The home inspection is a very important part of the home buying process. Once you have an accepted offer on a home, you will have an agreed amount of time to perform home inspections. The general physical inspection happens first. As real estate agents, we know how overwhelming the physical inspection can be for a 1st-time home buyer. Today, we want to introduce you to an inspector who is not only professional and proficient, but is great at guiding 1st-time home buyers through this process.
The Rental Girl is pleased to introduce you to Jon Wilhelm from Valley Home Inspection. Jon has been inspecting homes for 28 years and has performed 15,000 inspections. Before this, he bought and sold real estate and remodeled his own properties for 10 years. He loves educating buyers and switched to inspecting homes to offer the kind of personable help that wasn’t available at the time he launched his career. Jon is very knowledgeable about home construction, building and local codes. He is patient and helpful with 1st-time home buyers. We caught up with Jon today to see what kind of advice he has to offer you as you buy your first home in Los Angeles.
The Rental Girl: Buying a home can be very intimidating and a little scary for a renter or 1st time home buyer. We’ve had a lot of 1st time buyers ask us “is this home going to fall down?”
Jon: If you have a 1 story or 2 story stucco and wood frame house, it’s extremely rare that type of house would have structural damage. It would have to be a very poorly designed house that had extreme problems. A lot of buyers don’t understand about the house being bolted to the foundation that keeps it from moving around or the permits that are needed to make improvements. Termite damage is common, but rarely does it cause structural damage or any significant damage. The greatest problem home buyers should look for is neglected water damage where you have a leak under the sink or a leaky toilet. I’ve seen a $75 loose toilet with a leak cause $25,000 water damage.
The Rental Girl: Are there specific types of homes or characteristics of a home that you would recommend a 1st time home buyer stay away from?
Jon: Stay away from neglected homes. If the roof, plumbing, and electrical are outdated and in need of repair the costs can add up. A severely neglected home may need $50,000 to $100,000 in repairs. Home buyers who are well connected with roofers or other trades people may not be concerned since they have help they can turn to in fixing up a property. But for the 1st-time home buyer, that person should look for a well maintained, clean home with a conscientious owner who cares about the property.
The Rental Girl: There are multiple inspections a buyer can perform on a home. How does a buyer know what inspections to perform and which ones to skip? For a 1st time home buyer who has no idea about home ownership, doesn’t it seem logical to just perform them all?
Jon: A buyer should always start with the home inspection. I’ll show the buyer right away if I see something severe and the buyer may decide to stop the inspection and stop the sale. There may be some issues where the inspector will recommend a specialist to come to the property and give an opinion. Dangerous or questionable heating and air conditioning issues may need a heating specialist to be brought in. The home inspector is the generalist and may direct you to have more specialized inspections. Many times, the home inspector can tell you the problem up front.
The Rental Girl: From your perspective as a home inspector, what are some mistakes you see 1st time home buyers make?
Jon: A key mistake is walking through the home the first time within 10 minutes. It’s the buyer’s first time and they don’t know what to look for. They should ask more questions, though, and ask in detail. If they see a brand new kitchen they should ask if there’s a permit because a permit is required. For the heating system and roof, they should make sure there are permits. I can get to a property and there may not be a permit and if something has been covered over you can have unanswerable questions. Homes that investors are buying and flipping, turning around for a fast sale, are not getting permits. Doing fast cheap work and covering up issues without permits means you may not be able to go back and inspect. The buyer should not accept that a seller did work properly.
The Rental Girl: Does the buyer need to be present for the home inspection? What are the benefits of the buyer being there?
Jon: A lot of inspectors will tell you not to look over their shoulder and bother them. I’m the opposite. I want the buyer there and we can inspect room by room and the buyer can begin to determine the cost of repairs. When we’re done, the buyer should not have any questions about what needs to be done. The buyer won’t be asking, “I wonder if he inspected this?” I teach people through an inspection where your major shutoffs are and how to reset a circuit breaker.
The Rental Girl: After your 2-4 hour home inspection, you will have pointed out a lot of negatives about a home. For a 1st time home buyer, this can be overwhelming. After their inspections, the buyer needs to decide if they are going to move forward with the purchase or back out. What advice do you have for a buyer to help them make a wise and informed decision?
Jon: That’s why a buyer needs to be present during the inspection. The list can be broken down so it’s not overwhelming. There are some things you may ask for credit from the seller to make a minor repair. Your inspector’s also going to tell you what things need to be done right away to prevent further damage to the property and what issues can wait. The buyer needs to decide based on the inspection. It boils down to dollars and cents. If the conditions can be fixed for a reasonable price then the home is worth the purchase. Buyers should lean on their inspectors to give an accurate view of the property’s needs.
The Rental Girl: Do you have any other advice or comments that would be helpful for a 1st time home buyer?
Jon: Don’t just go by price to choose your inspector. You want an inspector who is CREIA (California Real Estate Inspection Association) certified and who is tested and has continuing education every year. If you have an inspector who’s done thousands of inspections year in and year out and he’s a member of CREIA then you will do well. The cheaper guy may have a lack of experience and can’t explain things thoroughly to you. You don’t want to try and save $100 or $200 if you’re buying a half million or million dollar house. Pick the most experienced inspector.
The Rental Girl: One of the reasons we wanted to interview you for our blog is because we are so impressed with your home inspections. You have been performing inspections for us for over 12 years. You are extremely thorough and detailed. You are talking to the buyer during the entire inspection, educating them answering their questions and a lot of times alleviating their fears. That’s what we feel sets you apart from other home inspectors. What do you feel sets you apart from the others?
Jon: Number one is the amount of time and explanation I spend with the buyer and I give the buyer the ability to call me anytime in the future. Instead of contacting a contractor they call me first. I’m the neutral guy who’s not trying to sell them something. I had 3 calls in one week with the buyers calling me who didn’t understand the function of an item in their house. I can review bids for them and teach them how to repair something over the phone. I’ve frequently helped buyers save $8,000 to $10,000 on a phone call and I offer that service at no additional charge. During the recent home repair slowdown around 2008, many contractors weren’t getting enough work. They were forced to do exaggerated repairs. I encourage my buyers to call me before they ever call a contractor. I can give them a good understanding as to where to buy materials and how long the job will take. That way they’re less likely to be taken advantage of. For first time home buyers, the experience can be scary since they don’t understand the conditions of their home. For me, I encourage the buyer to spend time with me.
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