Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Home Inspection Process Explained

I have had a few first time buyers ask me if they need a home inspection.  My answer will always be yes. Even if money is no object and unless the property is a tear down, I believe every buyer should require a home inspection before signing the Purchase and Sale agreement.   When making an offer all buyers should be informed of their right to request an inspection.  An inspection is to recommended to protect the rights of a buyer and to allow the buyer to be well informed of their prospective purchase.  Inspections should be made for new as well as existing properties.    The inspector is hired by the buyer and the report should be totally independent of the seller.  

In this post I will explain the basics and give some helpful links.   Click here for Massachusetts consumer guidelines.  

What is involved? 

A home inspection is defined as an objective visual examination of the structure and systems of a home by an impartial, neutral third party not related to the buyer or seller. In layman’s terms, it shows you what’s wrong with the property you want to buy or sell and if it is serious enough to prevent a sale.

The three main points of the inspection include evaluating the physical condition of the home, including structure, construction and mechanical systems; identify items that need to be repaired or replaced; and estimating the remaining useful life of the major systems, equipment, structure, and finishes.

Basically, a home inspection is to inform the buyer of any readily visible major defects in the mechanical and structural components, and to disclose any significant health or safety issues by an independent agent who is not representative of the seller.  Particularly in new construction the buyer wants to be sure all the wiring and finishing cables, systems are in fact complete.   

Systems that are seasonally inoperable (swamp coolers, air conditioning, furnaces) may not be turned on during the inspection.  Additional items that may be included are Radon testing and if requested the buyer can hire specialists to look at Mold, Asbestos and Lead if suspected.  If items are raised of concern the buyer may be able to use this information to negotiate the final purchase price.  

(Of note, an inspector cannot report on defects that are not visible. For instance, defects hidden behind finished walls, beneath carpeting, behind storage items and in inaccessible areas, and even those that have been intentionally concealed.)  

How Do I Find an Inspector?
To hire an inspector, get recommendations from your Realtor, or from friends and family. You want to be sure your inspector is state certified.  Attached is a list of State Certified inspectors in Massachusetts.   When interviewing inspectors, be sure to ask for references and any memberships in professional associations. 

What should the buyer doing during the inspection?
It’s a good idea to be present during the inspection for a couple of reasons: First, you can ask the inspector questions during the inspection. Also, the inspector will have the opportunity to point out areas of potential trouble, which will mean more to you if you see it with your own eyes than read it in the inspector’s report later. Many inspectors also will offer maintenance tips as the inspection progresses.  I always suggest bringing a notebook and taking notes as the inspector points things out as they offer great suggestions for home maintenance and future ideas for improvements you may want to do once you own the property.

How Much Does it Cost and How Long Will it Take?
Remember that a thorough, accurate home inspection takes time. The last thing you want to do is to try to hurry the inspector along. The inspector’s most important priority is accuracy, and accuracy takes time. The chances of mistakes and missed conditions are much more likely the more the inspector rushes through. A typical timeframe should be about two to five hours depending on the size and age of the house.   

The cost will vary but be somewhere in the $200-$800 range depending on size.  There may be an additional cost for Radon or other special items.  

If you really want to learn even more about home inspections  I recommend reading a book called The Best Home Inspection Guide by Daniele L' Ami.  (After writing this blog Jim Morrison, Boston Globe corespondent  wrote a very good follow-up on How to Hire an Inspector in an article in this week's real estate section , April 10, 2019)

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham and also works on the Lower Cape.  If you would like to learn more about buying or selling a home please visit her at

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