Harmony Home Inspection of Massachusetts
P.O.Box 478, Stow, MA 01775
Paul Rogoshewski - MA Home Inspectors License #243 - ASHI Member #205601


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Five Things You Should Know…Getting Ready for the Home Inspection

I could write a book about each of the subjects below. In the interest of giving the Buyer some useful information BEFORE the home inspection, I have tried to summarize the most common things I tell my customers, friends, and business associates about home inspections in Massachusetts.

1. Most real estate agents work for the Seller. Unless you have a signed contract that they are representing you as a Buyers agent, their fiduciary responsibility is to maximize the profit for the Seller. If they are a Sellers agent and recommending home inspectors to you, it may not be in your best interest to take their recommendation. In some states, Massachusetts for example, it is unlawful for Sellers agents to recommend home inspectors. Hire a home inspector you trust. If you're on your own, look for a home inspector that can demonstrate education, experience, and professional affiliation. If the state has licensing, check the State licensing board or the Better Business Bureau for a complaint history of the company. Don't go by the price of an inspection. You get what you pay for.

2. Septic systems are usually not part of a home inspection but are a major cost component of the house and should be inspected prior to purchase. Some states like Massachusetts, for example, require that septic systems be inspected before sale of the property. These inspections are for the protection of the environment and are on a pass/fail basis. They do not tell you that replacement time may be near. Depending on a number of factors, the average life of a septic system is around thirty years. If the septic system was not pumped regularly, if a garbage disposal was used, if fine grained soils exist in the area, life expectancy can be shortened. Septic system replacement can range from under ten to over thirty thousand dollars. It is a very good idea to visit the local board of health for further information about the house, the area, the average life and replacement costs of neighboring systems.

3. Radon is a radioactive gas that is a by-product 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. 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. I believe getting the house tested for radon levels is important to your health. 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.

4. If you are thinking of buying a house with a private well, your Lender may require a water quantity, or flow 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 significant drop off in flow. The pump test can be done during the inspection if the inspector performs this. If you have no recent (within a year) water quality test data from the owner, I also recommend a comprehensive water analysis, which includes a variety of metals, inorganic substances, and about sixty toxic organic chemicals. 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, but I feel that this is inadequate in today's' environment. Your home inspector can take water samples at the time of the inspection.

5. Getting a "termite" inspection is essential if you are buying a single or multi-family home, a townhouse, or a lower level garden style apartment. The eastern subterranean termite can do major damage to the structure of a home and can go undetected for years. Many home inspectors offer pest inspections in addition to the standard home inspection. Also included in the pest inspection would be an inspection for carpenter ants, powder post beetles, and carpenter bees, which are all wood destroying organisms.

Just a typical home inspection

Well you've found your dream home after searching for several months. Its in the right town, close to work, the schools are good, the price is, oh well, the price is as good as its going to get! The house has a snazzy modern kitchen, the bathrooms have been remodeled, and the house has a fresh coat of paint. It's just perfect!

Most houses sell on looks. The snazzy kitchen and fresh new paint do wonders for sales appeal, and you're just totally enamored with your new home. You know you should get a home inspection just in case, so you talk to your friends about who they used, search the web, peruse qualifications, affiliations, testimonials, and fees for the various inspectors, call up a few and go with the one you felt best about.

He shows up the day of the inspection, and after introductions and signing the inspection contract, he gets started and you follow him around as he does his thing. The first thing he says is that the roof appears to be at the end of its life and you should anticipate replacing it in the near future. You think, O.K., I didn't notice that but I can deal with that. He checks some areas around the window trim with a screwdriver and finds that some moisture damaged wood had been painted over and several sills will need eventual replacing. You start to wonder what else he'll find... it's only been a few minutes since he started the inspection.

He's making notes on his clipboard as he checks various items on the outside of the house. You ask him what he's writing and he gives you a run down on what's OK and not OK so far. You realize this is not going to be a picnic and that you're not going to have the time of your life. This is serious business and everything he is saying is translating into dollars and cents. The cash register in your brain is starting to go ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. He explains that there are no perfect houses, they all have problems, and that you should try to remain calm and take things in stride. You calm down a bit, are glad you hired him, and at the same time you are wondering if ignorance is bliss.

The inspector says you have some typical cracks in the foundation and they are not a structural concern, but they should be sealed up to prevent moisture entry and termite entry. He says to get a crack repair specialist to do it (ka-ching). You feel a little better though because you remember seeing those cracks and did have a major concern about them, and were wondering if there was something structurally wrong with the house. They were the reason you thought you should have an inspection in the first place.

The inspector points out a few other concerns on the exterior, namely a set of stairs with no railing and some offsets in the concrete walkway that he calls a trip hazard. He says both conditions are unsafe and should be corrected and you're thinking this guy is too much of a perfectionist. He goes on to talk about a 1998 Harvard University study that concluded that trips and falls are the number one health and safety hazard in a home. You realize again that he appears to really know what he's talking about and you're happy about that. Not too happy about that cash register in your brain though, ka-ching!

The inspector says he is now ready to do the garage and then after that the basement. You had noticed that he had tested an exterior outlet with some sort of device. He does this again at the garage outlet and states that the GFCI receptacle is inoperative, a safety hazard, and needs repair by an electrician. He explains that a GFCI is a safety device that can actually save your life in certain instances, and should be present at all areas where electricity and water are in close contact, such as exteriors, garage outlets, kitchen counters, bathrooms, unfinished basements, and whirlpools. Since you have an older house, he is expecting that you have some in a few places. He says he may also recommend additional GFCI outlets be added as a safety upgrade. He also tests, among other things, the garage vehicle door and states that the auto-reverse mechanism is inoperative, a serious safety hazard, and needs to be adjusted or repaired.

On to the basement. He checks the framing at the perimeter of the house with a three foot long probe and states everything seems OK, looks at the rest of the basement framing, makes a few checks, and its on to plumbing. He checks the main line, the supply lines, the gas lines, the drain lines. Everything is going much better now. At the new water heater he pauses, checks the label and states the water heater may be at the end of its service life. You're thinking, "But it looks brand new, how can this be?" He states that the tank appears to be about 10 years old as indicated by the serial number on the nameplate, which is beyond the normal life expectancy of a water heater and you should plan on replacing it before it becomes a problem. Ka-ching, ka-ching!

On to electrical… the inspector unscrews the service panel door, looks inside for a while and states that there are a few double tapped circuits that should be separated by using "skinny" breakers and that labeling could be improved. Not so bad. He also notes a few uncovered junction boxes that need covers and an open splice, where two wires are connected with tape, important fire safety hazards that need correction.

He checks the gas heater and gives it the clean bill of health. It's a ten year old cast iron boiler that he says should last a long time.

He says the worst is over now and you follow him upstairs. The upstairs inspection seems to move much faster. The inspector checks the kitchen, no real problems except some dings in the vinyl floor. The toilet in the bathroom needs a new wax seal; a sink needs a new faucet, small stuff in comparison. He moves through the dining room, living room, and bedrooms, checking electrical outlets and windows, looking at the ceiling, walls, and what he can see of the floor. He also checks the heat in each room with a cool little laser thermometer as he cruises from room to room. A few things come up, nothing major. He has been shutting all the windows in the house as he goes for the radon test.

Last place he goes is the attic. He gets up in the scuttle hole and disappears from view, but you hear him walking around above you. He says that the framing is okay but you could use more insulation for energy savings and you will also need some extra attic ventilation as well The bathroom ventilator terminates in the attic and can cause condensation problems, he says. He recommends rerouting it to the outside. Almost done now.

He places radon canisters in the basement and you discuss the protocol of the test and when to pick up the test canisters.

Back to the kitchen where he makes his final touches to his notes or to a field report. You hand him his check and you say your good-byes.

….Well that's how a typical home inspection goes in an older home. Sometimes it's an old roof or an ancient boiler, sometimes it's the electrical service. The point is that almost all older homes need repairs and some of these will be major. You must decide whether the house is worth it at the current price, whether you'd like to negotiate a lower price, or whether you'll walk away due to unanticipated major repairs…

You not exactly overjoyed, there is a lot to consider and you have a little more homework than you bargained for, but you're glad you hired that home inspector!


Service Area

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.


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