Full Home Inspection vs. Pre-offer Structure and Systems Inspection:

Full Home Inspection vs. Pre-offer Structure and Systems Inspection:

What are the differences?

All home inspections have their defined scope and limitations- that's how expectations are set - and how you know what your inspector is and is not doing/testing/inspecting/test-operating. Here in Massachusetts, Home Inspectors are required to be licensed and to follow the state standards of practice for Home Inspections (MA 266 CMR).  

However, in the event that a client wants to adjust the inspection or limit the scope of the inspection, they may do so. The time allotted, the scope of items inspected, and the fee can be adjusted. A client can limit an inspection regardless if it is pre-offer or post-offer, or they can elect to have a full home inspection done pre-offer or post-offer. It is up to the client to decide what they want and how it fits into their offer strategy. Sometimes there are limitations placed on the buyers, where sellers only allow a certain amount of time to view the property pre-offer, which can make it difficult or not possible to get a full home inspection done at that stage.

Enter the "Pre-offer Inspection" or "Pre-inspection": Clients are also finding that it might take several offers to get a home, and therefore it is not realistic to get a full inspection on each one, even if they were allowed the time and access. BUT - it is better to do a pre-offer inspection than it is to do no inspection, and better to have an experienced inspector doing it rather than your buddy (no offense) or a handyman...

But what exactly happens on a pre-offer inspection and what is the difference between that and a full home inspection? The short answer is: see below. The longer answer is: It depends. Right now, and for the past 4-5 years, it has been a bit of an "anything goes" situation - where inspectors are deciding what they will and won't do. whether they will issue a report or not, whether they call it a "walk-through" or a "Pre-offer Inspection". 

Bottom line: Any time a home inspector goes into a home that's for sale, pre- or post- offer, they are doing a home inspection, and it MUST have a report. The client can limit that inspection, but it has to be the client's choice to do so. So, when we do a pre-offer inspection, we follow the regulations, so ALL of our home inspections meet those regulations. And, for pre-offers, you, the client, are instructing us to limit the inspection, and we're charging you a reduced rate for that. Here are the differences:

Chart depicting differences. Click here to see sample reports.

What about ancillary Services?

Whether or not these can be done really depends more on whether the inspection is pre-offer or post-offer. 

Post-Offer: When you have an accepted offer you can typically have the time and access to do testing like radon testing and wood-destroying insect inspection. Additionally, if other conditions are found during your inspection, like structural problems or air quality issues, you can then have a specialist come in for additional testing. Pre-offer does not allow that. 

Pre-Offer: When you are doing an inspection before placing an offer, you have only limited access to the property, so you can’t do things like radon testing - radon testing takes 48 hours and so it is not practical or advisable to do that when the home is still being shown. If you are doing a full Home Inspection pre-offer, then it would be possible to get a pest inspection at the same time. 

If you have any questions at all, contact us! We can be reached by phone or text at: 857-496-6042.


Q: I really want to do hire you to do a pre-offer inspection, but I am afraid that stuff will be missed. What is a typical thing you might not inspect or might get missed with a preoffer?

It really depends on the home. In general, expect that you might have to purchase a new appliance, or repair windows, doors, or make some adjustments to outlets and switches. Some of the bigger stuff that can’t get fully tested in a pre-offer would be things like: running a large amount of water to identify leaks, slow drains, and backups; or spending more time with the heating and cooling systems to identify poor balance of air movement, leakage, radiators that don’t heat. The bottom line is that in any Home Inspection, including a Full Home Inspection, there are limitations to what can be seen and found. Even if we’re spending three hours in a home, we’re still only seeing it as a snapshot in time, not able to view it’s full performance over time and in every season and climate.

Q: If you’re saying that a full home inspection is preferable to a Pre-offer Structure and Systems Inspection, why do you even offer this service? 

Great question. Massachusetts is a “buyer beware” state. This means that seller disclosure is not required, and it is incumbent on home buyers to find out what is happening with a home before purchasing it.  But the competition in the market is forcing people to waive inspection contingencies, putting them in a risky place where they are not getting an inspection at all. Many of these people have been financially harmed because they’re finding problems with their homes and now it is on them to fix them. They are also finding out that their homes are not as safe as they expected - and they wished they knew about these things before committing to purchase. Massachusetts has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation. This means that homes have all sorts of issues that come with age - deterioration, damage, insect damage, old wiring, every type of building product, plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical ever used in homes, unsafe building practices, evolution and change in building codes, and much much more. It is vital for a homebuyer to employ a professional to get a look at any property they are buying. And if they have to, doing it prior to placing an offer is better than nothing. 

Q: How will this ever change? 

Great question. Market conditions often rule the day - if a commodity is hot, then it is a seller’s market and sellers can dictate the terms. But that is not ideal. Home Inspection legislation was put into law and regulations were developed to protect the consumer. Consumer protection is vital to maintain safe and reasonable community standards. There is new legislation that has been submitted to the state legislature to change this. This new legislation would remove the inspection contingency from the standard offer to purchase form, and ensure that any homebuyer in Massachusetts has the right to have a home inspection if their offer is accepted. This would end the practice of waiving a home inspection contingency to make your offer more attractive to a seller, and it would end the practice of sellers favoring only offers without an inspection contingency. See more about this bill here and an article on Boston.com here.

Q: Can you do a pre-offer during an open house? 

Yes. We can. We prefer not to, but we can work with this - and as long as we can still get 60 minutes in the home. We just can’t discuss out loud our findings because we want to give you the full information and not other people. 

Q: Can you do one of these pre-offer inspections without a report? 

No. All inspections done by a Home Inspector for any buyer must include a report. This is a rule from the MA state Board of Home Inspectors, and must be followed. Any Home Inspector doing a "Walk and Talk" Inspection without a report is in violation of this law.

Q: Do your Pre-Offer Structure and Systems Inspections meet the state regulations?


Q: I am being told we only get 15 minutes in the home. Can you do a pre-offer in that amount of time?

No. We absolutely require a minimum 60 minutes to complete a pre-offer inspection.

Q: Can you pretend you’re not a home inspector? 

No, sorry, we have to use tools, and do our inspection in a professional manner. Not really sure how that benefits you anyway - but feel free to discuss that with your agent. 

Q: You’re saying that I am limiting the inspection, meaning I am telling you what to inspect and what not to inspect, is that correct? 

Basically, yes. The rules require you to limit the inspection, not us. However, you need a framework under which we can work to get you the more important information. So we have created the framework, and you are saying you want us to inspect under that framework. 

Q: How much does a Pre-offer Structure and Systems Inspection cost? 

$495 for condos and $525 for single family and multifamily homes.

This can be a confusing situation - deciding how to proceed with your offer to purchase. We recommend consulting with your real estate attorney, and NEVER go without an inspection of some kind. Feel free to call us at 857-496-6042 or schedule online now!

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