As a property inspector in Los Angeles for over 20 years I have seen all sorts of issues with the homes in our area. The top ten problems may not be what you might have expected.
1. Moisture intrusion is by far the number one problem with all structures. Water entering from outside a building to the interior is not wanted. That includes water seeping in from around exterior openings at windows, doors and vents. Decks and balconies are also notorious for leaking into living areas. Another major factor is improper drainage around foundations. Frankly, builders and owners in our area ignored the concept of proper drainage until "El Nino." And, now with the current mold craze in full swing, finding moisture intrusion issues has become all the rage.
2. Roof problems, though related to moisture intrusion is a category unto itself. The lack of rain in our area allows us to ignore deteriorated roofs most of the time. Roofs are always wearing from such things as the heat and ultra-violet rays of the sun, tree branches rubbing the material, piles of debris on the roof, wind and, oh yes, water from rain.3. Plumbing systems are a source of many problems. Many homes were built with galvanized steel water pipes that are rusted and worn. Copper water pipes are a far better product, but both metals will generally show problems after 40 to 60 years of service. When old steel systems start to leak copper pipes are often used to make the repairs. Mixing the two metals often can accelerate the deterioration of the iron pipes even when precautions are taken to isolate the two metals from each other.
Drainpipes typically last longer than water pipes however they have their own unique set of issues. The most expensive problems with drain system are where the pipes are underground between the street and the house. Drainpipes can begin to leak at the seams soon after they are installed or as they deteriorate and develop cracks. Often tree roots find the water from the leaks and move inside the pipes creating the most common reason for drain clogs.
4. Heating systems. Many homes still use the original floor furnaces or "gravity" heaters. The common problems with those are dirt, metal fatigue, rust and general deterioration as well as damaged or deteriorated venting and ducting systems.
5. Electrical systems. Problems often occur with the increased demand for more electrical items. The initial installation is usually done correctly but often the modifications are not.
6. Un-permitted modifications. This almost always causes controversy and can cost the seller more money at the time of sale then the cost of the original permits.7. Unprofessional remodeling is another source of problems and frustration for everyone. When things get built wrong, they can be problematic and in some cases unsafe.
8. Poor maintenance in general causes tremendous damage, especially to wood. Windows, doors, trim and virtually any exterior element can remain serviceable indefinitely if they are properly sealed against the weather. If not, the damage can be irreparable requiring replacement of not only that component but the surrounding areas of the structure.
9. Settlement. When the structure shifts due to the movement or compaction of the supporting soils it's called settlement. This can be brought about by over-saturation of the soil, ground shaking from seismic activity or hillside creep.
10. Poor operation. Windows painted shut, window balance wires or balance ropes broken; doors that stick or are out of alignment are all common nuisance problems.
By John A. LaRocca, Inspector and Member of the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) and a licensed general contractor. For questions or comments, contact him at (818) 951-1795 or www.laroccainspect.com