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Home Inspections Explained: Expert Insights from Sonoma County Home Inspector Gunnar Alquist

Buying a home is a series of steps—get pre-approved for a mortgage, connect with a qualified real estate agent, go house shopping, and so on. There’s a process to it. 

And one essential step in this process is getting a home inspection. This provides both sellers and buyers with information about the safety and condition of the house so both parties can make informed decisions. 

And while important, home inspections can be a bit confusing. Do you always need a home inspection? What do they look for? How can you find a reputable home inspector? 

To answer all these questions and more, we recently sat down with Gunnar Alquist, who has worked as a home inspector in Sonoma County for the last three decades, inspecting thousands of houses throughout his career. 

Here are his insights on what you need to know about home inspections in Sonoma County. 

SOMO Village: Can you tell us about your background and how you became a home inspector? 

Gunnar Alquist: I started my career in construction more or less right out of high school. I got my contractor’s license in the mid-1980s and worked in that field for about 10 years. But construction can be a hard thing to do—it’s hard on the body—so eventually I had to find something else to do as a career.

Inspections seemed to fit my personality, so I started doing that in the mid-1990s, eventually launching my own business in 2001. I have an associate who also came from a construction background and he’s been partnered with me for about 15 years now. 

Last time I checked the numbers, we’ve done well over 8000 home inspections in the lifetime of my company and then prior to that, I’ve completed another 3000 or so. I’ve definitely seen my share of crawl spaces!

What is the role of a home inspector in the home buying process? 

Both sellers and buyers can get a home inspection during the home buying process. Traditionally, home inspection happened during the purchase period. It was provided for contractually in the purchase agreement and took place within a couple of weeks, depending on what was negotiated during the offer and acceptance period. 

However, more and more recently, current owners are getting home and pest inspections prior to listing the home. This gives the current owner the knowledge ahead of time so that they can appropriately price the house. 

For example, if the house needs a new roof, they can deduct that amount from the purchase price so that the buyer can purchase the new roof. 

Buyers can also request home inspections on a house. The home inspector may uncover something that is contrary to what the seller disclosed or catch something new. This means the buyer can go back to the seller and ask for a repair, correction, or reduction in price based on what the home inspector found. This can re-start negotiations about the sale or price of the home.

How can someone find a reputable home inspector? 

It’s important to know that the state of California does not currently license home inspectors, as is the case in about a third of the country.

There’s been talk my whole career about licensing, but it hasn’t happened yet. I believe this is because we are “homeless” in the industry—we don’t fit into the contractor’s board that is focused on building, we don’t fit with the pest inspectors looking for something specific, and the real estate agents don’t always want us finding flaws in the homes they’re trying to sell. 

But while there isn’t a state licensing body, there are associations that certify home inspectors. I belong to the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA), which focuses on California specifically. They also require a background check of members every two years, so homebuyers can be confident knowing there is some security when allowing the inspector in their home. 

Those are the reasons I’m certified with the CREIA, but there is also the broader organization, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), which certifies home inspectors country-wide. 

Both of these associations are educational organizations that provide information and check the knowledge of home inspectors to ensure they’re following important standards. They use the National Home Inspector Examination as part of the certification process. 

If someone is looking to hire an inspector, I believe this is a good baseline to ensure they’re qualified and knowledgeable in their work.

What types of things do you look for in a home inspection? 

Our process is considered a non-invasive inspection of the accessible areas of the house. The home inspection is primarily looking at the safety, structure, and wear and tear of the building.

As I look through the building, I’ll make notes about the condition and recommendations toward who to hire to fix any problems—i.e., a roofing contractor to fix a leaking roof. If there are no problems, I will also make a note of that. 

Here are the main areas we look at during an inspection: 

  • Roof: Integrity, leakage, age. 
  • Grade and drainage: Water flow, draining. 
  • Exterior siding: Holes, painting, painting windows, and doors.
  • Electrical, heating, and plumbing systems: Electrical wiring, overall condition, unsafe conditions, obsolete equipment. 
  • Interior: Conditions of walls and floors.
  • Attic: Insulation and ventilation.
  • Crawlspace: Plumbing issues, disconnected ducting, damaged insulation, evidence of pests.

Our recommendations are general in nature—we point out what is wrong and why things are wrong, and then point them to a professional that can address the problem specifically. 

And while there are things we look for, there are also things we are not permitted to look for by state law. For example, pest-related items or wood-destroying items like termites, dry rot, certain beetles, etc., are things we are not meant to comment on. If we observe those things, we can note them, but can’t offer any level of detail because of the way the professional codes are written. 

What do you look for in an older home during an inspection? 

As a rule, we’re using current standards and basing it on that. However, if something doesn’t meet the current code because it’s older, it’s not necessarily immediately unsafe, but there could be good reasons to get an upgrade.

For example, if you have a house built in the 1940s-1950s, the electrical outlets don’t have a grounding conductor like new homes do. In many cases, this isn’t a problem when you’re plugging in two-prong items. However, kitchen appliances, laundry appliances, and some of those do have grounding plugs. In this case, I would recommend upgrading this system to make those appliances safer and avoid getting a shock. So, I would explain that all and provide recommendations of what they could do to bring things up to current safety standards. 

Some other areas that need to be specially looked at in older homes include the furnace, water heater, and doors and windows with old glass that shatter easier than modern glass.

When we do an inspection, we’re very clear that this is not a code-specific inspection. We are not able to enforce a municipal or building code, for example. We are aware of the codes and use them to influence our inspection, but we are not holding people legally to the current code—we give information on what the problems are and how they can be addressed. 

Are there any instances when someone doesn’t need a home inspection? 

Generally, home inspections are always a good idea. If you’re spending into the $700-800,000 range for a home here in Sonoma County, another $600-$700 on a home inspection can be really worth it. It may just save you tens of thousands of dollars if an issue is caught. And, at the very least, you can feel confident in your investment and know if there’s anything wrong before moving in. 

One area where you may opt out of a home inspection is with a new build. However, some homebuyers still get an inspection on their brand-new home after it’s been constructed to ensure there are no problems. More often, I get requests for inspections in the 10-11-month period because there is usually a one-year warranty and the buyer can go back to the contractor with any problems that need to be resolved. 

To note in California, minor things are subject to that one-year warranty, although contractors are responsible for major issues like a cracked foundation past that period. 

Another time it may be up in the air to get a home inspection is if you’re buying a condo inside a building. They’re not as common here in Sonoma County, but if that’s the case, a home inspection is just looking at the interior of the condo, so it’s less to inspect overall. Typically, there are fewer problems that the owner is responsible for in a condo—the bigger issues of the building fall under management’s purview. 

But, overall, a home inspection is something that will either offer actionable information about what needs to be fixed in your home, or peace of mind knowing that everything’s safe and sound.

If you’re interested in connecting with Gunnar, you can contact him by phone or email: 707-529-9189 or You can also visit the Full Circle Inspections website for more information. 

Learn more about Sonoma County’s best presale homebuying opportunity. 

If you’d like to learn about presale homes in Sonoma County, download our project brief to find out why SOMO Village might be the perfect community for you. 

About Gunnar Alquist: 

Gunnar Alquist has been inspecting almost since the beginning of time. Born and raised in Southern California, he realized his mistake in his mid-20s and moved to Sonoma County in 1986 to rectify the situation. Entering the construction trades in the Big Bear Lake area in 1979, inspecting since 1997, CREIA certified, and having completed more than 8000 inspections in the North Bay, there are few in this area that have the level of knowledge and experience to match. Oh, and he is humble too.

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