A standard home inspection is a visual examination of the physical structure and major interior systems of a residential building consisting of one to four dwelling units. An inspection can be likened to a physical exam by a physician; however, it should be clearly understood that a home inspection is not to be confused with an appraisal, a building code inspection, a guarantee of any kind, and/or an insurance policy on the condition of the property.
During an inspection, the inspector will review the readily accessible exposed portions of the structure of the home, including the roof, the attic, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, basement, and foundation as well as the heating/air conditioning systems, interior plumbing and electrical systems for potential problems. Home inspections are not intended to point out every small problem or any invisible or latent defect in a home. Most minor or cosmetic flaws, for example, should be apparent to the buyer without the aid of a professional.
A home inspector is typically hired by a potential homebuyer right after the offer to purchase contract is signed, prior to executing the final purchase and sales agreement. However, before the potential buyer signs the offer to purchase contract, he/she should be sure that there is an inspection clause in the contract making the 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.
Good referral sources for home inspection services are friends, neighbors, or business acquaintances who have been satisfied with a home inspector. In addition, lawyers and mortgage brokers may also recommend a home inspector. The names of local inspectors can be found by searching the Division of Professional Licensure website at www.state.ma.us/reg/boards/hi
, or in the Yellow Pages where many advertise under "Building Inspection Service" or "Home Inspection Service."
Real estate brokers and salesmen may not directly recommend a specific home inspection company or home inspector unless representing the buyer as a buyer's broker. Brokers, however, may provide assistance to buyers in accessing information on licensed home inspectors.
A current home owner may also want to get a home inspection to identify any problems, especially if the owner plans to sell the home in the near future.
Following are additional tips when searching for a home inspector:
As of May 2001, home inspectors are required to be licensed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A home inspector's license should be verified prior to hiring. Consumers should not be confused by home inspector "certifications" offered by, or sold by home inspection trade societies or companies, obtained via home study courses, or provided by home inspection companies that certify their own home inspectors. Since the home inspection business is unregulated in most states, certifications are available to anyone. A home inspector's license can be verified with the Board of Registration of Home Inspectors at its website or by calling the Board at (617) 727- 4459.
The home inspection company that is retained should welcome the potential buyer's presence at the home inspection. The home inspector should be willing to address all of the buyer's questions and provide a full verbal and written report.
Those hiring an inspector should expect an open door policy from the home inspection company to be able to ask questions about the content of the home inspection report in the future.
While not necessary, it is recommended that the buyer be present for the inspection. This allows the buyer to observe the inspector, ask questions directly, and obtain a better understanding of the condition of the home, how its systems work, and how to maintain it. The written report may be easier to understand if the buyer was present during the inspection. It is important that safe access and sufficient lighting is provided so that the inspector can inspect the property. Inspectors must provide a written evaluation report based on the standards of compliance in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 146.
At the conclusion of the home inspection, the buyer should be well informed of the condition of the home. It should be known if there are visible, apparent problems, if repairs need to be made, or whether or not there are any risks of concealed damage, and whether further investigation is recommended and/or required.
It is strongly recommended that potential buyers consider having the following inspections and/or tests performed prior to signing the final purchase agreement: lead paint, pests, wood destroying insects, including termites, and air quality including radon gas. While some home inspectors are qualified to offer these services, these inspections and tests are not part of the basic home inspection and should be contracted through qualified licensed professionals in those fields. It should also be noted that the seller is required, under 105 CMR 651.010, to provide the potential buyer with an affidavit disclosing the presence of Urea Formaldehyde Insulation if it exists. In addition, the seller under 105 CMR 460.750(A) shall disclose if the property has been inspected for lead paint and provide copies of any lead paint reports concerning the residential permises or any dwelling unit therein.
While most licensees conduct themselves as true professionals, the Division of Professional Licensure will take action against those licensees who fail to maintain acceptable standards of competence and integrity. In some cases, complaints are made by dissatisfied consumers, however, dissatisfaction alone is not proof of incompetence or sufficient grounds for disciplinary action.
If you have a serious complaint about a home inspector, call or write the Division's Office of Investigations and ask for a complaint form. The Division's Office of Investigations is located at 239 Causeway Street, Boston, MA 02114. The phone number is 617-727-7406. A copy of the complaint form can also be downloaded from the Division's website (www.state.ma.us/reg/
(1) Notice To Prospective Tenants. Brokers and salespersons engaged in renting real property, whether by written agreement or not, shall provide each prospective tenant with a written notice which states whether the prospective tenant will pay any fee for such service, the amount of such fee, the manner and time in which it is to be paid and whether or not any fee or any portion thereof will be payable by the tenant if a tenancy is not created. This written notice must be given by the real estate broker or salesperson at the first personal meeting between the broker or salesperson and a prospective tenant. It must be signed by the real estate broker or salesperson, contain the license number of such broker or salesperson, be signed by the prospective tenant and contain the date such notice was given by the broker or salesperson to the prospective tenant. Where a prospective tenant declines to sign such written notice the real estate broker or salesperson must note on such written notice the tenants name and the refusal to sign such notice.
(2) Record Maintenance And Inspection. A copy of the written notice referred to in 254 CMR. 7.00 shall be maintained by the real estate broker or salesperson for a period of three years from the date on which the notice was provided to the prospective tenant. Real estate brokers or salespersons shall furnish the notice to the board, its investigators or other agents upon request.
(a) Brokers shall maintain all rental listings and written documents that demonstrate the availability of an apartment at the time it is advertised for rental for a period of three years from the date on which such apartment is rented.
(b) Brokers shall maintain a copy of any check, money order and written cash receipt for any fees, deposits or payments made by a prospective tenant or actual tenant for a period of three years from the date of issuance. Brokers shall also maintain a copy of any check issued on an escrow account over which they have issuing authority for a period of three years from the date of issuance.
(c) Any advertisement concerning the availability of an apartment shall disclose in print no smaller than that for the apartment itself that "The apartment advertised may no longer be available for rental".
(3) Fees For Service. No real estate broker shall charge any fee to a prospective tenant unless a tenancy is created or in those cases where no tenancy in real property is created unless the prospective tenant has agreed in writing to pay such a fee.
Provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - Office of Consumer Affairs - Division of Professional Licensure