What to expect from your home inspection
No matter how well a home has been cared for, there will surely be issues that the home inspector uncovers. However, the inspection process can run smoothly if you know what to expect.
Conducting research before your home inspection. The purpose of your home inspection is to determine the condition of the property and uncover defects. Your home inspection can also suggest preventative measures you can take to avoid costly repairs. There are also steps you can take before you even get to the inspection to help minimize unexpected maintenance issues down the road. First, do your research before making an offer on the home.
* Check out major systems. Inquire about major systems in the home. For example, how old are the roof, furnace, and hot water heater? When was the furnace last serviced? Do the chimneys work? If the home is quite old, check to see if the electrical system has been updated.
* Read the seller’s disclosure. Many homeowners will fill out a seller’s disclosure form identifying historical information about the home such as dates of home upgrades and major repairs. If there is a disclosure form, be sure to read it before making your offer. Although homeowners are not required to fill out a disclosure form, they are required to disclose material defects that would impact the value of the home. This may include issues such as mold, termites, etc.
* Carefully check out the condition of the home. Before making an offer, take a close look at the condition of the property. Does the home have missing handrails or gutters? Stained carpeting? Broken floor tiles? Those are things that should be taken into consideration when making your offer. Your inspector may point them out, however, the seller would not be required to make adjustments for them, as they are issues that should have been noticed beforehand.
* Check on permits. Did the homeowner add on to the home, do electrical work, or install a wood-burning stove? If so, ask for copies of permit approvals for this work to ensure it was done safely and within proper building codes.
Finding a reputable home inspector. Ask friends, family, or colleagues for recommendations of home inspectors they’ve had good experience with, or check out customer review sites such as Angie’s List or Yelp to find a reputable home inspector. Your mortgage broker or real estate attorney may also have recommendations.
Verifying a home inspector’s license. Home inspectors in Massachusetts must be licensed. To verify a home inspector’s license, contact the Board of Registration of Home Inspectors at 617-727-4459. To be licensed, inspectors must complete a home inspector training program, pass an inspection exam, retain errors and omissions insurance, abide by a code of ethics, and perform at least 100 inspections under the direction of a licensed inspector.
What a typical home inspection covers. Typically, your inspector will check the roof, chimney, home exterior, decks, balconies, stairways, skylights, driveways, walkways, foundation, supporting columns, electrical systems, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, as well as interior walls, ceilings, floors, and attic area. For a full list of items your inspector can inspect, read the Division of Professional Licensure’s Standards of Practice.
What a typical home inspection excludes. A typical home inspector does not inspect items such as pools, dehumidifiers, solar panels, or exterior structures such as sheds. Many inspectors also do not inspect appliances.
Additional tests. Your inspector can also perform a radon test to verify that there aren’t unsafe levels of radon in the home. In addition, if the home has a private well, it’s a good idea to conduct a water quality and quantity test to ensure not only that the well has sufficient capacity but also that the water quality is safe.
Understanding the home inspection process. It’s prudent to accompany the home inspection so you can see firsthand any major issues that the inspector finds.
Also, it’s a common misconception that a home inspector will give a home a “pass” or “fail”. It works a little differently than that. The inspector will visually inspect the home and then provide a written report outlining all the issues they uncovered. Typically, inspectors classify defects into the following categories:
- Safety hazard: This means the inspector found this issue could cause harm to the person or property if not remedied. For example, improper furnace venting would be considered a safety hazard.
- Fully depreciated: This means the item, such as a roof, is at or very close to the end of its life span.
- In need of repair: These are areas that you may wish to remedy in the future but may not need immediate attention.
- Evaluate: The inspector recommends a review by a professional qualified to perform a more comprehensive review of the issue. For example, if a home inspector finds potential pest infestation or mold in the home, they’ll likely recommend that you contact a professional who specializes in this area.
After the inspection, read the report and talk with your inspector about any questions or concerns you may have. To avoid a conflict of interest, home inspectors are not allowed to perform repairs to the home or provide a quote for the cost of repairs. They’re also not allowed to speculate on the value of a home or whether or not to purchase it. However, they can provide valuable advice about the condition of the home to help you make this decision.
For more information, read the “Home Inspectors Facts for Consumers” pamphlet.