At a home inspection not too long ago a listing agent commented that home inspectors just scare homebuyers, and he said he was recommending to his homebuyer clients that they just hire a contractor. Don't do it!
Having a trusted contractor look at a home you plan to buy to provide estimates for needed repairs or desired remodeling is a good idea, but a licensed contractor is not a licensed home inspector. Contractors build houses and home inspectors examine them.
Building contractors and home inspectors bring different skills and experience to the process of evaluating a property for a homebuyer. Looking at a building carefully and sequentially requires a different mindset and style than managing a construction site and building a home. Home inspectors have a broader knowledge of typical defects that inspections uncover, techniques for finding them, along with specialized skill in documenting and presenting the defects found. In fact, many home inspectors have previously worked in the building trades.
During a home 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, decks, garage doors, driveways, walkways, gutters, downspouts, and decks. Also, an inspector will examine the major components of the home, including heat, air conditioning, interior plumbing, foundation, and electrical for potential problems. Although home inspectors cannot discuss the cost of upgrades and repairs, experienced home inspectors will provide homebuyers with great tips on caring for and improving their home.
A home inspection does have some limitations. For example, an inspector typically will not disturb or move insulation, stored property, personal items, furniture, equipment, plant life, soil, snow, ice, or debris that obstructs access or visibility. Your exclusive buyer agent may want to request through the listing agent that the seller relocate some personal property so the home inspector can access the electrical panel, basement, attic, and other important areas. Home inspectors do not examine swimming pools, and the exterior temperature must exceed a certain level over a 24-hour period before an inspection of a central air conditioning system.
A homebuyer should expect an inspector and the home inspection company to be willing to answer questions about the content of the home inspection report immediately after the inspection and in the future.
Home inspectors in Massachusetts have had to be licensed since 2001. A home inspector's license can be verified by the Board of Registration of Home Inspectors at its website or by calling the Board at (617) 727- 4459.