When buying a home in California, there are three important documents that play a significant role in ensuring a buyer is properly informed about all aspects of the property. They are the Seller Disclosures, Broker AVID (Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure), and Home Inspection Report. A common myth is that the 3 forms should have the same or similar information. Yet the truth is the 3 documents often have nothing to do with each other, as they are written by different people, with different perspectives and different laws governing how they are prepared.
Let’s look at the differences
The Seller Disclosures is prepared by the seller of a property to disclose any known material defects or issues. These disclosures are required by law in California. The sellers are obligated to provide accurate and complete information about the property’s condition. They generally contain information about any known deaths in the property, any known repairs, pets, and anything else the seller may think the buyer should know. Disclosures may or may not also include aspects of the neighborhood or living in the area that has nothing to do with the condition of the home.
One common problem with seller disclosure is it relies on the seller’s memory and perspective. Sellers are not necessarily trained to do home repairs and may not know the condition of everything. Memories can be subjective. If the seller has not lived in the property, they not be aware of important aspects of the property.
AVID is short for Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure. This a report by the Real Estate Agent(s) involved. It covers visible defects or issues that the agent can identify during their walkthrough of the property. Agents are required to produce an AVID under California Civil Code section 2079. An AVID requires an agent to walk around the property and report on what they see. However, the law specifically exempts agents from getting on ladders, looking behind/under furniture, opening cabinets, checking appliances, or anything beyond what is obvious to their eyesight.
The advantage of an AVID is the agent will usually report on cosmetic issues. They also give a fresh perspective on a property the seller may not have. The disadvantage is an AVID is rather narrow in scope. An agent is not going to use any tools, look under sinks, or check the attic, roof, or crawlspace. Agents are not required to be knowledgeable about building components, such as heating or air conditioning systems.
Home Inspection Report
Unlike the seller’s disclosures and AVID, a home inspection is NOT required by law. It is an elective usually paid for by the buyer of the property. Home Inspections in California are governed by the Business and Professional Code sec 7195. While the standards for a home inspection are set by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). Per California law, a home inspection is a noninvasive, physical examination of the mechanical, electrical, or plumbing systems or the structural and essential components of a residential dwelling designed to identify material defects in those systems, structures, and components. This more comprehensive examination aims to identify potential issues that might not be apparent during a visual inspection. For example, a home inspector will test the heating and air conditioning. Moreover, a home inspector will look under the sink and will have a ladder on hand, among other things.
Another key aspect is the seller’s disclosures and AVID are written-only documents. Generally, a good home inspection report will contain photos. Furthermore, a home inspection report from IM Home Inspections will contain numerous photos with detailed descriptions. See our sample report page for more details.
One key about home inspections is California Law 7195 (b) specifies “Style or aesthetics shall not be considered.”
Differences in Information
As you can see, each document can and will contain different information, While seller’s disclosures do have some standard questions, most of the information is largely up to the seller’s viewpoint of what is and what is not relevant. It often contains information that is not necessarily about the condition of the house itself. An AVID form, while heavily regulated, is also limited by law to only what an agent can readily see. Meanwhile, the home inspection standards are set by an entirely different organization and a different set of laws than the disclosure or AVID form.
A common item that may be in the seller’s disclosure but not in another report is “A hole in the wall was repaired last year.” If the hole is fixed correctly, the agent is not going to notice the repair in the AVID. The home inspector is inspecting the CURRENT condition of the home, and not how the home used to be in the past. Unless the repair was done poorly, it’s not likely going to be noted.
Whereas an item that may be in the AVID but nowhere else is “scratch noted on the floor.” To the seller, they see it every day to the point it stops being something they consider relevant. The home inspector, a scratch can be considered “aesthetics” which, by law, they are not supposed to take into account.
Meanwhile, the home inspection report will contain information about many items, such as the electrical panel and the condition of the furnace. None of which are likely to ever be found in an AVID or seller’s disclosure.
Therefore it is important for a buyer to thoroughly read the seller’s disclosures, the agent(s) AVID(s), and the home inspection report.
To book your home inspection call 818-298-3405 or book online here.