Top Boston Home Inspector Describes Professional Experiences

David Bates / September 26, 2011-8:42 pm


     The Bates Real Estate Report contacted one of the most professional home

Paul Cornell, one of the top home inspectors in Greater Boston.

inspectors in the Greater Boston area and asked him about his home inspection experiences as well as about the current trends in home inspection.
     Paul Cornell, (Paul Cornell and Associates, and his wife Sandra who works with him, graciously responded to our bevy of questions.
    You will find their answers informative, insightful, and entertaining:

Years in Business:       31 Years

Background:  Paul comes from a family of Tradesmen. Electricians, Heating Technician, and Engineers.  He has also been a licensed construction supervisor and registered contractor. Although, he is no longer actively doing any construction for hire as he devotes his full time to doing inspections. 

Number of Annual Inspections Performed:  Roughly 500 – 600 for Paul and we have a few other inspectors that work for us. Over our years in business Paul has done over 25,000 homes.

Length of Report Given Buyer:  Greatly depends on the size and complexity of the house and what condition it is in. An average single family 1500-2000 S.F. can run about 40-50 pages with the photographs. When you are inspecting a large home with multiple complex systems the reports have gone as long as 200+ pages. We have inspected homes up to 16,000 S.F. They often have multiple systems for heating, cooling, hot water, heated driveways etc.

Are pictures in Report:  Yes

Favorite High Tech Tools Used in the Inspection:  Paul doesn’t get too high tech. He only uses what he needs to get his job done.  Moisture meters, electrical testers, carbon monoxide detectors etc.

Most Important Tool in an Inspection: His Eyes

One Thing Sellers Should Know About a Home Inspection:  They should know that it is something that can be beneficial to do before marketing their home to make themselves aware of any situations that might arise once they find a buyer. Many homeowners are not aware of many of the problems that we come up with on inspections because they are not trained to recognize them.

One Thing Buyers Should Know About a Home Inspection: It is critical that they have a good and complete inspection so that they are fully aware of a home’s condition and what they might be up against before they buy the home. Many buyers are stretching just to buy the home only to discover that they won’t be able to afford many of the repairs or things they have to do once they own the home.

Biggest Thing You Noticed for a Buyer: It is hard to say. There have been so many. Underground oil tanks that have leaked and caused environmental contamination. Furnaces that have been leaking Carbon Monoxide while people are living in the house. Paul inspected a hotel on the ocean. The hotel was only separated from the ocean by a sea wall. The structure had been severely compromised and was not sound. The client declined to buy the property. Six months later the property was destroyed in a storm and was completely wiped out. We have had clients come back and tell us that they have saved thousands of dollars based on our inspection.

How Have Home Inspections Changed in the Last 5 years:  They seem to have gotten a lot more complex. Buyers are very savvy and cautious in these times and they and they want the best possible inspection that they can get. We try not only to inspect the house for our clients, but also to educate them about the house and homeownership. The importance of maintenance and upkeep and how to take care of their biggest investment. We have also been doing a lot of pre-listing inspections for sellers in this market, and many homeowners are having inspections just for maintenance purposes and guidance of home projects and repairs.

How Will They Change in the Next 5 Years:  Not really sure what is in store for the next five years. I assume things may get a little more high tech. They may come out with more new gadgets. They have been trending towards doing more add- ons to inspections such as energy audits, thermal imaging, etc.

Thing You Hate to See at the Inspection: Children and/or parents. They can be a huge distraction. The buyers are so busy trying to run around after their children they are not paying attention to what Paul is saying to them. Also, many parents feel the need to butt in and put their 2 cents worth in. Some of them think they know it all and forget that they are dealing with a professional who has inspected thousands of homes.

Thing You Love to See at Inspection:  A client that is eager and willing to participate in the inspection and learn from it.

Ever Recommend a Client NOT Buy the Home: No. Paul simply states the facts and lets them make their own conclusion. He is often asked by a client if  he would buy this home. He simply tells them, “I’m not you”.  He has been put on the spot many times that way. He has wanted to tell some clients that they should walk away, but it is not his place. If it is for a friend or family member he would definitely tell them.

Key to Being a Good Inspector: Being knowledgeable, professional, ethical and always keeping your clients best interests first. Making sure that you give 100 percent to meet your client’s needs and expectations. Clear and concise communication with your clients is the key to making the whole inspection process go smoothly.

Most unusual thing that ever happened on an inspection: There have been a lot of stories to tell over the years. One very memorable was Paul telling me that he was in the basement inspecting and his clients and realtor were all upstairs. He was standing with his clipboard in hand and felt a tap on his shoulder. When he turned to see who it was there was no one there. This happened two more times. Finally it happened again and when he turned to look there  was a very large snake wrapped around a water pipe above his shoulder in the basement. He yelled upstairs to the clients and the realtor that they had a problem down in the basement. The realtor said “Oh no , I hope you didn’t find termites”. Paul proceed to tell them what he found and it turns out it was the  homeowners pet Boa Constrictor. He had gotten out of his tank and had been missing 

Most Egregious Thing a Seller Tried to Hide: There have been too many too mention. There was one instance where a home owner had a set off rotted wood stairs coming into the side entry of his home. Rather than replace them he decided to cover them. He was a mason. He covered the rotted wooden stairs in steel Lathe and then skim coated them with concrete and painted the concrete. Well it turns out he didn’t do it soon enough before the inspection. The concrete had not yet dried and when Paul went to walk up the stairs he fell right through. They did look really nice though before they collapsed under Paul

Do You Ever Do Inspections in Cheap Areas and find Top Rate Construction?: Yes. There are many cheap areas that have some very beautiful homes such as Lowell, MA. They have a section called Belvidere which has many stately old Victorian homes and small mansions. There are many nice homes in sections of Haverhill, MA, Leominster, MA. There are so many areas where you can get a lot of house for your money. 

Time Necessary to Inspect:  The average single family 1500-2000 S.F. or a condominium 2-3 hours. Larger houses obviously take much longer. We do a lot of large high end homes. 5000-10,000 S.F. We usually send in a team of inspectors to do those. They are typically all day job for 2 or 3 inspectors.