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The Home Inspection: What Every Buyer Needs to Know

April 10, 2021

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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.

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.

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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“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch