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Buying guide

The home inspection process

There are many obvious benefits to having an inspection done on a home you are interested in buying. A home inspector evaluates the structure of the house, gives feedback on other systems such as the roof, electrical system, heating and central AC, insulation, doors, windows and plumbing. Yes, home inspections are an added expense and are usually optional, but can really help you make sure that your largest purchase is in good working order.

If there are problems, your offer to purchase should have included a contingency stating that you can back out of the purchase if the inspection uncovers more problems than you are willing to take on. However, if the repairs are small, you can ask the seller to make them prior to taking possession of the home. The sellers may not be obligated to make every repair, so make sure you read the contract carefully. However, an experienced inspector may be able to offer quick-fix tricks for some small cosmetic issues.

No matter how much you like a house – new or old; it’s always a good idea to have an inspection to avoid a “Money Pit” situation. If there is a safety issue with the house, you might reconsider.

Finding an inspector and what to look for

It is best to contact several inspectors in your area and check their qualifications. There are several important things to look for in a home inspector. In Massachusetts, home inspectors are required to be licensed. However, in many other states, the home inspection business is not regulated and therefore, almost anyone can get certified as home inspector. As a result, make sure to verify the licenses of a home inspector prior to hiring. Licenses can be verified at the Board of Registration of Home Inspectors website or by calling the Board at 617-727- 4459.

In addition to checking licensure, ask about a home inspector's experience in the building trades, and current membership in a professional inspection association such as ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors). Although it used to be important to ask an inspector if they carried Errors & Omissions insurance, it is now required that all inspectors licensed within Massachusetts carry this insurance.

Make sure to ask the inspector what kind of services they provide and what services require an extra fee. Because testing for lead paint or radon, among many other things, is not required under the state's inspection regulations, it is important to find out if the inspector is capable, or in some cases licensed, to perform these extra inspection procedures. Find out what kind of report you will receive and ask if you can get photos of the problems areas along with the checklist of inspected systems. Also, it’s a good idea to ask for a time estimate. Make sure you attend the inspection as inspectors report all problems required by the Massachusetts 266 CMR regulations, and it’s important to actually see the problem for yourself. Check the rules and regulations governing home inspections in Massachusetts to find out what exactly an inspector is required and not required to report on, as the regulations have gone through changes in 2008.

It’s not a good idea to let family or friends perform the inspection for you. Even though they may have some expertise, there could be a huge problem for you if they miss a major problem, which could cause conflicts.

Last updated 07/24/08

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