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5 Expert Tips on Mountain Home Inspections: An Interview with Larry Olson of Close to Home Inspections

By Larry Olson

Tell us a little bit about your experience, company history and the services you offer.

Having spent the majority of my life living in the mountains, I have a real understanding of how weather and varied terrain can affect living conditions. I spent many years supervising construction projects and maintenance personnel in the hospitality industry. In 2005, I decided to work for myself, obtained training in residential and commercial property inspections, and started Close to Home Inspections. My daughter came up with the name because "Daddy would be close to home," and it just felt right. I have been specializing in the inspection of mountain properties for nine years having personally inspected over 2,000 mountain properties. I am a certified inspector with the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA), following all of their standards of practice; a certified thermographer; and I currently serve on the board of the Association of Building Contractors of the San Bernardino Mountains. Because I believe in contributing to the local community, I am a founding director of the Mountain Fifes and Drums, a local free youth fife and drum corp founded right after the events of 9/11.

Why is it important to treat a home inspection for a property in the mountains different than a normal home inspection?

Slope, location, materials and techniques used, building design, creative modifications and additions, drainage and soil erosion, weather patterns and many other factors play key roles in the current condition of every mountain home. There are no cookie cutter mountain homes! Each home has a story to tell. It's my goal to discover that story and clearly communicate my findings to my client. I provide an easy-to-read color coded report via email to my clients and often answer all of their questions before they have a chance to ask them. I always encourage a property walk-through with my clients at the conclusion of each inspection and am available for follow-up review of reports as needed.

Are there any special technologies or processes you use to identify defects for a potential home buyer?

As a certified thermographer, I use the latest infrared technology and techniques to uncover hidden water intrusion, plumbing leaks, electrical anomalies and other unseen problems that often exist in our mountain homes. These services are included in every home inspection.

What are some key things that you look for when you're inspecting a house in the mountains?

Many mountain homes are built on a slope, therefore, the ability to diagnose potential foundation problems through the interpretation of cracks in different locations of the home is pivotal to properly inspecting mountain homes. Small indicators in tile, windows, roofs and walls can often go unnoticed. These subtle variations can often indicate serious structural problems.

What's one of the biggest challenges that buyers face during the home inspection process?

Too often properties are not ready for the home inspection. Crawl space doors are locked, utilities are turned off, homes have been winterized, etc. Because the majority of the buyers are not familiar with mountain conditions, I take the lead and coordinate the preparedness of the property with the listing agent before the inspection so that the buyer doesn't have to.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to buy a mountain home in the Southern California mountain area?

Because our mountain homes are unique in all of Southern California, I recommend that buyers hire local, qualified real estate professionals who know the mountains and are able to provide knowledgeable guidance. Having said that, my advice is to be patient. Not every house will necessarily be the right house. Sometimes, it just takes time and one or more near misses before the right one is found.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

I can be reached at larry@closetohomeinspections.com or at 909-744-0223.

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