Real Estate Education for Buyers: The Home Inspection
Brought to you by Hingham Realtor Alice Pierce serving the South Shore of Boston
Because you are buying a home on the South Shore, or selling a home in Hingham, Cohasset, Hull or any other South Shore town, becoming familiar with home inspections is in your near future. If you have not been through the buying process, you may not know all the ins and outs about home inspections and one of the best South Shore Realtors, Alice Pierce of Hingham, wants to educate you about the process ahead of time. Walking into your real estate transaction fully educated makes the home buying adventure go more smoothly.
What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is a normal part of buying a home and usually a contingency in your purchase and sales agreement. This means that your agreement to buy the home is not valid until you have the opportunity to verify the condition of the property to your satisfaction.
You will schedule a home inspection once you have signed a purchase and sale agreement. The timing of a home inspection is best done shortly after the purchase and sale agreement is negotiated and signed. This way there is plenty of time to deal with any repairs or changes that need to made.
As a home buyer, one reason you get a house inspection is to help identify any major defects or other problems in the house you wish to purchase. All visual pieces of the house are inspected and the installed systems are also assessed. More importantly, a home inspection educates you about all aspects about the home that are soon to live in. An inspection can last anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.
A general home inspection is conducted by a trained, certified home inspector whose final goal is to give the home buyer a written report of their findings. The report includes a general description of the current condition of the home at the time it was inspected. It is important to know that the home inspection offers no guarantees about its future condition.
During the inspection itself, you should follow the inspector to learn more about your new home and find out about all of the various components that you will be operating and maintaining. If there are areas of the property that require a deeper delve, the home inspector will make suggestions regarding this as well. Feel free to ask as many questions as you want to. You are the person hiring the inspector and paying them for their time. Therefore fielding questions is expected as part of the home inspection process.
What is a home inspector?
A home inspector inspects homes, answers home buyer questions, and writes up reports summarizing all of their findings. They are not real estate appraisers and thus cannot determine the value of the property you are purchasing. Additionally, the home inspector does not comment or verify compliance with various building codes. A building inspection deals with code compliance and is a more in depth assessment, usually of commercial real estate properties.
In many states home inspectors must be licensed, and Massachusetts is one of those states. The Board of Registration of Home Inspectors evaluates qualifications of those applying for a home inspector license. Proper training, experience, and passing a board approved examination is required for licensure, and continuing education is required for license renewal. Massachusetts Home Inspectors must carry a minimum of $250,000 in insurance in the event that a consumer of home inspection services seeks compensation related to losses resulting from an inspector’s error.
There are also larger professional associations related to home inspector. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors is worldwide, and in the United States there is the American Society of Home Inspectors. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) publishes a Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics that outlines what you should expect to be covered in your home inspection report.
How do I find a home inspector?
Your Realtor is required to distribute a brochure produced by the Office of Consumer Affairs about home inspections. This explains that you must choose from a list of all licensed home inspectors because your real estate agent cannot recommend a specific inspector. Massachusetts law also prohibits listing real estate agents from giving out a shortened list of home inspectors to eliminates any potential conflict of interest. Your Realtor can, however, give you that list of licensed inspectors in the state of Massachusetts.
What is in the home inspection report?
A home inspection report usually starts off with a detailed description of the home you want to buy. Then you will see different sections that include information about the heating and air conditioning systems, interior plumbing, electrical systems, roof, attic, visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, basement and structural components.
In your report there will notes related to the types of operating systems in the house, materials used etc. If you ever need replacement shingles, for example, then you can refer back to the inspection report for needed details. This is why it is important to save the inspection report with all the other appliance and home operating documents.
The report will also detail any problems he or she found, and then explain what they are and what it might take to repair them. Keep in mind that the home inspection report is not a repair list for the seller. It will include a list of recommendations, possible improvements, repairs, safety hazards and safety upgrades. Having things that need fixing or changing is perfectly normal when you are purchasing a used house.
What do I do with my home inspection report?
Once you have the home inspection report, you can then make informed decisions about your pending real estate purchase. There are a few choices including some type of renegotiation, cancelling the purchase, asking the seller to make repairs, or to move forward and do nothing.
If you are able to renegotiate the sales price with the seller of the home, you can then hire your own professionals with the money you were to otherwise spend on the final price of the house. This depends on your having the cash in pocket to pay for the job. Only when the home is rife with problems too large to take on does it make sense to cancel a purchase. And before asking the seller to make repairs, try taking their perspective first and realize that you will have more of an investment in doing the work once you are the homeowner, and can then do it to the highest level of quality you wish.
If the seller agrees to be responsible for some of the repairs, use language requiring licensed contractors, permits and inspections well in advance of the closing date. If your desired repair is too small then one must think whether or not it needs to be negotiated at all. Doing nothing is often the best route for routine wear and tear repair tasks. The homes that we live in show our use and it can be unrealistic to expect sellers of lived-in homes to fix every little defect.
There are no rules about how a seller responds to a buyer’s repair requests. As the home buyer it is your responsibility to decide what things you are comfortable taking on. If you decide that you would like to ask the home seller to fix certain things, that is perfectly acceptable and the basic guideline to follow is that anything clearly broken or inoperable, or that is a safety issue is a fair request. Remember that the homeowner is not obligated to fix anything.
Are their other types of general home inspections?
Yes. There are several other kinds of inspections initiated by different people and for different reasons.
A home seller can initiate an inspection to identify any problems with their house prior to putting it on the active real estate market. This report can then be shared with potential buyers, and/or used to make any repairs. When home sellers do get a home inspection, they generally make certain repairs and include this activity as part of the report. This kind of proactive decision shows that the home is in good condition and can encourage a quick sale.
A pre-delivery inspection applies to newly built homes. The term means that the person buying the new construction is either required or has the option to inspect the property prior to closing. Unlike other home inspections, this inspection happens about one week prior to closing. The goal is to ensure that all terms of the contract have been met. Usually a construction supervisor or foreman representative of the builder attends, as does the buyer and a home inspector. Any noted deficiencies are noted for completion prior to closing. Then a second inspection is conducted to ensure that everything is complete.
There is also something called the “final walk-through,” which, in real estate terms means that you, the home buyer, walk through your soon-to-be new home within one week of your closing. This ensures that any improvements or repairs that you and the home seller agreed on were made.
Are there more specialized home inspections?
Sometimes there is the need for more detailed assessments of specific areas related to your new home. Ancillary services can include things like inspections for wood destroying insects, radon testing, structural inspections, septic tank inspections, water quality, mold or moisture, boundary surveys, or private well inspections.
More commonly, the important details of a home’s functioning is covered by the overall home inspection. If further information is needed, these are but a few of the areas where this is applicable.
1) Well Water
Overall plumbing inspections can be performed by your home inspector. This portion of your inspection includes a visual observation of the general operation of the plumbing system. Accessible pipes, fixtures and components are examined along with the home’s water supply and waste removal system. The home inspector will look at water flow performance through all pipes and fixtures, and will inspect the all types of water heaters for temperature, venting and pressure relief. Testing the integrity of well water is something that is done by an outside source like a water-testing lab.
Your home inspection includes a review of the heating and air conditioning systems in your new home. A visual inspection of visible and accessible components along with the overall performance of the systems is the norm. Any possible improvements or defects are noted and a description of the system by its key components is included in the home inspection report. Since a home inspector is not required to disassemble the HVAC equipment, the innermost workings cannot be examined. If, for any reason this is deemed necessary, then a licensed and insured HVAC technician can provide a separate assessment.
Termites, carpenter ants and the like fall into a specialized category requiring someone who knows all the various species of pests and their seasonal behaviors.
Structural inspections involve determining any material defects in the structure of the home. If extensive repairs and replacements are likely to be needed, a potential home owner needs to understand the engineering and mechanics of the structure. This type of inspection requires a professional who has engineering or extensive building experience.
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, valid septic inspections can only be done by individuals approved by MassDEP as System Inspectors. The issue of septic and residential real estate will be covered in another Massachusetts real estate article.
As part of a home inspection, home buyers may choose to have a radon test administered by the home inspector. Massachusetts home buyers should understand what radon gas is, how it is tested and what can be done to mitigate high levels of radon gas.
An asbestos inspection takes place prior to prior to any renovation or demolition activity. As a homeowner, you will need to determine all asbestos containing materials (both non-friable and friable) that are present at the site and whether or not those materials will be impacted by the proposed work prior to conducting any renovation or demolition activity.
The presence of lead is considered a hazard for individuals under the age of six. Therefore it is a good idea to have a licensed lead inspector do a “lead determination” or a full lead inspection of your home prior to moving in.
Meanwhile, you can check on the status of a Home Inspector License, or find a home inspector by visiting the Board of Registration of Home Inspectors website.
Enjoy all the positives of the south shore of Boston. Feel free to contact Coldwell Banker Realtor Alice Pierce through her website, email or telephone 781-724-7622 about articles, community information for Hingham, MA, Cohasset, MA, Hull, MA, Norwell, MA and any other South Shore towns.