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The Home Inspection Period

You have your new home under agreement, but we need to make sure it's not a money pit (unless you got a REALLY good deal!).

The best way to assure this is through a thorough home inspection. We always recommend an inspection by a licensed home inspector. Your home inspection must typically happen within 10 days of the acceptance of your offer by the Seller, or whatever time period is stipulated in your written offer.

Now you could use your uncle Harry (he's owned 3 other homes before, so he must know what to look out for!) or your cousin's friend who happens to be a contractor. But what you really need is a professional who does this every day. Massachusetts requires that all home inspectors be licensed. Part of the licensing requirements is that they complete at least 125 home inspections under supervision, pass a state exam, agree to uphold the standards of ethics and professional conduct and  maintain errors & omission insurance. They also must complete ongoing continuing education to keep up with the latest changes in home systems, laws and regulations. I, personally, have been on hundreds of home inspections with the buyers I represent, but I still got a professional home inspection when I purchased my home.

The average price for a home inspection depends on the type of property. It could also depend on whether or not the inspector works on his own (less overhead), or is associated with a company. Most home inspectors do a thorough job, so don't think that the higher the price, the better the inspection (though some of the high priced ones would want you to think that way. The quality of the job the inspector does really depends on the individual doing the work. You want to make sure that the inspector you use belongs to one of the professonal organizations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors , International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, or National Association of Home Inspectors. They hold their members to a higher standard, and require additional training beyond the state requirements.

Here are some rough averages that you can expect to pay for a professional home inspection:

  • Condominiums $250 to $400

  • Single Family Homes $275 to $600

  • 2 Family Homes $350 to $600

Again, these are averages (for northeast Massachusetts) and will vary by inspector and by the size of the home. Inspections for larger homes will typically cost more.

What Does the Inspection Cover?

Home inspectors will take a look at all visible areas of a home (from now on, when I say home, I also mean condo, townhouse, 2 family, etc.).  The inspector will look at the physical structure and major interior systems of a building. An inspection can be likened to a physical exam by a physician. If the inspector notices a problem with something, he may recommend that you consult a specialist - ie: a mason for chimney work, a plumber for water pipe issues, etc. The inspector is not an expert on every system in a home, but has an excellent working knowledge 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.

You should plan on attending the home inspection because the inspector will explain what he finds and give you pointers on the maintenance of the different systems of the house. 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.

After the Inspection

Home inspections are not intended to point out every little 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.

If the home inspector finds a major problem you have a few choices.

  • You can accept the property "as-is".

  • You can ask the Seller to fix the problem.

  • You can ask the Seller to reduce the agreed upon price or credit you the estimate cost of the repairs.

Home inspections are also not a tool for renegotiating the price you offered for the property with a laundry list of minor issues, but if something of major concern is discovered, you would most certainly want discuss your options with your REALTOR.

Other Home Inspection Issues

Radon - Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is the result of the breaking down of uranium in soil, rock and water. It is relatively common in Massachusetts homes because it is found in areas of granite - and we have lots of granite around here. Your home inspector can test your potential new home for Radon. The EPA recommends that you know what the indoor radon level is in any home you consider buying.  Essex, Middlesex and Worcester in Massachusetts are counties that have a predicted average indoor radon screening level greater than 4 pCi/L (pico curies per liter), which is the level that the EPA says that the radon should be addressed (as shown in the RED areas on the map to the left.).  If the home has higher than recommended levels of radon, it is usually easily mitigated through the installation of a radon reduction system (which is almost always paid for by the seller of the home). It should not be a reason that you don't buy a home. If the home has a radon-reduction system, ask the seller for information they have about the system. If the home has not yet been tested, you should have the housed tested. For more information on radon, go to the EPA's Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon.

Asbestos - Asbestos may be found in some older homes on heating pipes, floor tiles and exterior shingles. If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be disturbed, do nothing! Asbestos shingles on a house are common,  and actually make a great siding that holds paint better than wood. These shingles are composed mostly of cement, but contain around 10% asbestos, and are not likely to release any fibers unless cut, drilled or sawed. For more information on asbestos, go to

Mold - Mold occurs naturally everywhere. It is already in all homes. That black or reddish stuff around the bathtub when you don't clean it every week - that's mold. The green stuff on old bread and those unrecognizable items at the back of your refrigerator - that's mold. In most cases small amounts of mold is completely harmless. Molds are usually not a problem indoors unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing rapidly. Molds have the potential to cause health problems inn some people. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in some sensitive individuals. If your home inspection uncovers potential mold issues, you may want to have the areas tested for mold. For more information on mold, go to:

Septic Systems - All septic systems must be tested before the transfer of a property in Massachusetts unless it was tested and passed within 2 years of the closing date (3 years if it was pumped every year). The Seller is usually responsible for providing the Buyer with a Title V certificate stating that the septic system is working properly and meets code. More information at:

Well Water Testing - If the home you are buying has a well, you may want to get it tested for quality. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recommends that prospective homebuyers test the water in a home with a private well before purchase. As private wells in Massachusetts are regulated at the local level, you should first contact your local Board of Health for your town's private well testing requirements. For more information, go to the MassDEP web site at:

For more information on Home Inspectors, check out the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Home Inspector web site.

There are a few more things you have to complete during the 10 day period.



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