From Mass Housing
Q and A: Home inspections

Do you have questions about home inspection process? Well, you're not the first. The following questions and answers provided by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), should put some of your concerns to rest.

How much will a home inspection cost?

Inspection fees for a typical single-family home vary by geography, size and features of the property, and age of the home. Additionally, services such as septic inspections and radon testing may be warranted, depending upon the individual property. Prices vary. It is a good idea to check prices in your area as you consider a professional home inspection.

Don't let the cost deter you from having a home inspection or selecting an inspector with whom you are comfortable – knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the time and expense. The lowest priced inspector is not necessarily a bargain. The inspector's qualifications, including experience, training and professional affiliations, should be the most important consideration in making your selection.

Can't I do it myself?

Even the most experienced home owner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector. A professional home inspector has the experience, depth of knowledge and training to make an unbiased and informed report of the condition of a property. An inspector is familiar with the many elements of home construction, their proper installation and maintenance. An inspector understands how the home's systems and components are intended to function together, as well as how and why they fail. They know what to look for and are uniquely suited to interpret what their findings reveal about the property's condition.

Most buyers find it difficult to remain objective and unemotional about the house they really want; this may affect their judgment. For the most accurate information about the condition of a home, always obtain an impartial third-party opinion by an expert in the field of home inspection.

Can a house fail a home inspection?

No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies compliance to local codes and standards. A home inspector will not pass or fail a house. It will, however, describe the physical condition of a property and indicate what may need to be repaired or replaced.

How do I find a home inspector?

Word of mouth, and the experiences and referrals from friends and neighbors, are some of the best ways to find a home inspector. Someone who has used a home inspection service and is satisfied with the level of customer service and professionalism they experienced will likely recommend a qualified professional.

In addition, names of inspectors in your area can be found by searching the ASHI's online database, or can be located in your area Yellow Pages where many advertise under "Building Inspection Service" or "Home Inspection Service." Real estate professionals are generally familiar with the inspection services in your area, and can provide a list of qualified professionals.

When do I call in the home inspector?

Before you sign the contract or purchase agreement, make your purchase obligation contingent upon the findings of a professional home inspection. This clause should specify the terms to which both the buyer and seller are obligated. Contact a home inspector immediately after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed. Home inspectors are aware of the time constraints involved in purchase agreements; most are available to conduct the required inspection within a few days.

Do I have to be there?

While it is not necessary for you to be present, you should make time to join the inspector for their visit. This allows you to observe the inspector, ask questions as you learn about the condition of the home, how its systems work, and how to maintain them. After you have seen the property with the inspector, you will find the written report easier to understand.

What if the report reveals problems?

No house is perfect. When the inspector identifies problems, it does not necessarily mean you shouldn't buy the house. The inspector's findings serve to educate you in advance of the purchase about the condition of the property. A seller may adjust the purchase price or contract terms if major problems are discovered during an inspection. If your budget is tight, or if you do not want to be involved in future repair work, this information will be extremely valuable.

If the house proves to be in good condition, did I really need an inspection?

Yes. Now you can complete your home purchase with confidence about the condition of the property and all its equipment and systems. From the inspection, you will have learned many things about your new home, and will want to keep that information for future reference.