In some areas of the country, specifically California where it is required by State Law, at least every few years a Reserve Study needs to be prepared on the basis of a “diligent visual site inspection”. But what does that mean?
This phrase was borrowed from California Civil Code 2079(a), defining a Real Estate Licensee’s duty to inspect and disclose material issues about the property. That phrase expects a Real Estate Licensee to note and point out obvious things like a stain in a ceiling, but does not require them to lift floor coverings, move furniture, or inspect the interior of an attic (things more appropriate for a specialist like a Home Inspector). In a similar sense, this clause was expected to define that in the process of preparing annual Reserve Study updates, at least every few years that Reserve Study update would be prepared with reasonable skill and care based on a visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a property.
It does not imply intrusive or destructive testing, or require a particular professional skill or license. In other words, you can do it yourself, as long as you are conscientious and thorough. There is, of course, value in the expertise and independence provided by a credentialed professional in the field (a RS or PRA), but such a credential is not necessary to comply with this “diligent, visual site inspection” standard of care.