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Five Things You Should Know About  Home Inspections authorFive Things You Should Know About Home Inspections
by Paul Rogoshewski of Harmony 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 the 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, and 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.

Paul Rogoshewki is an ASHI certified and a Massachusetts Licensed Home Inspector #243. He is a graduate of the esteemed North Eastern University Home Inspection Program and has over fifteen years experience in home inspections, building analysis, energy conservation, and residential construction. Paul is a very active member and Director in the local New England chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Mr. Rogoshewski performs home inspections in the Boston Suburban, MetroWest, and East Central Massachusetts area. Visit Paulís website at, send him an E-mail, or call him at (978) 568-8100 for more information.

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