A home inspection is serious business.
As much as some sellers and real estate agents want to play down the home inspection, it is one of the most important steps of buying a home. Aside from the obvious reasons of wanting to know about major defects, a home inspection is a time to learn. A good home inspector will thoroughly answer home buyers' questions and educate home buyers, especially first-time home buyers, about maintaining a home in general and specifically their soon-to-be home.
With the above in mind, it is important that Massachusetts home buyers understand what a home inspector will check and what the limitations are for a home inspection.
Massachusetts home inspectors are regulated by the state, and certain aspects of the property may be excluded from the inspection. The following is from 266 CMR 6.05, Standards of Practice for home inspections. Please note that just because a home inspector is not required to check something or perform a task doesn't mean your particular home inspector will not. For example, most home inspectors will set up radon tests and tell you if they see termites, even though they are not required to do so.
6.05: General Limitations and Exclusions of the Home Inspection
(1) General Limitations.
(a) Home Inspections done in accordance with the standards set forth in 266 CMR 6.04 are visual and not Technically Exhaustive.
(b) The Home Inspections standards set forth in 266 CMR 6.04 are applicable to Residential Buildings with four or less Dwelling units under one roof and their attached garages.
(2) General Exclusions.
(a) Inspectors shall not be required to Report On:
1. The remaining life expectancy of any component or system.
2. The causes of the need for repair.
3. The materials for corrections of the problem.
4. The methods of repair other than to indicated the repair should comply with applicable requirements of the governing codes and sound construction practices.
5. Compliance or non-compliance with applicable regulatory requirements unless specifically contracted for in writing.
6. Any component or system not covered by 266 CMR 6.04.
7. Cosmetic items.
8. Items that are not Readily Accessible and Observable, underground items, or items not permanently installed.
9. Systems or Components specifically excluded by Client (noted in writing in the Contract or in the Report).
(b) Inspectors shall not be required to perform or provide any of the following under the Home Inspection specified in 266 CMR 6.04:
1. Offer warranties, guarantees and/or insurance policies of any kind on the property being inspected.
2. Collect any engineering data (the size of structural members and/or the output of mechanical and/or electrical equipment).
3. Inspect spaces that are not Readily Accessible and Observable. Enter any area or perform any procedure, which may damage the property or its components, or be dangerous and unsafe to the Inspector or other persons, as determined by and Reported by the Inspector.
4. Disturb or move insulation, stored and/or personal items, furniture, equipment, plant life, soil, snow, ice, or debris that obstructs access or visibility.
5. Determine the effectiveness of any system installed to control or remove suspected hazardous substances.
6. Predict future conditions, including but not limited to failure of Components. (See Additional Services)
7. Project operating costs of Components.
8. Determine extent or magnitude of damage or failures noted.
9. Operate any System or Component which does not respond to normal operating controls.
10. Test for radon gas.
11. Determine the presence or absence of pests including but not limited to: rodents or wood destroying insects.
12. Determine the energy efficiency of the dwelling as a whole or any individual system or component within the dwelling.
13. Perform Environmental Services including determining the presence or verifying the absence of any micro organisms or suspected hazardous substances including, but not limited to, carbon monoxide, latent surface and/or subsurface Volatile Organic Compounds, PCB's, asbestos, UFFI, toxins, allergens, molds, carcinogens, lead paint, radon gas, electromagnetic radiation, noise, odors, or any contaminants in soil, water, air wet lands and/or any other environmental hazard not listed in 266 CMR 6.05(2)(a) and (b).
14. Evaluate acoustical characteristics of any system or component.
15. Inspect surface and subsurface soil conditions.
Despite the long list above, home inspectors perform an important role and the good inspectors are thorough and detailed, providing home buyers will valuable information.