Home Inspection of
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Frequently Asked Questions
I AM STILL LOOKING FOR A HOUSE AND AM NOT QUITE READY FOR A HOME INSPECTION. IS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT I SHOULD BE WATCHING OUT FOR? There are so many different components in a modern day home that this is a difficult question to answer. I have figured that I observe and evaluate several hundred different items during the course of a formal home inspection, any one of them being a potential safety hazard or significant cost concern. I would suggest a trip to your local library/bookstore. There are a number of good books written on the subject and geared for the homebuyer, a couple are listed below:
1. A. Carson
and R. Dunlop, 1986. Inspecting a House: A guide for Buyers, Owners, and
Renovators, Stoddart Publishing, Toronto
HOW LONG DOES A HOME INSPECTION BY HARMONY TAKE? A home inspection by Harmony takes anywhere from 2 1/2 to 5 hours depending on the size, age, and condition of the home. A large older home or a "handyman's special" could possibly take even longer. Three and a half to 4 1/2 hours is typical.
DO I NEED TO BE THERE? It is highly recommended that you be present for the inspection. Not being there is like buying a car without test driving it.
I HAVE A RELATIVE IN THE CONSTRUCTION BUSINESS, WHY SHOULDN'T I JUST HAVE THE HOME LOOKED OVER BY HIM? Most contractors will know quite a bit about a home, but may be deficient in certain areas. Home inspectors are trained in assessing all of the many areas of concern in a home. If your relative is a specialist in a certain area and after the inspection, that area comes up as a major concern, by all means, have your relative offer his professional advice.
I AM BUYING A NEW HOUSE. SHOULD I HAVE IT INSPECTED? Yes, definitely. New homes have different problems than older existing homes. Most problems relate to items missed, not properly installed, maladjusted or overlooked due to today's fast paced construction schedules. New homes usually come with a one year builder's warrantee, and the home buyer should have the house inspected prior to the lapse of this warrantee. It is recommended, however, that the new home be inspected before closing, since it may be easier to get the builder to make any necessary modifications before they have "moved on".
I DON'T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING, SHOULD I ARRIVE EARLY? Most home inspectors like to spend the first 1/2 hour or so alone, so they get a general feeling for the condition of the home without any distraction. If you arrive early, you might find that your inspector seems a little quiet. Some inspectors schedule clients at a specific time and then arrive early purposely. They do not do this to talk to the owner or Realtor but to be "alone" with the house for a while. Your home inspector will go over everything in detail with you and you will not miss anything by giving him a little head start. In fact, you will get a better inspection.
I WANT AN
INSPECTION DONE ON A HOME WITH A PRIVATE WELL AND A SEPTIC SYSTEM, WHAT
NEEDS TO BE DONE BESIDES THE BASIC HOME INSPECTION? In Massachusetts,
a septic system inspection, known as a Title V inspection, is the responsibility
of the Seller and should have already been performed. However, keep in
mind that the Title V inspection is for protection of public health and
the environment. A
system will either pass or fail, or pass conditionally, regardless of
its age. Be aware that the average life of a septic system is on the order
of about thirty years, and may vary widely with type of soil, loading,
and whether its been pumped regularly (tanks should be pumped very two
years). These systems can be expensive to replace if the system fails.
I recently replaced my own tank for about ten thousand dollars. I have
a not too distant neighbor who had to spend over thirty thousand dollars
for a new septic system. It is always a good idea to double check with
the local Board of Health.
SHOULD I GET A PUMP TEST? If you are thinking of buying a house with a private well, your Lender may require a water quantity, or "pump" test. Also, if the well flow has not been checked within the last year or two, a pump test is recommended. The FHA performance standard is that the water supply provide a minimum of 5 gallons per minute of flow over a four hour period for a total of at least 1200 gallons pumped without any observable drop off of flow. The pump test is done during the inspection using a variety hoses, a calibrated water meter, and a water flow gauge.
WHAT WATER TEST SHOULD I CHOOSE? If you are testing a private well and have no other recent (within a year) test data from the owner, we recommend the comprehensive test, which includes a variety of metals, inorganic substances, and about sixty toxic organic chemicals. The comprehensive test also includes radon in water, which has recently come under scrutiny at the EPA. If the home is located near a farm, apple orchard, or recreational lake, it is advisable to consider testing for pesticides as well. A standard water analysis is the bare minimum accepted by FHA/VA loan requirements. In homes that have city water, there is less concern with contamination, but some people choose to have their water tested anyway. Whether city water or private well, there are trace amounts of lead that leach into standing water from the solder used in your piping system. It is recommended that you run your water a few minutes in the morning before you drink it to remove any stagnant water which may contain trace amounts of lead.
IS A RADON TEST REALLY THAT IMPORTANT? WHAT IS RADON? Radon is a radioactive gas that is a byproduct from the decay of naturally occurring uranium deposits in certain underlying rock formations. It has been designated a cancer producing agent by the EPA and corrective action is recommended when radon levels exceed 4 PiC/Liter in indoor air. Many companies jumped on the moneymaking bandwagon in the eighties touting the dangers of radon and selling the way to fix it. Public opinion was negatively swayed by this opportunism to think that the whole thing had been blown way out of proportion. A 1998 Harvard University study still rated radon as the #1 health and safety risk in the home, causing a projected 15,000 deaths a year in the US due to lung cancer. Harmony believes getting a radon test is indeed important.
HOW ACCURATE IS THE RADON TEST? Please note that any testing done before you actually move in will be preliminary in nature. Radon levels may vary according to season, barometric pressure and other factors. It is always recommended that further testing be conducted once you occupy the house. Highest levels in the house can be expected in the winter, when the heat is on and the ground is frozen or snow covered.
SHOULD I GET A LEAD TEST? Many homes built before 1978 will contain lead based paint ( the manufacture of lead based paint was banned by the EPA in 1978). You should also realize that there was lead based paint on the shelf for a short time after 1978, so even some post 1978 homes could possibly have lead based paint. The older the home the greater chance that lead paint was used. If you have children under six years of age, are planning to have children, or are planning to rent the house to tenants, you should be concerned about lead. Contact a lead paint inspector. A number of qualified lead inspctors can be found on the ASHI New England chapter website: www.ashinewengland.org.
WHAT ABOUT MOLD TESTING? Toxic black mold and other molds can be a health hazard and could occur in your home. My experience tells me that most homes may have a very small amount of mold and are generally not a problem unless you have extreme allergies to these substances. There are a few homes I've come across that had a definite and potentially dangerous mold problem, and they are far and few between and usually obvious. Harmony Home Inspection of MA does not perform mold testing, but would refer you out to a specialist if a problem was suspected. If you are a mold sensitive individual, or prone to allergies generally, it may be a good idea to test your new house for the added peace of mind.
WHAT'S THE STORY ON THERMAL IMAGING? Thermal imaging is useful in energy conservation work and could possibly be an advantage in a few specific instances such as leak detection and possibly detecting a large insect infestation. There are a few inspectors out there that use this technology. Some are using it as a selling point and that's fine. But be wary of negative advertising that discounts inspectors with years of education, experience, professional affiliation, and well thought out professional quality reports. Thinking you have X-Ray vision does not make you SuperInspector. The real heros in this business are the one's who choose their integrity above their wallet, know that time is required for a good home inspection, and have gained a wealth of experience through hard work and constant education.
WHEN DO I GET THE REPORT? You will be able to download your report directly from the internet by the next day. Many times, you may even obtain your report within the same day as your inspection, as my schedule permits. When your report is completed, notification is e-mailed to you, with simple instructions for downloading the report at your convenience. I recommend you print your home inspection report on paper with a brightness index above 90, which optimizes the digital photography. If you do not have this type of paper handy-don't worry-I supply paper with a brightness index of 98 in your home inspection folder.
WHAT ABOUT A GUARANTEE OR WARRANTY? Harmony conducts a limited visual inspection of the premises in accordance with the regulations set forth by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the ASHI Standards of Practice. During the course of the inspection it is nearly impossible and not the intent to detect every possible thing that could go wrong in the future, but we hope to provide you with as much information as possible in the short time we are there. Knowing the limitations of the inspection, If you move into your new house and find you are still not satisfied with the work done by Harmony, we offer a refund of up to the amount of your inspection fee. Harmony is fully insured to cover potential situations where substantial financial loss occurs as a direct result of damage, error or omission during the course of the home inspection.
ARE YOU LICENSED? Yes, Paul Rogoshewski, owner of Harmony Home Inspection of MA, holds Massachusetts Home Inspector License #243. Licensing, which was enacted in 2001, has been a huge step forward in creating more accountability and professionalism in the home inspection field. However, recently, the State relaxed the requirements for continuing education to only 12 credits per two year license period. This was a move backward, in my opinion. It is important to realize that ASHI certifed inspectors have more stringent educational requirements to maintain their certification than the average MA licensed home inspector.
DO ALL MA HOME INSPECTORS COVER THE SAME THINGS? Yes... and no! The MA Standards of Practice for home inspectors are very specific about what areas should be inspected, but there are some interesting nuances. For instamce, a home inspector is not required to go up on the roof. As a result most home inspectors do not carry anything but a 12 foot ladder and a pair of binoculars, and if they can't see the roof with binoculars, it is perfectly within the regulations to claim it was not visible for inspection due to height, and refer you out to a roofer. I disagree with this tact, and though I don't walk every roof, I do carry a 28 foot ladder that can access most roofs as necessary. Another nuance is that the regulations require the inspection of only ONE electrical outlet per room and only ONE window per room. About five years ago I attended a Board meeting about revisions to the Standards of Practice. I proposed that the above regulations be changed to every accessible window and every accessible outlet per room. I was shot down for some reason unknown to me. Lately I've heard that they are revising this regulation to every accessible outlet. Still not sure about the windows!
WHAT IS ASHI? ASHI is the American Society of Home Inspectors, the oldest and most respected professional organization of home inspectors in the country. Membership in the society is limited to inspectors who have met rigorous professional and educational requirements through testing and a membership review process. Full membership in ASHI is difficult to obtain and requires many hours of study. For more information on ASHI and the local chapter, ASHI New England, click on the icons displayed on this website.
Last but by no means least:
WHAT IS IHINA? IHINA is the Independent Home Inspectors of North America. IHINA members have made the commitment to be truly independent and unbiased, and to represent the Client exclusively during the home inspection, and have taken a professional pledge to do so. There are only a very few MA home inspectors that have been invited to join this organization, Harmony being one of them. The pledge is presented below:
As a member of the Independent Home Inspectors Of North America (IHINA), I believe there is a potential or inherent conflict of interest when an inspector markets real estate agents with the intent of obtaining inspection referrals from those agents or when a real estate agent selling a house recommends only one or a limited number of home inspectors to a potential homebuyer. I understand the primary mission of the Independent Home Inspectors of North America is to help promote consumer protection for homebuyers. This mission is to be carried out by: One) educating potential homebuyers to the potential or inherent conflict of interest when a real estate agent recommends, influences or controls the home inspector selection process; Two) working with state and / or provincial legislators to enact amendments to real estate broker / salespersons licensing laws, the purpose of such amendments would be to eliminate the control real estate agents have over the home inspector selection process for prospective homebuyers; Three) providing inspection clients with honest, accurate and non-bias inspection reports. As an IHINA member, I pledge I will not actively solicit real estate agents with the intent of obtaining inspection referrals from those agents (this includes anyone who markets on my behalf.) I understand active solicitation includes giving "sales" presentations to real estate agents about my inspection service, rewarding or compensating agents for referring clients to me, producing any marketing material designed / aimed at agents rather than prospective homebuyers or allowing an agent to influence how I convey my inspection findings to my client. I understand handing out a business card to a real estate agent at an inspection site is not considered active solicitation. I understand that I reserve the right to accept client referrals from real estate agents; however, such referrals will not alter how I conduct my inspections or convey my inspection findings. I understand that I will notify the IHINA Director when I no longer adhere to the mission of the Independent Home Inspectors of North America or if I actively solicit real estate agents with the intent to obtain inspection referrals from those agents. I understand the IHINA Director retains the sole right to terminate my membership for violating this pledge.
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We perform home inspections in the following cities and towns in Middlesex, Norfolk, and Worcester Counties of Massachusetts:
Acton, Allston, Andover, Arlington,
Ashland, Ashburnham, Auburn, Ayer, Bedford, Belmont, Berlin, Billerica,
Bolton, Boston suburbs, Boylston, Boxboro,Boxborough, Brighton, Brookline,
Burlington, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Clinton, Concord, Dedham, Dunstable,
Fitchburg, Framingham, Franklin, Gardner, Grafton, Groton, Harvard,
Holden, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Hudson, Jamaica Plain, Lancaster,
Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Lowell, Marlboro, Marlborough, Maynard,
Medway, Mendon, MetroWest, Milford, Millis, Natick, Needham, Newton,
Northboro, Northborough, Norwood, Pepperell, Shrewsbury, Somerville,
Southboro, Stoneham, Southborough, Stow, Sudbury, Tewksbury, Townsend,
Tyngsborough, Upton, Waltham, Watertown, Wayland, Wellesley, Westboro,
Westborough, Westford, West Roxbury, Weston, Westwood, Winchester, Woburn,
Worcester, Leicester, Leominster, Lunenburg, Millbury, Princeton, Shirley,
Sterling, West Boylston.