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Massachusetts home inspection chat with Jim Mushinsky

September 9, 2008
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About Our Guest
Jim Mushinsky is president of Centsable Inspection in Framingham, which provides home inspection education and business tools for home inspectors.
More on Jim Mushinsky

HM1: One thing everyone needs to be aware of is that Jim Brock from Boston Home Inspection will tell you whether a heating system works, but not whether its adequate. Seems like a small point, but something that he won't make clear for you.

Jim Mushinsky: Excellent point. If you read the Home Inspection 101 on boston.com you will also see that the adequacy of the heating system is on the list of exclusions.

Jim Mushinsky: If the adequacy of the heating system is important to you then be sure to ask the home inspector if they will provide that as an optional service.

garper: Hi Jim -- I know sellers are always asked to answer questions on their home pertaining to an inspection, but it seems as if the laws give them little to no incentive to give any useful answers. How can sellers be held more accountable for the condition of their homes?

Jim Mushinsky: Let me respond in two parts. I am not a lawyer so do not read this as legal advice. I feel the incentive for the seller is preventing a fraud law suit.

Jim Mushinsky: The second part of my answer relates to the home inspection aspect of this question. Read the home inspection report and look for "additional investigation" comments. Be sure to get all of these issues resolved to your satisfaction. Maybe the seller will disclose something or maybe a professional expert (electrician, plumber, etc) should be consulted before your purchase offer is finalized

Dan: Hey Jim. Having been a home inspector for 28 years and a member of ASHI for 22 years, I found todays article a little misleading. Having a low license number may mean that an application was received early. The other objection I have is to say that if a person is buying a house in Plymouth, they should not hire an inpsector from Newton. Many of us go wherever we please and wherever a client calls us.

Jim Mushinsky: I am not on the Board of Registration of Home Inspectors, yet I have observed that licenses are issued sequentially. When choosing a home inspector the client has to choose from approx. 500+ home inspectors. Just a quick observation and filter criteria, not an implication of expertise nor competence.

BC: Mr. Mushinsky: should the seller also be present at an inspection?? Thanks.

Jim Mushinsky: The seller should have a representative present. Things like turning on the heating and air conditioning system (location of all the thermostats) will be useful to the buyer and inspector. Also if any personal belongings are preventing access to areas of the home, the seller can ensure they are moved safely.

jack: Jim, I think your statement on Boston. com about a good reference for experience is the lower the license # the more inspections the inspector has done is off base. You don't mention the fact that when licensing went into effect in 2001, anyone whoever performed a home inspection could be grandfathered in without having to have any type of training, so I think your statement is a little misleading.

Jim Mushinsky: Excellent point. The history and process to license home inspectors was not discussed in this article. I assume the Board of Registration of Home Inspectors had some good criteria for initial filtering of initially grandfathered home inspectors. Yet no process is perfect. The more relevant aspect is that new inspectors can not be licensed until they have performed at least 125 inspections with supervision from a licensed home inspector. Some inspectors claim thousands and tens of thousands of inspections.

house_expert

: Jim - Why did the home inspection industry evolve into a business where we have many home inspectors with limited expertise?

Jim Mushinsky: Well every professional is "limited" on their expertise. I feel that the MA regulations have made consumers more aware of the criteria required to be a home inspector. Also the regulations do not prevent or inhibit some inspectors from providing extensive services.

Ron: I am seeking to purchase a house in the near future. I am primarily considering a newer one (less than 10 years. Brokers insinuate that a home inspection is not needed. Your comments?

Jim Mushinsky: I always recommend getting a professional home inspection. A house is constantly exposed to the weather and people. These conditions can cause wear and problems no matter how well the house was constructed or when it was built. The professional home inspectors un-emotional opinion is a very valuable tool.

Bornty: How much can I expect to pay for a 3 deb, 1/2 bath home? Also, how much does each "extra" -- like lead paint testing -- generally cost?

Jim Mushinsky: Home Inspection pricing is not regulated. Each inspector is allowed to set their own pricing. This is still an exercise for consumers. Some inspectors publish pricing on their websites. I don't have a general cost estimate for you.

JRB01: I had a home inspector tell me he would only inspect the unit I wasa buying in a condominium building. He stated that the other areas are not considered part of the home inspection because they are under the responsibility of the homeowners association. Isn't the Inspector supposed to inspect all areas listed on the Mass. standards of practice especially since I am essentially buying part of the building and will be required to pitch in for repairs? The standards of practice does not exclude "condos" does it?

Jim Mushinsky: The regulations for home inspectors cover dwellings with 1 to 4 units. If your condo falls into this category then inspector will inspect all the components where "safe access"

Jim Mushinsky: and "readily observable" apply. The "client" has the responsibility to provide "safe access" and "sufficient lighting". The access and lighting for common condo areas is something to make sure the seller can provide for the home inspector.

looking_to_buy

: How are offer contracts usually worded so that if a house has a lot of "safety hazards" the buyer can back out? I always thought there was a pass/fail system, but it seems like there is more ambiguity built in that may make it hard for a buyer to back out after an inspection.

Jim Mushinsky: I am not a contract lawyer, so don't read this as legal advice. A buyer is not prevented from buying the "fixer-upper". A home inspection will not prevent you from buying a home in any condition. The language you choose for your offer should reflect the reasons you want for adjusting your offer or for taking your offer off the table.

BC: If I get a chance of followup question: representative point taken and aside--and from a seller's point of view, should not the seller be present to know about the correction action that shold be taken? Also can the seller get a copy of inspector's report? Thanks.

Jim Mushinsky: The seller should not be questioning the inspector during the inspection. The buyer is paying for the inspection and the inspector should be allowed to focus completely on the buyer's concerns. The home inspection report is confidential to the buyer. The home inspector is prohibited from distributing the report to anyone other than the client without the client's consent.

Jim Mushinsky: The seller can certainly hire their own inspector if they have concern.

shamrock: Should the buyer be allowed to be present at the inspection?

Jim Mushinsky: Yes. I have not heard of an instance where the buyer was not encouraged to be present during the inspection. Interacting with the home inspector during the inspection will typically help you better understand the written report.

swalsh: We bought a home in February, the inspector did not get on the roof. When a chimney company came a few weeks ago they said there is a hole in the chimney that needs repairing and that if our inspector got on the roof, they would have caught it. We called the inpection company and they said they don't get on the roof, they don't have insurance for it. Do we have any course of action?

Jim Mushinsky: Walking on the roof is one of the exclusions in the 266 CMR Standards of Practice. This is a subject that should be discussed prior to the inspection. Also remember that "Safe Access" is the opinion of the home inspector. The grade around the house for a ladder, debris or mold on the roof may be reason for an inspector to decline walking on the roof

BuyerBabe: Jim - I would always recommend that sellers get a home inspection before putting their home on the market. If my seller got one do they have to disclose what was found if they fixed the problem?

Jim Mushinsky: An excellent recommendation, good job. The home inspection report is confidential. The client, buyer or seller is not obligated to share the report.

dottie: I will be selling my mother's house soon as she is in a nursing home. Do I need to get an inspection, or is it just the buyer?

Jim Mushinsky: If you feel comfortable in responding to the buyer's issues resulting from a home inspection then you probably do not need one. If you are unsure as to how to respond to a buyer's comments or offer adjustment, then getting a home inspection is a good idea

jaydub: Hi. I had a home inspector who glossed over what appeared to be significant rot of masonite siding. He pointed it out but did not stress it as an issue. Then a contractor took a look and was shocked the inspector didn't do a moisture probe or mold test, and that he was sure there would be mold behind the siding. Was I given a lax inspection? Did I not get my money's worth? Is moisture probing and mold testing standard? Thanks

Jim Mushinsky: Collecting technical data, like the data from a moisture meter, is not required during a home inspection. Some inspectors include this service with their inspections, some charge extra, and as you know some do not perform the service. I can't tell if you were given a lax inspection. Mold behind siding is something that falls in the category of "concealed damage". If there are enough visible signs, the inspector will recommend additional investigation due to concealed damage.

Seri: I have read the list of things that Boston.com posted earlier today regarding what an inspector will check. I have looked at a house recently. I can clearly see that the floor is not level (1912 house) in the living room and some leakage from the 2nd floor. Can I ask the inspector to check for the sturdiness of the foundation? Regarding the leakage, he is not able to offer any opinions because of liablity right?

Jim Mushinsky: I encourage you to explain all your concerns about the house to the home inspector prior to the inspection. The inspector will inspect the foundation according to the standards you read. As you read, the inspector will not provide an engineering evaluation of the structure. On the leak issue, the inspector will report exactly what they observe. If the leak source is apparent the inspector will tell you, if there is concealed damage the inspector will recommend additional investigation.

BF: What is the status with lead paint in home buying? It seems like don't ask don't tell. Is lead paint still a prominent problem in homes today?

Jim Mushinsky: Massachusetts provides a Lead Paint database of all the inspections performed. Check the Massachusetts web site for the database link.

BuyerBabe: I am buying a house where the sellers had their own home inspection and disclosed it to me. I decided to have my own independent inspection that didn't find as many issues as the sellers inspection. Does this frequently happen where there is that much a divergence of opinion?

Jim Mushinsky: I expect that the seller would be correcting some of the issues found after their home inspection. Your home inspection finding fewer issues should directly relate to the seller addressing the issues of their inspection. I think this is typical.

k: I purchased my home about 2 years ago and am just finding out now that there's a jack in the crawl space under part of my kitchen (not sure how much it is holding up the floor or what it's doing, I haven't touched it). If the inspector looked or went into the crawl space like he should have (and said he did), he would have noticed it. Will inspection companies typically reimburse for whatever work I need to have done related to this? Without a doubt, if this was brought to my attention, would have asked the sellers to pay for whatever needed to be done.

Jim Mushinsky: I can't speak to whether or not the inspection company will acknowledge or provide any financial relief for you.

Jim Mushinsky: I do feel that this is a good example of how pictures in the inspection report can prevent disputes. A picture of the crawl space from the home inspection would resolve whether or not the crack was present during the inspection.

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