you need a
In my opinion, whether the Martha’s
Vineyard vacation home you are buying is an older home or
new construction, a professional structural home inspection
is an absolute necessity.
For a three-bedroom, two-bath home on
up to an acre of land, a complete inspection should last
about three hours and can cost between $300 and $500, but
prices can be higher depending upon the property and ancillary
However, Tom Silva of ‘This Old House’ suggests
a home inspection should begin before you sign an Offer
To Purchase contract. Start by looking at the house from
the street and observe how it is sited and if it has proper
drainage. Does the land slope down and away from the house?
Look at the roof; is it in good condition or full of dips,
bumps and bubbles?
Looking further at the structure, is the paint on the siding
and trim peeling? If there are shingles, are they “cupping”?
Look at the windows and doors and notice whether the windows
are in tact and are all the screens and storm panels there?
Is there evidence of rot on the window sills? Observe the
exterior doors to see if they are plumb and if the thresholds
are loose. Are there signs of rot?
On the inside of the house the first thing to look for is
evidence of water damage around skylights and chimneys.
Look for signs of mold, loose plaster or peeling paint.
Are the interior trim moldings damaged or splintered? Notice
the cosmetic condition of appliances, bathroom fixtures
and the heating system?
Just because the home you want to buy does not pass muster
after your personal inspection of the property, it does
not mean you should not move forward with the purchase.
Having a keen eye for observing flaws and defects will help
you be more realistic and disciplined during the initial
price negotiations. Deferred maintenance comes at a cost
and that cost can be huge, so take off the rose colored
glasses and pay attention. Every element of a home has a
life expectancy. The National Association of Home Builders
(NAHB) did an informative Study
of Life Expectancy of Home Components. Note: This
is a .PDF file and the file may take a couple of seconds
Okay, you have negotiated an acceptable purchase price,
and now it is time to schedule a professional structural
home inspection. Your professional Martha's Vineyard home
inspector doesn't just look for things that need fixing,
he will also look to understand the homes systems and features.
He will point out areas that will need ongoing maintenance
or may soon be at the end of their effective lifespan. He
will highlight emergency shutoffs as well as other important
points of interest. He inform you of areas of concern where
you should have specialists do further inspections. He will
assess the building code conformity as well as all the systems
and structural components that make up the building, such
- Structural elements, foundation, framing etc
- Plumbing systems
- Electrical systems
- Heating and Cooling systems
- Cosmetic condition, paint, siding, etc.
A professional structural inspection
also addresses Environmental
you’ve decided upon the Martha's Vineyard home you
want to buy and you’re about to sign the Offer To
Purchase real estate contract, make sure there is a contingency
in that contract allowing you to get your own professional
Structural Home Inspection. SplitRock Real Estate has a
list of Structural Home Inspectors
you can choose from. You can also go to the Mass.Gov website
for a complete list complete
list of all licensed home inspectors in the state of
or “Pre-Listing” structural inspections are
not common place on Martha’s Vineyard; however, in
some cases, a savvy seller may have had their own structural
inspection done which they usually will provide to a prospective
home buyer. If they are wise, they will have arranged to
have any discovered problems corrected. However, I still
insist that my buyer clients have his or her own independent
inspection done. Normally, upon acceptance of the Offer
To Purchase, you will have 10 - 15 days to have the inspection
completed, analyze the report and respond to the seller.
We will be your eyes and ears at the structural inspection
should it not be possible for you to be present yourself.
Many home inspectors create vivid, detailed electronic reports
- some, complete with color photos.
In the event that hidden problems are
revealed through the structural inspection process, you
may do one of two things:
"Bathroom Shower Enclosure: Condition - Good, Fair,
1) If you are not satisfied with the results of the inspection,
you may terminate the purchase agreement by notifying the
seller in writing and provide a copy of the structural inspection
report disclosing the problems causing your discomfort.
2) You may submit a list of the problems discovered in the
inspection report to the seller and request that the seller
make the necessary corrections and repairs before the deal
is closed, or adjust the price accordingly.
NOTE: A home inspection should not be construed as an
automatic right of renegotiation but is meant primarily
to more fully and accurately provide the Martha's Vineyard
real estate buyer with information concerning the
condition of the property.
Here are some tips on the hiring of a professional inspector
and the interpretation of the structural inspection report.
When you interview a Martha's Vineyard home inspector, ask
him what type of report format he provides. There are several
types of reports used by inspectors, such as computer generated
reports, the checklist format and the narrative style report.
Some reports are completed and generated on site and some
may take up to a week to complete. There are good and bad
points to all of these formats.
Probably the most confusing part of a home inspection report
is the descriptions given for each structural item or component.
A report that indicates the condition as "Good", "Fair"
or "Poor" without a detailed explanation is vague and can
easily be misinterpreted.
An example of a vague condition would be:
None of these descriptions gives the homeowner an idea what
is wrong. Does the shower enclosure have a cosmetic problem?
Does the home have a plumbing problem? A good report should
supply you with descriptive information on the condition of
the home as well as the site. An example of a descriptive
"Bathroom Shower Enclosure: Condition - Minor wear,
heavy wear, damaged, rust stains, or chips in enamel finish.
Recommend sealing drain and pan at base of tile."
As you can see, this narrative description includes a recommendation
for repair. Narrative reports without recommendations for
repairing deficient items may be difficult to interpret,
should your knowledge of construction be limited.
Make sure, if you do not understand something, that you
ask questions. Items in the inspection report that are not
serious quite often can be interpreted by a nonprofessional
to be a major factor. A good home inspector should be able
to put things into perspective and answer all your questions.
If for some reason a question cannot be answered at the
time of the inspection, the inspector should research the
question and obtain the answer for you. For instance, if
the inspector's report states that the concrete foundation
has common cracks, be sure to ask, "Why are they common?"
The answer you should receive will be along these lines:
common cracks are usually due to normal concrete curing
or structural settling. The inspector's knowledge and experience
dictates the interpretation of the how and why of the cracking.
Take the time to become familiar with your home inspection
report. If the report has a legend, key, symbols or icons,
read and understand them thoroughly. The more information
provided to you about the property, the easier it will be
to understand the overall condition. If possible, try to
be present when the inspector is doing the inspection. You
do not have to be there during the entire process, but if
you can walk through with the inspector at the end so he
can show you the findings of the structural inspection,
you will learn a great deal about the Martha's
Vineyard home you are about to purchase. We have
a list of Home Inspectors on our Service
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has
revised form HUD-92564-CN
"For Your Protection: Get a Home Inspection." in order
to clarify the importance of getting an independent home
inspection. The form also explains the difference between
an appraisal and a home inspection, and stresses the importance
of radon testing. I give a brief explanation about Radon
on my Environmental
Issues web page along with links to research
the subject further.
Here are some additional sources of
information to help you better understand home inspections,
the home inspection process and working with home inspectors.
Virtual Home Inspection Tour , (American Society
of Home Inspectors, 2007)
Questions to Ask a Home Inspector , (REALTOR® Magazine
Online Toolkit - Handouts for Consumers, 2007)
Your Home Inspection Should Cover , (REALTOR® Magazine
Online Toolkit - Handouts for Consumers, 2007)
Home For Your Family - Preventative Home Maintenance Check
Up , (North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service,
Repairs That Really Dent Your Wallet , REALTOR®
Magazine Online, Sept 22, 2006)
List Issue - 10 Structural Red Flags , REALTOR®
Magazine Online, March 1, 2006
Inspections: Preparing for the Unexpected , Realty
Times, Nov. 15, 2004
a good home inspector: What you should ask , Realty
Times, Mar. 10, 2003
Questions Buyers Should Ask an Inspector , Texas
REALTOR®, June 2000
peace of mind , REALTOR® Magazine, Jan 2000