Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions and investments you’ll ever make. Considering the average home in Massachusetts costs over $500,000, it’s crucial to have it thoroughly inspected before closing on the purchase. A home inspection helps ensure you know exactly what conditions and defects the home has before you finalize the deal.
While home inspections aren’t legally required in Massachusetts, they are highly recommended to protect your investment. Read on for a comprehensive guide on how the home inspection process works in Massachusetts, what to expect from an inspection, what inspectors look for, and tips for choosing the right Massachusetts home inspectors.
What is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a detailed visual examination of a home’s physical structure and systems. The inspection is performed by a licensed home inspector and helps identify any issues, defects, safety hazards, and adverse conditions that may affect the home.
The inspection normally takes 2-3 hours for a typical single-family home. The home inspector will visually examine the home’s roof, attic, exterior, basement, foundation, electrical system, heating and cooling system, plumbing, and interior rooms. The inspector will operate all equipment, appliances, fixtures and systems where possible to evaluate their condition and function.
The purpose of the inspection is to give home buyers a clear, unbiased assessment of the home’s current condition. While home inspections in Massachusetts are technically optional, they are strongly encouraged to uncover any hidden defects. Without an inspection, you could buy a home with serious undisclosed problems.
Massachusetts Home Inspectors
In Massachusetts home inspectors must be licensed by the state. Licensure requires inspectors to meet experience, education, and exam requirements set by the state. There are over 1,200 licensed home inspectors in Massachusetts.
Look for an inspector who has their “Board Certified Master Inspector” license. This indicates they have significant experience and have passed rigorous exams on all home systems. Home inspectors cannot provide repairs or estimates. Their role is to provide an objective analysis in their inspection report.
When hiring an inspector, look for one who has in-depth knowledge of the Massachusetts building code, installation guidelines, and common issues found in local home construction. They should also carry errors and omissions insurance to protect you from liability in the rare case they miss something.
What the Inspector Checks in a Massachusetts Home Inspection
The home inspection covers hundreds of items related to the home’s physical structure, construction, systems, and components. While inspection protocols can vary, here are the key areas and items typically examined:
- Roof age, condition, and estimated remaining life
- Roof drainage systems
- Chimneys, flashings, skylights, and other roof penetrations
- Walls, doors, windows, and trim for damage and deterioration
- Entry way doors and locks for proper function and security
- Garage doors, openers, and safety sensors for performance
- Patio, decks, porches for structural integrity and safety
- Gutters and downspouts for proper drainage
- Foundation for cracks or evidence of water intrusion
- Basement, crawlspace for water leaks, musty smells
- Floor for levelness, soft spots, or cracking
- Walls and ceilings for cracks from settling
- Attic components like rafters, sheathing, insulation
- Main service panel, amps, voltage, grounding
- Breakers and fuses for proper sizing
- Outlets, switches, and fixtures for functionality
- Wiring for hazards and proper installation
- GFCI outlets for proper protection from shock
Heating and Cooling
- Heating equipment like furnace, heat pump, boilers
- Cooling equipment such as central air conditioning
- Thermostats, vents, flues, ducts for proper function
- Chimneys and gas lines for any signs of leaks or corrosion
- Water supply and distribution pipes for leaks and pressure
- Drain and vent pipes for clogs, leaks, or improper piping
- Water heater for leaks, age, capacity, venting
- Fixtures such as sinks, toilets, tubs for operation and defects
- Sump pump, ejector pump for proper operation
- Softener system, private well components
- Walls, ceilings, floors, doors, cabinets for damage
- Windows for cracks, glazing compound, and operation
- Fireplace and chimney for proper venting and operation
- Built-in appliances like ranges, ovens, and microwaves
- Laundry appliances including washer and dryer
- Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
This covers most of the major systems and components inspected. The inspection will also look for visible indications of termites, rodents, pests, and wood-destroying organisms that require further evaluation.
Keep in mind the inspection is not technically exhaustive and some intermittent problems may not be observable during a limited inspection. But it does provide a general overview of the home’s current condition so you can make an informed purchase.
What Happens During a Home Inspection?
Before the inspection, ask the home seller if all utilities can be turned on and appliances connected for testing. The inspection process generally includes four main parts:
- Interior Inspection – The inspector examines interior spaces including ceilings, walls, floors, windows, doors, kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, and built-in appliances. They check for water stains, cracks, trip hazards, and overall condition. They will test a representative sample of electric outlets, lights, cabinets, sinks, toilets and more.
- Systems Inspection – The inspector examines the home’s systems individually including electrical, HVAC, plumbing, well/septic if present. This involves testing switches, outlets, wiring, breakers, water flow and drainage, appliance cycles, AC function, and amp draw.
- Roof and Exterior Inspection – The inspector examines the roof, drainage systems, siding, windows, doors, decks, porches, garages, grading around the home, and retaining walls if present. They look for damage, leaks, or improper installation.
- Summarization Meeting – At the end, the inspector summarizes initial findings and points out any issues needing repair or further evaluation. This gives the buyer a chance to ask questions.
Inspectors bring specialized tools and equipment such as moisture meters, outlet testers, thermal cameras, and ladder/flashlights. They take photos throughout the inspection to document their observations.
The inspection takes around 2-3 hours, sometimes longer for especially large homes. The inspector produces a detailed written report summarizing the home’s condition, usually within 24 hours.
What the Inspection Report Includes
The home inspection report is an important document that determines if the home meets your standards prior to closing. Reports can run 20+ pages summarizing:
- Scope of the inspection – areas examined, limitations
- Overall summary of the home’s condition and age
- Details on the condition of each system like roof, electrical, HVAC
- List of issues, defects, or items needing repair
- Safety hazards, code violations, or areas needing improvement
- Photos documenting issues found during inspection
- Recommendations for qualified professionals to perform repairs
- Summary of estimated costs for identified repairs
The report allows you to clearly see the home’s condition before moving forward with the purchase. It also provides ammunition if you want the seller to address issues before closing or if you’re negotiating for a price reduction due to defects.
Home Inspection Cost in Massachusetts
Home inspection fees vary depending on your region, home size, and level of detail needed. However, average costs in Massachusetts run:
- 1,500 square feet or less home – $300 to $500
- 2,500 square feet home – $400 to $600
- 5,000 square feet luxury home – $700 to $1,000
Add around $100 to $200 for add-ons like septic, well, radon, pest, or mold inspections. Inspection costs can be negotiated, especially if you bundle multiple property inspections. Get quotes from a few local inspectors before choosing one.
When to Get a Home Inspection
Home inspections should take place after you’ve negotiated an accepted offer on the home but before finalizing the sale. You want ample time to review the inspection results and negotiate with the seller on addressing repair needs.
It’s best to complete the inspection within the inspection contingency period, usually 10-14 days from contract acceptance. This contingency gives you the right to cancel based on information learned during the inspection. Schedule the inspection ASAP so any serious deal-breaking issues can be identified.
Only forgo a home inspection if you’re willing to accept the property as-is, with no contingency for reviewing its condition. This is rare as hidden defects could cost you thousands down the road.
Your Rights Related to the Home Inspection
In Massachusetts, buyers have important legal rights relating to the home inspection results:
- Inspection Contingency – Most purchase contracts have an inspection contingency giving you the right to cancel if the inspection is unsatisfactory. Make sure this contingency is included before signing.
- Negotiating Repairs – You can request the seller make repairs for issues found, negotiate a lower price to offset the costs, or terminate the contract based on inspection results.
- Due Diligence – You must review the inspection report carefully within the contingency period. You could forfeit certain legal rights if you fail to act before the contingency expires.
- Obtain Estimates – Legally you have the right to bring contractors on-site to provide repair estimates for issues identified in the inspection report.
- Non-Waiver – Getting only a partial inspection, choosing not to request certain repairs, or not following up on issues, does not waive your right to request repairs later on.
Consult your real estate attorney if you have concerns about your rights relating to the home inspection results. Don’t let the seller pressure you into closing before adequately addressing inspection findings.
Tips for Selecting a Home Inspector in Massachusetts
Choosing the right home inspector is key to getting an accurate, thorough inspection report. Here are tips for selecting an inspector:
- Verify licenses – Use MA Board of Registration of Massachusetts Home Inspectors website to confirm their current license status. Only use active licensed inspectors.
- Look for experience – Choose an inspector with extensive experience specifically with Massachusetts homes. Ask how many years they’ve inspected and average inspections completed per year.
- Read online reviews – Search independent sites like Yelp and Google to read feedback from the inspector’s past clients. Look for consistently glowing reviews.
- Consider specialties – Some inspectors specialize in certain home aspects like green homes, historical homes, or condos/townhomes. Match specialties with your property type.
- Request sample reports – Ask to see sample reports so you can review their reporting thoroughness, photo quality, and level of detail provided.
- Compare costs – Cost alone shouldn’t guide your decision but comparing quotes can help you find good value. Get quotes from 3-5 local inspectors.
- Trust your gut – Ensure you have a good rapport and can easily communicate with the inspector. They should answer all your questions knowledgeable and patiently.
Investing in a professional detailed home inspection is absolutely vital for your home purchase. Follow the tips above to choose the ideal home inspector to get you the information you need. Enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re buying the home with eyes wide open regarding its current condition. With the inspector’s help, you’ll avoid making an ill-advised purchase and gain leverage negotiating for repairs. Don’t skip this crucial step on the journey to your dream home!