Hillside homes in Los Angeles sometimes are on Septic Tank systems and not city sewer.
Bureau of Engineering Public Counter, located at 1828 Sawtelle Blvd, on the 3rd Floor
The Bureau of Engineering is in charge of the LA sewer system. Their website Navigate LA is a great resource.
There is no documentation that I have found anywhere that explains how to use the Navigate LA website. The best way to learn how to use it is to speak to a city engineer because they use it every day. Navigate LA will show you whether a property is Septic or city sewer.
Accept the disclaimer and type in the property address you want to find out about. A Plat Map with the parcel will load. To find out information about the sewer, you will need to switch from the default layers to “Infrastructure – Sewer Information”
When the Sewer Information is selected. The map will reload.
Ridpath has city sewer, Walnut & Brier Dr do not- they have septic
Main Sewer Pipe color lines will appear on the map when you view Sewer Informaiton. If the property has city sewer, it will have a SOLID GREEN LINE on the street in front of it. No SOLID GREEN LINE- no city sewer, that means it must be septic.
Sewer Pipes Legend
The grey line in the middle of streets threw me off because the light grey solid line doesn’t have a sewer pipes color code. This light grey line indicates the center line of the street and has no relation to sewerpipes. Seeing that line instead of a colored line means that there are NO CITY SEWER PIPES on that street which will tell you immediately the property must be on septic.
* (When The “Infrastructure – Sewer Information Layer is turned on)
Just because there is a SOLID GREEN LINE, doesn’t necessarily mean the property is hooked up to city sewer. It just means that it can be. The Sewer Main line has “WYES” that branch off it that lead to private residences.
These sewerline pipe fittings are called WYES because they look like the letter “Y”
You need to confirm that the property has a WYE Hooked up in order to be sure it is connected to the city sewer.
Double click on the blue paper icon next to the property address to pull up the “available parcel Reports” window.
Click on Parcel Sewer Wye Report
There will be two types of Wye Reports.
If the Wye report looks like this, this is all you need to see. This property is hooked up to the city sewer. The Sewer Permit number on the bottom of the report confirms that.
If the WYE Report looks like this, then it is not hooked up to the city sewer. It costs about $15,000 to connect to the city sewer, because you have to dig up the street to lay the pipe and then recover it.
If you want to stop in person, the Bureau of Engineering also keeps physical maps of all the sewerlines- this was how it use to be handled before computers. You can still use these maps to determine whether a property is septic or sewer. Public counter hours are 7:30am-4pm
Many home buyers are scared about foundation problems because foundation repairs can be costly!
Foundation inspections are recommended by your general home inspector if they notice the floors inside a house are uneven, if the house has cracks in the walls, or they can see cracks in the foundation when they crawl, or spalling, or deterioration of the foundation. They test the sturdiness of the foundation by banging it with a hammer, if it starts to crumble they know that its lost its structural integrity.
if the door jambs and windows are crooked.
This was one of the most crooked doors I’ve ever seen. Located in a major fixer house on Rimpau near LA High
Someone put this wedge ontop of the inside of the door to fill in the gap in the doorframe that was created by the house settling
or if a retaining wall that looks like it is about to fall over
This Retaining wall was badly damaged at an REO property on Hillside Ave off Fareholm.
The Physical Inspector will be crawling underneath the house aswell, and if they are good, they will crawl the entire perimeter of the foundation to inspect the stem wall for cracks.
Cracks that are an 1/8 of an inch or less aren’t a serious concern, once you get to a crack width of a 1/4 inch they can cause major problems.
To repair a foundation crack like the one above is a $1,200 job. The repair would put some sort of concrete apoxy to fill the crack and secure it with a metal strap
This foundation of a stilt house on Mullholland had a foundation crack repaired recently.
In California there are a number of reasons a foundation might be having problems. The number one enemy of foundations is water, because they are made of concrete and steel rebar, both of which deteriorate when exposed to water for prolong period. When the foundation wears away from water eroding it, this is a condition know as “SPALLING”
The foundation has worn away so much that you can see daylight! The mudsill should not have a gap like this
The repair for Spalling is to pour new concrete to rebuild the wall that has deteriorated and fix any drainage problems.
Houses that were built before the 1940’s sometimes were built on uncompacted fill. This is not good, because soil tends to expand and contract at different times of the year when moisture levels changes, which can cause damage. The type of soil that is underneath the foundation also plays a key role. Clay soils tend to expand and contract the most.
Houses in Los Angeles built prior to 1940 have post and pier foundations.
This Post and Pier crawlspace is wet, crawl spaces should always be dry
The Piers in these foundations were laid out in an uniform grid that had no consideration give to the location of the load bearing walls. As a result, these older house tend to have uneven floors in places.
Past earthquakes could have caused damage in the past that was never known or fixed. Seismic retrofits can prevent future damage from occurring. If the property has had a seismic retrofit already, the foundation inspector will double check it to make sure it was done correctly and is in good shape.
Whenever buyers hear the word mold, they get terrified! Most of the time Mold isn’t a big deal, even if there is mold- it just needs to be cleaned up.
I recommend to get a mold inspection if you can see mold, smell mold, or if there is evidence of water damage, such as water stains or efflorescence. Where there is water, there is mold. If you have strong allergies you are more sensitive to mold and you may want to get a mold inspection regardless of whether or not you can detect it’s presence just to be safe. If you have strong Allergies, you may want to have a Duct Cleaning. This will remove a lot of irritants that may be in your HVAC system. Typically homeowners never clean ducts, ever. They can build up with dust, mold, pollen, pet hair, and other allergies, and then recirculate them in your home. A Duct cleaning can greatly increase the air quality in your home.
There is no such thing as a mold free house. There is a certain level of mold that is present in our environment. The best we can hope for is a mold level inside the home that is the same as outside, or slightly lower (with the help of HEPA filters). The point of a mold inspection is to compare the outside level with the levels inside the house. Elevated levels of mold or inconsistent mold types indicate a problem.
The reaction to exposure to mold varies greatly from person to person. It can trigger allergic reactions as well as flu like symptoms such as chronic fatigue, headaches, fever, irritation of the mucous membranes, nose, throat and eyes, sneezing, rash, chronic coughing, nausea, vomiting, and allergic responses. It’s very unpleasant.
There are a variety of methods to test for the presence of mold. The most popular is spore trap air samples. Air Trap is the most popular because it is non intrusive, and it is a good measures our air quality. Sellers don’t like to have their walls drilled to have a sample taken, and don’t want to be responsible for any mold that may be inside the walls of their since it is trapped there and you aren’t breathing it. From a buyers perspective, if there is mold in the walls, then there must be a water problem causing mold (mold needs water and cellulose food source to grow), that will need to be fixed.
Outside Airtrap Sample
Kitchen Spore Trap Air Sample
Each Airtrap sample costs ~$150, so it can get expensive fast to test every room of your house. A mold specialist will recommend which rooms to sample. They will also take an outside sample to use as the control. Common places for testing are bathrooms and kitchen because they have running water, and bedrooms, since you sleep there.
The spore trap samples are sent to a laboratory for a spore count – the lab will return a detailed report. Usually this takes a week start to finish.
Typically for California the outdoor spore count can be anywhere from 2,000-5,000 spores for any given time of the year. If your spore count comes back and a bedroom has 10,000 spores while the outside had 2,000 for sensitive people that might be a problem. As the number of spores goes up, more and more people will be affected. Around 20,000 spores it starts to become serious mold problem. There are houses I have seen with 50,000 or 100,000 spores or more! Houses that have a musty mold smell need mold remediation before they are livable. The purpose of a mold inspection is to find the presence of mold; the amount and variety.
The five most common types of mold found in homes are: Aspergillus, Fusarium, Penicillium, Stachybotrys, and Myrothecium.
Mold types have many different varietals, for instance Aspergillus has: Aspergillus candidu, Aspergillus carneus, Aspergillus clavatus,Aspergillus deflectus…. some are more pathogenic than others. Some types of molds produce mycotoxin – a poisonous chemical. The dreaded ‘Black Mold’ that everyone fears is a varietal of Stachybotrys.
During a mold inspection, the inspector also takes moisture readings of all the walls. Moisture level reading of 20%-25% or above are redflags that there is a leak behind the wall.
Whenever you see a waterstain on drywall, it is pretty safe assumption that there is mold behind the wall. In my experience I have found this almost always to be the case.
The above picture was taken of a water damaged ceiling in a condo unit. The scuppard on the roof of the building wasn’t flashed properly and that caused the leak. Behind the drywall there was a lot of mold.
“Geo” is short for Geological Inspection. Geo Inspections are done by Geologists who evaluates the risk, from a geological standpoint, of buying a home in escrow. Geologists rate risk on a scale of low, medium/average, or high.
The steeper the slope- the greater the force of Gravity
I always recommend to get a Geological Inspection for hillside properties. Hillside properties have gravity working against them, so it is important to ensure that the geological conditions of the lot are stable. A house is only as good as the foundation it is built on, and a foundation is only as good as the bedrock it rests on top of.
If the property has or has had a geological problem in the past like a Landslide, Slope Failure, Erosion, Creep, Collapsed Retaining wall, etc, these are expensive and can cost in the $100,000’s of dollars and could make the property unmarketable!
A GEO inspection protects you from buying a property with a known or observable Geological defect.
GEO inspections have two parts:
(1) Site Visit: the geologist and visual inspection of the property.
(2) Research: the geologist reviews city records and reports including building permits, previous soils tests, grading reports, historic landslide information, proximity to active faults, and geological bedrock survey maps.
At the end of the inspection, the geologist will write a report that summarizes all of their findings.
Geological Inspections do not include testing. The purpose of a GEO is to satisfy the buyer’s due diligence during escrow and not to be used for obtaining approval of building plans. No testing keeps cost down- a GEO inspection is 1/3 to 1/5 of the cost of a Soils test.
How do I tell if my property is Hillside?
You can usually tell just by looking around. Hillside properties are in the mountains, so if you see any big hills or slopes, you are probably in a hillside area.
Hillside Areas Are Shaded
Los Angeles has a special zoning designation for Hillside properties. You can look up the zoning information on the city’s zoning website ZIMAS. The main characteristic that defines a hillside property is slope.
The definition of a Slope (LABC 7003)
SLOPE. An inclined ground surface the inclination of which is expressed as a ratio of horizontal distance to vertical distance. Slope greater than 10% shall be considered as a sloping surface.
What does a GEO inspection Cover?
The GEO covers several different topics that relate to the hillside: Drainage, Grading, Soil/Bedrock, Seismicity, Landcaping, and Foundation
Controlling stormwater runoff is the most importantthing to keep your hill safe. Good drainage also protects your foundation from deterioration. Los Angeles doesn’t get much rain, but the occasional heavy rainstorm can dump 5 to 10 inches quickly, which can lead to landslides and slope failures (especially after wildfires) if your property doesn’t have proper drainage.
Soil naturally absorbs water, so having some open areas of permeable surfaces on the lot that can absorb runoff and not all concrete pavement helps drainage. For excess water, the best place to drain is in the streets that are connected to the city’s stormwater system and empty into the ocean.
Sometimes on hillside lots, especially downslope lots from the street, it is not practical to drain to the street which would require pumping the water uphill. If you can’t connect to the stormwater system, then an onsite drainage system such as a dispersion wall, sump pump, swale, or cross-lot drainage easement can be built to direct the runoff to an approved location.
It is illegal to send your stormwater runoff into the sewer system, which is a different system altogether. If everybody drained their stormwater into the sewers, the sewers would overflow! Storm surges can move 10 billion gallons of water in just 1 day. In addition, it is very costly to treat sewer water at waster water treatment plants, whereas stormwater is not treated.
Grading is shaping the land by moving topsoil. Hillsides are sloped. You need a flat pad to build on. Grading sculpts the land to prepare it for building.
When you remove soil- this is called a “cut”. When you add soil- that is called a “fill”. Depending on the soil composition, sometimes you can use your cut from the same site as fill, which can save a lot of money in hauling and materials costs.
Fill is where you sometimes run into trouble. Prior to the enactment of the Grading Code in 1963, fill was not generally well compacted, which lead to an excessive amount of settlement, landslides, and erosion. If your Geological inspection reveals that the lot has fill prior to 1963- be extra careful.
I’d also like to mention that fill should be free of large rocks or boulders and debris- Soil holds weight much better when there are no large obstructions to the compaction. I know in some neighborhoods in the hills, when the original grading was done, the developers did the grading hastily left a bunch of large rocks mixed in that has led to geological problems later on.
Just like you have setbacks for the front yard, backyard, and side yards, of your house- you have required setbacks from the hillside of your lot. There are two reasons for the hill setback- 1) the more flat land between the foundation and slope, the more bearing capacity of the soil and 2) if there is a rockfall or a mudslide you house has a better chance of being a safe distance away from it. The amount of the hill setback varies.
Geologists study rocks and dirt. When you start learning about Geology, it’s actually pretty cool! The first rocks on Earth formed about 4 billion years ago. Since that time the surface of the Earth has changed quite dramatically- and it’s still changing. Los Angeles is moving towards San Fransisco along the San Andreas Fault at the rate of a few inches each year which means that in about 15 million years these two cities will be connected!
The Geologist will visually inspect the soil conditions and estimate the composition.
Sand- Water drains quickly through sand
Silt/Loam- Just the right amount of sand and clay and organic materials, basically dirt.
Clay- Clay absorbs water, and expands and contracts. Too much clay in the soil can create expansive soils.
There are 4 main types of Bedrock in Los Angeles Area:
and estimate how far below the surface the bedrock is. The closer to the surface the bedrock is, the better.
Bedrock is what you anchor your foundation to and what gives it strength. Bedrock 5 – 10 below the surface is close to the surface, 20-30 feet below the surface is average, and 40 feet or more means the bedrock is very far from the surface and it can be very costly to anchor the foundation with caissons.
Chimney Inspections have been around in Los Angeles for about 10 years. They are a specialized inspection that focuses solely on the Chimney. Due to the highly technical nature of Chimneys and the difficulty in inspecting them without the proper equipment (Telescoping Rods, lighting, and video camera), most General Home inspectors won’t be able to tell you much, if anything, about the condition of the chimney, and whether it is safe to use or not.
I always recommend a chimney inspection if the property has a chimney (including condos). Chimney inspections are pretty common now, so expect your future buyer to have one when it is your turn to be the seller. Most people only use a chimney a few times a year during holidays, if at all. Sellers have caught on to this, and are not giving out big credits for $10,000 or $20,000 like they use to. You might see in listing remarks “fireplace is decorative only”. Sellers are excluding chimneys from credits and selling them as is. Even if you can’t get a credit for the chimney, it is good to know what is going on with it and to make sure it is safe if you want to use it.
A Chimney inspector, will visually inspect the firebox, including the screens, gas connection (if present), the damper, and flue. They will elevate a camera through the flue chamber to check for cracks, gaps, or bad connections. Anywhere that heat can escape from the chimney into the walls is a potential fire hazard. The inspector will go on top of the roof and give a slight push to the chimney stack to see if it moves. They will also inspect the connection of the chimney at the roof line. This area needs to be properly flashed to prevent water intrusion into the house. They will inspect the chimney cap and spark arrestor, and evaluate the height of the chimney.
Mike Rees the Chimney Guy inspecting a condo fireplace
Many single family homes in Los Angeles built between 1920-1940 have masonry brick chimneys that burn wood. These Chimneys have the most problems. They are coming up on 100 years old and almost always require maintenance and chimney repairs (the mortar that creates a fire barrier between the bricks and your house starts to turn to dust at around 100 years).
1920s Masonry Chimney Diagram
Original Masonry Chimneys were constructed without flue linings which help support the weight of the chimney and prevent smoke escaping from grouting cracks within the stack.
Inside Chimney View
Masonry Brick Chimney with NO Flue Lining
Masonry Chimney with Clay Flue Liner
The chimney stacks on these chimneys are made of bricks, and are extremely heavy. This weight tends to make the chimney crack and shift or lean away and seperate from the house. A chimney that wobbles when light pressure is applied is a earthquake safety hazards- it could topple during a quake.
This Chimney Wobbled when slight pressure was applied and needed to be replaced
As part of the clean Air act, beginning in 2009 the city of Los Angeles banned wood burning fireplaces from being built in new construction. Old wood burning fireplaces are grandfathered in, so if the property has one you don’t have to worry about losing it.
Technology has improved a lot since 1920s-30s. Chimneys are built smarter today. Back then, the chimney stack was made of all bricks. There are two problems with building a chimney like this:
1) The bricks are extremely heavy, which can make the chimney sag from its own weight or separate from the house over time
2) The heavy brick chimneys had no reinforcement and may be in danger of collapsing during an earthquake
Chimney contractors nowadays build chimneys with a lightweight metal flue, and surround it in wood framing.
Metal Chimney Diagram
If you want the classic look of a brick chimney, worry not, you can have the chimney stack covered with brick veneers to give you that authentic brick look, without all the weight.
This Chimney Stack was replaced by Parkstone Construction in a 1920s home Hancock Park. It has a metal Flue, and was covered with Brick Veneers. You can’t even tell the difference!
For a more affordable option, the chimney stack can just be stuccoed.
Stucco Metal Chimney
The mortar that was used in Masonry Brick Chimneys in the 20s and 30s was a mix of lime and sand- Portland cement (also known as gypsum concrete) was added to mortar mix later for chimneys built in the 40s and 50s on and tends to weather far better. The old mortar in these chimneys turns to powder over time, and often requires a new parge coating to be sprayed within the firebox and/or a new liner, or heat shield installed to reinforce the brick chimney stack. Modern building practices no longer construct brick chimney stacks. Brick is fine for the firebox, but modern building techniques favor a much lighter prefabricated metal flue chimney stack contained within a framed chase covering. Home owners that desire a consistent brick look with a brick firebox can have brick veneers cut and stuccoed over the framed chase structure.
Inside framed chase of metal chimney
Gas fireplace systems like you find in condos tend to have much less problems and are less costly to fix. The main issues that come up with gas chimneys is improper installation.
We live in Los Angeles- all homes here have termites.
McKernan Termite Inspector checking soffits of a garage with a probe
Sellers can be very nervous about getting a termite inspection, especially if a very long time has passed since the last termite inspection. They are worried that there is going to be termite infestation and termite damage which will add up to a big unknown expense. To give you ball park numbers, a fumigation for a 3br house is ~$5,000, chemical treatment ~$2,000, and wood replacement about $200-$300 per beam. For normal size houses you can expect $4,000-$6,000 if you haven’t done anything at all while you have owned it, and you’ve owned the property for at least ten years.
It is customary in Los Angeles for buyers agents to incorporate into their offer a “Wood Destroying Pest Addendum” or WPA. This addendum defines who pays for what. It identifies two kinds of conditions, section 1- ACTIVE INFESTATION and Wood Rot, and section 2- conditions likely to lead to infestation. Sellers are customarily responsible for taking care of section 1 items, which means getting rid of any termites if they are there and buyers are responsible for section 2. It is important to note that if you as the seller accept a WPA, then getting termite clearance is now a requirement of the lender.
Wood Destroying Pest Addendum
I strongly recommend to not wait until you are in escrow to get a termite inspection. Many sellers complain that accepting the WPA is like writing a blank check because they don’t know how much termite is going to cost yet. Avoid this by getting your termite inspection early so you know exactly how much it is going to cost. If you agree to the WPA, as a seller you get to reserve the right to choose which termite company will do the inspection, however you also will have to pay the inspection fee. A Termite inspection costs ~$150.
Condos tend to have less termite problems than houses in my experience- and since the expensive option, fumigation, requires permission from the HOA for the entire building to be tented, this never happens during escrow- so you will have the less expensive chemical treatment option if termites are discovered.
Multifamily Apartment Buildings also, almost never get fumigated in escrow, even if there are termites. This is because it is very difficult to get the tenants in the building to relocate for 2-3 days (you might have to pay them a per Diem) for the duration of the fumigation- all of their food will have to be bagged and any pets removed – its a big hassle. Usually the termite company will provide at the request of the seller, a ‘Secondary Recommendation’ (make sure you ask for this) for an alternative method to treat termite infestation other than fumigation. This means chemicals.
Example Secondary Recommendation highlighted
If you own a Spanish or Mediterranean style house with a clay tile roof, it might be wise to take a page out of the multifamily termite inspection book and also ask for a Secondary Recommendation on your termite report. The clay tiles on the roof are almost always damaged during a fume and the termite company will not pay to repair them. I would set up the negotiation with the buyer that if you do a fumigation, and any tiles are damaged, or landscaping around the house killed, that it is their responsibility to fix them.
When as a seller you are doing an as is sale, then you don’t have to worry about termites- it’s the buyers responsibility, although you usually still want to provide a report.
Expert Seller tip: Exclude the garage from the WPA. Many buyers don’t care about the condition of the garage, so they often will concede this point and it can save you money.
Los Angeles has an ideal climate for Termites, getting a termite report is mandatory. Some sales, such as short sales, bank owned sales, probates, are ‘as is’ sales exclude termite. The listing agent, offer instructions, or the Listing Remarks- will usually say if it is as is or not.
If it is not an AS IS sale, you definitely want to include a Wood Destroying Pest Addendum (WPA) with your offer. This form specifies that the seller pays for section 1, and the buyer is responsible for section 2.
Wood Destroying Pest Addendum
Section 1 is defined as Active infestation, and basically means if there are any termites there.
Section 2 means conditions that are likely to lead to infestation. Examples of this could be wood debris in the crawlspace, or an outdoor deck that is touch the ground.
Termite Inspections are paid for by the seller and they choose which termite company to do the inspection.
There are two kinds of Termite Companies: Buyers Termite Companies and Sellers Termite Companies. The Seller tend to choose termite companies that “won’t kill the deal”. What that means for you as a buyer, is that their termite company may not do a thorough investigation or miss infestation in their report. In most cases this won’t matter, if the house needs a fumigation, it doesn’t matter how much drywood termite there is, the fumigation will treat the entire house. Sellers termite companies tend to be really lax when it comes to inspecting the property. Being a termite inspector is not glamorous work- you have to poke around with a knife, a screw driver, or probing rod, looking for wood rot and evidence of termite damage, and crawl underneath the house on your belly in a confined dusty spaces with spider webs, sometimes its muddy, searching for termites. You have to go up in the attic which can be really hot if it is not ventilated and its summer, and be very careful to not miss a joist and step through the ceiling! Many times the termite inspection is not supervised, so there is no way of knowing if the inspection was thorough or not. Having been an agent for many years and seeing and working with many inspectors you learn which companies have good reputations and which ones are shady. If the report looks to good to be true it never hurts to hire your own inspector and get a double report. You can then take that report if it differs from the one the seller provided and show it to their termite company. If termites are there, they are there and you can’t argue with that. They will usually revise their report for these “new findings” if it was inadequate. Be especially careful of Remodels or Flips. These properties were usually neglected for many years and then rapidly improved by the investor and put back on the market. I have found that many investors either do not budget for termite, or include termite in their remodeling plan, and as a result these properties may look wonderful but have major termite problems. A fumigation is needed, but you will probably have to fight to get it, or do it yourself.
As a general rule, the longer the property has gone since its last market sale the more likely there will be serious termite damage and active infestation. This is because most property owners only fumigate/treat termite when they sell. If the property hasn’t sold in over 10 years be on the look out for termite and if the termite report comes back too clean be suspicious.
Buyer Tip: Write in anything that has Wood to be included in your WPA, this means wood decks, garages, wood staircases, guest houses etc. to get full coverage.
How do Termite Inspectors Find Termites?
Drywood Termite Kick Whole and pile of frass
A termite inspector will be looking for “frass” which is a pile of termite droppings that is a tell tale sign of drywood termite active infestation
The termite inspector will have a prod or some kind (usually a ski pole, pocket knife, or phillips screw driver) that they will use to poke wood siding, rafter tails, door and window jambs, and floor joists to explore for termites. Termites eat wood, so any wood that has an active infestation will be hollow and the prod will poke straight into the damaged wood.
This wood has been completely eaten by drywood termites and needs to be replaced
Very thorough termite inspections go through the crawl spaces, all over the property, and into the attic.
How to Read a Termite Report
Termite reports have two important pages, the first page and the last page. The first page will have a diagram of the property. There are labels such as A2 and b11 or whatever. The Termite inspector will give codes to each item he finds. The explanation of the codes is in the interior pages of the report. If there is a bunch of codes everywhere that means that the property needs a lot of work. If there are no codes at all, you had a clean inspection.
Here are some side by sides of termite inspections on the SAME property. Just to give you an idea of the difference in detail that you can get from one company to the other. The Left side are Seller Termite Companies, and the Right Side are Buyer Termite Companies
The last page of the Termite report will have the termite inspectors recommendations and cost, if any corrective work is needed. The corrective work will be seperated into section 1 and section 2 items. The most common treatment for drywood termite infestation is fumigation or injecting chemicals in the walls and for subterranean termites is spraying chemicals on the ground. Additionally, any wood that has structural damage as a result of the termites will be replaced or braced with a method known as ‘sistering’. Sistering is like putting splints on the damaged wood. The contractor sandwiches the damage wood with a new piece of wood.
The lighter color wood is new, at the top is a sister
Sometimes there is no easily accessible cleanout, in those cases, a sewer line inspector can run the camera through a vent pipe in the roof.
Many buyers are surprised to learn that as a property owner, you are responsible for maintaining the sewer line from your property all the way to the public sewer tap which is buried somewhere in the middle of the street. Owners are often surprised by this because the tap is usually outside of the property line. If the sewer line is broken somewhere underneath the street this is worst-case scenario and can cost $5,000 to $10,000. Most sewer lines are in OK shape and may only need a hydro jet ($400-$600) or are missing a cleanout ($600), or need a small area repaired ($1,200 to $1,500). Either way, it is a good idea to have a sewer line video inspection.
Without a sewer line inspection, there is no way of knowing what the condition of the sewer line- if the line is blocked or cracked it could cost as much as $10,000 or more. Cast Iron and Clay Piping were the materials used for sewer lines when Los Angeles was being built from the 1920s through the 1950s. These materials have a useful life of approximately 60 to 80 years. Each residence must have its own line that runs into the city sewer. Occasionally homes built on split lots, 1/3 lots and 1/2 lots have illegal sewer line connections. When the lots were divided the new sewer line was patched into the property next store instead of running directly to the city tap. Illegal sewer line connections must be dug up and replaced. I strongly recommend sewer line inspections for a property built forty years ago or more, but in general, it is always a good idea to get this inspection.
A professional sewer line inspection kit runs in the neighborhood of $6,000. Without the property equipment getting a good evaluation of the sewer line will be difficult. The first thing to ask is if they have a color camera- if the camera is black and white, which cheaper kits have, the quality of the video from the camera will be much lower. Another question to ask is if the camera is capable of recording- if they can’t make a video for you, then the inspection is greatly diminished in value- the seller is not going to be there when you conduct the inspection, so they won’t know what their sewer line looks like. If you can share with them the video it is pretty hard to argue with that. Make sure the technician spins the camera around at the end of the inspection to capture some of the yard and house and himself- this will let the seller know that the video was taken at their property, otherwise who is to say from which sewer line the video came from? How many feet does the camera have? 100ft is on the shorter end, the cheaper kits have this size line. You are looking for a 200ft length cord- with that length you will definitely reach the city tap. Another question to ask is if they have a locator. When you discover a problem such as a cracked fitting, or root intrusion, you can easily mark where the problem is by using a locator to find where the camera is and spray painting a dot, or sticking a flag in the lawn. Finally make sure that the camera displays a foot counter on the screen so that you know the length of the sewer line run, and where along the line you are as you are conducting the video inspection.
A great inspector will have referrals for contractors if you need to get a bid on a sewer line repair. There are two types of contractors that can work on sewer lines- a sewer contractor and a plumbing contractor. Anything requiring access to the public right of way (IE the street) requires the contractor to be bonded.
Sewer Contactor :
A-1 License (General Engineering), B-1 (General Building), C-36 (Plumbing), or C-42 (Sewer, Sewage Disposal, Drain, Cement Pipe Laying), a Los Angeles City Business License with an insurance policy on file and post the appropriate cash/surety bond. The City’s current list of bonded sewer contractors is provided on the following web page.
There are two types of sewer line inspection companies, Licensed plumbers and inspection only companies. For real estate transactions, I like to use inspection only so there is no conflict of interest but if there is a problem a licensed plumber can also give a quote which saves time.
Sewerlinecheck is a La Rocca company. They are the largest Sewer line Inspection company in Los Angeles with 3 inspectors. They set the standard that everyone else in the industry follows. I have been using them for years and they are very professional. They have the sewer line inspection thing down.
Sewer line Video Inspections (Inspection Company and Licensed Sewerline Company)
Ferrell and Alex sewerlinevideo.com
20058 Ventura Boulevard #150
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Ferrell was a plumber for many years, now he specializes in Sewer line inspections and sewer line repairs only. One nice thing is they have a Hydrojetter on the truck so if there is a blockage they can remove it. The charge an extra $25 if they have to drive a little longer. The cost of Inspection is $275. They operate by referrals mostly and 90% of their business is referrals.
General inspection covers all the major systems of the house: roof, plumbing, foundation, electrical, appliances, Heating and Air Conditioning, Windows, Exterior, and detached structures.
The General Inspector may also recommend a follow-up inspections by a specialist or contractor, for the Sewer line, Chimney, Geo, Mold, Asbestos, Foundations, Plumbing, Electrical, Roof etc.
Make sure the utilities are on for your inspection, because if the gas, electricity, or water isn’t turned on, they will be limited with what they can test.
The inspector will check the furnace + AC + Stove + Oven Vent + Dishwasher + Garbage disposal and a host of other things around the kitchen.
A great inspector takes their time. There are a lot of spaces and items to look at. For an average size home an inspection lasts on to two hours, although it can take three hours if the home buyer asks a lot of questions. I encourage my clients to ask the inspector any questions that they have- because inspectors are a wealth of knowledge and you can learn a lot about houses from them. They should be organized and go from one item to the next on their list. Inspectors today usually have a tablet that they write down their finds as they observe them, if they don’t write it down right away, they probably will forget about them later. Home inspectors go in the attic and crawl underneath the house. These are the tough parts of the inspection but also can be the most important. There is no drywall in either of these spaces so you can see “the guts”, in the attic you should be able to tell if the roof leaks, if there is insulation up there, and if the AC is in the attic, if it was installed properly. You will also have some electric up there for ceiling lights so you can see if the electrical wiring is cloth or Romex. Underneath the house you will be able to inspect the foundation for any cracks or other problems, check the plumbing for leaks, and whether the waterlines are copper or galvanized steel and inspect the drainlines.
After the inspection the inspector will write a detailed report. This report can be shared with contractors, the listing agent or the seller to make a request for repairs if needed.
It is important to note that there are exclusions to a home inspection. The home inspector will not check the laundry machines, because they don’t bring a load of dirty laundry with them to every inspection. The inspector does not test any low voltage wiring, this includes telephone lines, security systems, or cable. General Inspectors don’t do any destructive testing, so if there is something hidden behind a wall, they are not going to opening it.
inaccessible area, parts of this garage are blocked by objects and boxes
Inaccessible Areas are also excluded from the inspection. Examples of inaccessible areas are: Attics with less than 18″ crawl space, the space in between walls, the floor underneath the fridge or stove, places blocked or covered by furniture or cluttered by possessions. Rooms that are locked (this can happen with tenant occupied property) and areas in the exterior that are unreachable due to heavy brush, sloping terrain, or plants (like ivy).
Estimated Inspection Cost:
$400 for homes
$300 for condos
$500 for income property
The price of a general inspection increases with the property’s size , expect to pay an additional $50 for each extra 500 square feet over 1,500 square feet.
The General Inspection is the most important inspection, always get one of these. Your general inspector will recommend any specialty followup inspections (Foundation, Mold, Chimney, Drainage, Roof, Plumber,HVAC) if they feel that they are warranted. For Houses I recommend Sewerline Inspections and Permit Reports too, and if it has a chimney, and chimney inspection also. If you smell mold or there is evidence of water damage or you have bad allergies, a mold inspection might be a good idea. Surveys and Geological Inspections are for hillside properties. Tree inspections and Soil Tests are for builders.
Some buyers are overwhelmed when they first receive their inspection report, these inspection reports usually average 30-40 pages. Keep in mind, that if the inspector doesn’t find anything wrong with the property- it looks they are not doing their job! An inspector is going to point out every single thing they find wrong with the property. Don’t be discouraged by the report, chances are it is still a good property.
Remember when I said houses aren’t perfect? Minor things such as cracked sidewalks that might be a trip hazard,
This sidewalk is a trip hazard. Property owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk, not the city!
dirty air filters:
Example of an inspection report – dirty filter, this is very common
doors that don’t open or close properly, loose tiles, a hairline crack in a sink or mirror, old but functioning water heaters or air conditioning units, sticky windows that are difficult to open and close- these minor problems you have to put up with as a buyer. The older the house, the more of these types of problems you can expect.
Inspections are for finding major defects, such as a cracked foundation,
active termite infestation, leaky roofs, broken sewerline, eroding hillside
Illegal drainage, this hillside is getting an erosion scar from a small amount of water
Should inspections uncover a major defect, there is a process known as request for repairs that allows the buyer to renegotiate the price with the seller or request for the seller to make the necessary repairs.
The inspection contingency begins the day after Acceptance and is measured in calendar days NOT Business days.
Paragraph 14 Purchase Agreement
The default contingency period is 17 days, which is plenty of time to complete all inspections. I would be very careful with inspection contingency time period of less than 10 days. With that short of an inspection contingency, you may not be able to complete all of your inspections within the contingency time period. Inspection companies tend to be very busy, and they need a few days advanced notice to book an appointment and a few days afterwards to write their report. Inspectors work Monday through Friday, and might squeeze a Saturday inspection on occasion. If the general inspector finds a problem that requires an additional specialty inspection or a construction estimate/bid you will need extra time to contact contractors and experts to give you an estimate on how much the work will cost. That takes time too. Add a weekend in there and your 10 days is up!
It is customary for the buyer to pay for all inspections except the termite inspection (paid for by the seller).
I strongly recommend, being present during inspections or have your real estate agent there in your place.
You might be asking if your home is nearby a major gas pipe line- Southern California Gas Company controls all the gas pipelines in Los Angeles and they have a very helpful interactive map on their website that you can use to check it and find out: