The Massachusetts state government makes great efforts to protect and inform consumers. Massachusetts has published informational handouts on home inspections. The downloadable materials below address many home inspection questions and provide links to more information. Also available below is material from the American Association of Home Inspectors (ASHI), a national trade association of inspectors.
The legal framework surrounding home inspections in MA
The standard-form Offer Agreements typically utilized in Massachusetts all have inspection contingency clauses that allow the buyer time to obtain results of various inspections and tests to be performed on the property at buyer’s expense.
A licensed home inspector will physically inspect the home’s structure and mechanical systems. A pest and wood-destroying insect inspection can also be conducted. Tests that are commonly performed under inspection contingencies can include tests regarding ambient air radon, well-water potability and quantity testing, and tests to detect the presence of mold and/or lead-based materials.
Title 5 inspection
Note that with all homes in Massachusetts having private waste water management systems (usually a septic system) instead of municipal sewer service, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts mandates a separate inspection of that system at the expense of the seller. (See more information on Title 5 inspections here.)
Seek concessions or terminate offer
The key point to remember with home inspection contingencies is that the buyer must give notice to the seller, before the contingency time period expires, of any property defects or issues about which the buyer has concerns. The buyer can seek, under the relevant inspection contingency, either a price reduction or other concession from seller, or can terminate the buyer’s obligation to purchase the property and obtain the return of his deposit money.
Don’t waste money on inspections on a home with defects you don’t want to correct
A $500 home inspection is worth every penny if it prevents you from unknowingly purchasing a home with expensive, hidden defects. But there’s a common mistake that a significant number of home buyers make with respect to homes and home inspections: when they have finally found a home in which they are becoming seriously interested, they get starry-eyed and emotionally involved in the property and fail to look carefully at the home’s structure and mechanical systems with a dispassionate eye. They can fail to recognize significant structural and mechanical defects, defects that when pointed out to them at the home inspection make them want to cancel the purchase under their home inspection contingency.
A home inspection is an expensive waste of money on homes with defects that you have no interest in fixing and which you could fairly easily have spotted on your own had you just looked carefully at the inside and outside of the home! Take an old boiler as an example. Let’s suppose that the home you’re interested in has a boiler that looks aged to you. If you’re not in a position to replace an old, obviously outdated heating system, then don’t bother making an offer on that house (or at least lower the price to reflect the need to replace the boiler). No home inspector will tell you that an obviously aged boiler is “not a problem” when he sees it at the inspection!
An experienced real estate agent can help you think (and see) clearly
A good real estate agent with an experienced eye can call your attention to telltale signs of issues and conditions likely to be raised as potential problems by a home inspector. Common examples are: signs of water penetration in the basement, cracks in the foundation, aged mechanical systems, roofs nearing replacement. Over time, you can learn from your agent how to spot the obvious red flags yourself. Spend your money on a home inspection only when it will do what it is best intended to do: catch the less-obvious, latent defects that can be the a real problem for you after the closing!