in Silicon Valley, they will receive the inspection reports from the seller. At J+J Team Homes, we have our vetted inspectors review the report. If we feel like the seller’s inspection reports is not thorough enough, we may advise our own inspectors give a second opinion.
Looking for Big-Ticket Items
When reviewing the inspection report, our team looks for big-ticket items. We look for drainage concerns, structural concerns, roof, and existing HVAC systems issues. In most situations, there is no negotiating for repair work. Instead, our buyers come in with eyes wide open and factor in any work that needs to be done into their offer price. Because California home inspectors are not allowed to perform any work on the property, items listed on the inspection will NOT have a repair price. J+J Team Homes will gather ballpark estimates before our buyer makes an offer.
If there is a situation where a property has sat on the market for a longer period of time or in situations where we are not able to gather satisfactory answers to a specific property condition concern, the seller may accept an offer with a property condition contingency. In this situation, we advise our buyers to have their own vendors complete the repairs. The seller has little-to-no motivation to be thorough in the repair. The buyer may also use it as an opportunity to fix the original issue. Thus choosing to make larger upgrades that would save money and headaches in the future. If there is a contingency, we advise our buyers to negotiate a lower purchase price. This situation is very rare in Silicon Valley, but it can happen.