Agent Advises Buyers Not to Attend Home Inspection

Mar 14 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We are in escrow to buy a home, and we hired the home inspector who was chosen by our real estate agent. When my husband asked if he could attend the inspection, our agent told him there was no need to attend and that most homebuyers don’t. Not knowing any better, we agreed to hire her inspector and simply wait for the report. Since then, we’ve read articles that say an agent should give buyers a list of home inspectors from which to make their own choice. Now we want to hire an inspector of our own to do a second inspection, but we don’t want to offend our agent. At the same time, we don’t want to buy a money pit because we didn’t get a good inspection. What do you advise?  Jenn

Dear Jenn:  Choosing the inspector for you, rather than allowing you to choose for yourselves, may or may not have been a bad thing. Some agents choose inspectors who are competent and highly qualified, while other agents choose inspectors whose work is not very thorough. Likewise, there are agents who give their clients a list of competent home inspectors, while other agents provide lists of the less qualified.

Your agent’s big mistake was advising you and your husband not to attend the inspection. Agents who are honest and ethical do not give that kind of misleading advice to clients. Your presence at the home inspection was more than just a good idea: It was essential. You are on the verge of making an extremely high-cost investment. The home inspector was there for one purpose — to educate you about the condition of the property so that you could make a prudent purchase decision.

In advising you not to attend the inspection, your agent has limited your exposure to the information you need from your inspector. Again, that is not something that an ethical agent would do.

A second inspection by a home inspector of your choice is not a bad idea, and you shouldn’t worry about whether this is objectionable to your agent. It was her job to protect your financial interests. If she is not performing that duty, then you should do it for yourselves.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Confusion Over Roofing Defects

Feb 06 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  When we bought our house, the home inspector identified several roof defects and recommended repairs by a licensed roofing contractor. The seller hired a roofing contractor to repair the conditions in the inspection report. But now we are having leaks in places that were not mentioned in the inspection report. Do we have recourse against the inspector?  Frank

Dear Frank:  The home inspector identified the fact that roof repairs were needed. It is possible that he failed to recognize other problem areas. However, it is also possible for a roof to leak in places where there are no visible defects. You should call your inspector and ask for a re-inspection of the places where the recent leaking occurred.

You should also ask the roofing contractor to attend that meeting. It was the job of the roofing contractor to review the entire roof to make sure that there were no visible defects besides the ones mentioned in the inspection report. If the contractor merely repaired the reported defect, without reviewing the entire roof, then he was not doing a thorough job.

Another possibility is that the roofing contractor did review the entire roof and did discover additional defects. In that case, it would have been the seller’s decision whether to pay for the additional repairs.

Whatever circumstances led to the lack of adequate roof repair will be matters for discussion when you meet with the inspector and the contractor.

 

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Home Inspector Makes Suspicious Mold Disclosure

Jan 15 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  Our home recently fell out of escrow, and the circumstances were very suspicious. The buyers hired a home inspector who reported that we have mold. We were unable to see any mold, but the inspector said it was only visible with a special flashlight. We agreed to remove the mold ourselves, but the buyers said they wanted it done by a professional. Lo and behold, the home inspector was also in that line of work – for a fee of $1500. While we were negotiating this, the buyers cancelled the sale. What do you think of this situation?  Valerie

Dear Valerie:  The fact that the home inspector was ready to remove mold that no one else could see is highly suspect. Furthermore, it is a conflict of interest for a home inspector to perform repair work on a home that he has inspected. To do so violates the codes of ethics of every home inspector association.

The main issue for now is to determine whether you actually have mold in your home and what to disclose to future buyers. To answer the mold question, you should hire a professional mold inspector for an evaluation. If mold is found, you can have a qualified contractor do the remediation. And make sure that the one who does the removal is not the one who did the inspection.

If it turns out that you do not have mold, you can use the mold report for disclosure to future buyers. You can also use the report as evidence if you file an ethics complaint against the home inspector.

 

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

New Home Inspector Seeks Startup Advice

Jan 09 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  I just completed an 80-hour classroom course in home inspection. Now that I’ve got my certificate, I’m not sure what to do next. What do you suggest?  Randy

Dear Randy: Now that you’ve learned the basics of home inspection, your internship is about to begin. Home inspection is a learn-as-you-go business. The longer you do it, the more you learn and the more proficient you become as a home inspector. And no matter how long you do it, you never learn it all. The problem with the first few years in business is legal and financial liability for defects that you fail to report. Therefore, to spur the learning process, join a local chapter of ASHI or a recognized state association, and participate as much as possible in their educational programs. If possible, find an experienced home inspector who will let you ride along on a few inspections. This is one of the best ways to learn the ropes.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Buyers Worried About Radon Gas in Home

Jan 07 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We are in the process of buying a house and were informed that the sellers installed a radon mitigation system last year. Radon levels before the system was installed were about 7 picocuries per liter. What should we do about this situation, and what are the effects of radon exposure to occupants?  Ananda

Dear Ananda:  If the mitigation system that was installed in the home has effectively reduced the radon level below 4 picocuries per liter, there is no need to worry. Ask the sellers for radon test results taken after the system was installed. If a follow-up test was not done, or if they do not have documentary results of the test, you should request that a test be done as a condition of the purchase.

Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced by the decay of uranium in the soil or in ground water. It is particularly common in areas where the soil contains granite or shale. Radon is regarded as the second highest cause of lung cancer (next to smoking) and is credited with approximately 21,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Radon gas is emitted from the earth worldwide, with an average outdoor level of 0.4 picocuries per liter. When radon emerges from the ground beneath a building, indoor levels can become concentrated. The average indoor radon level in American homes is about 1.3 picocuries per liter. The threshold level for concern, according to the EPA, is 4 picocuries per liter. When indoor radon is measured at that level, mitigation is recommended for the health and safety of occupants.

Fortunately, mitigation systems are simple and relatively inexpensive. The type most commonly used is known as the soil suction radon reduction system. It consists of vent pipes with a fan that pulls radon from beneath the building. For increased effectiveness, cracks and seams in the floor should be thoroughly sealed.

Again, be sure to verify that radon levels have been sufficiently lowered. You should also ask for proof that the mitigation system was installed by a contractor who is licensed as a radon mitigator.

For more information on radon, visit www.epa.gov/radon/pubs.

 

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Home Inspector Didn’t Report Wood Rot

Dec 30 2013

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We purchased our home about six months ago, and the home inspector said nothing about wood rot. I recently discovered rotted eave boards when I was repainting the exterior. Shouldn’t this have been reported by our home inspector?  John

Dear John:  Wood rot is caused by fungus. In most states, inspection for wood destroying organisms such as fungus is not within the scope of a home inspection. Damage of this kind is typically covered by a licensed pest control operator, commonly known as a termite inspector. You should check your records to see if there was a pest report when you purchased the property. If so, call that company and ask them to re-inspect the eaves around your home.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Installing Dual Pane Windows

Dec 27 2013

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We have old steel frame windows in our home and would like to minimize heat loss. Rather than install dual-pane replacement windows, we’d like to install inside windows and leave the old windows in place. This might not look as good, but we don’t want the mess and expense of removing the old windows. Do you think this is a good idea?  Walter

Dear Walter:  Adding interior windows will reduce some heat loss from your home, but vinyl-frame, dual-pane replacement windows will do this much more effectively and with much less mess that you expect.

Removal of the old windows does not involve removing the frames from the walls. When replacement windows are installed, the old glass and dividers are taken out, but not the frames that are embedded the siding. The replacement windows are installed over the old metal frames.

Before deciding which way to go, check out the prices for replacement windows, and discuss the replacement procedures with the window installer.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

What To Do After Your Home Inspection

Dec 25 2013

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We are buying a house. The home inspection is scheduled for next week, but we’re not sure what to do once we get the report. Is the inspection report just for our information, or can we use it to negotiate with the sellers? Can we walk away from the deal if we don’t like the report, or are we obligated to go ahead with the purchase? What can you tell us about this?  Alan

Dear Alan:  A home inspection empowers you with essential options as a buyer, but with some limitations. In the majority of home sales, the deal is contingent upon the buyers’ acceptance of the home inspection report.  This means that you, as buyer, have a specified number of days to accept or decline the property in “as is” condition.  If you decline acceptance, you have four basic choices:

1)             Ask the sellers to make a few repairs;

2)             Ask the sellers to make many repairs;

2)             Ask the sellers to reduce the sales price;

3)             Decline to purchase the property.

If you request repairs or a price adjustment, based upon the home inspection report, the sellers also have choices.  They can:

1)            Agree to all of your requests;

2)            Agree to some of your requests;

3)            Agree to none of your requests;

4)            Tell you to take it as-is or to take a walk

The sellers’ only obligation is to address defects that are named in the purchase contact or required by state and local laws.  If the contract specifies an “as is” sale, the sellers may refuse to make repairs of any kind or to adjust the price in any way.  Lawful exceptions may include strapping water heaters for earthquake safety, providing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in specified locations, or upgrading plumbing fixtures for water conservation.

As long as you are in the contingency period of your transaction, the choice to buy the property or to walk away from the deal is entirely yours. This is your discovery period, the time to learn what you are buying and to decide whether to proceed with the purchase or to renegotiate the terms of the sale.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Home Inspector Delivers Report Too Late

Nov 22 2013

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  I recently purchased a home and hired a home inspector while there was still time to negotiate with the seller. But the inspector took four days to prepare the inspection report, and by that time the negotiation period under contract had expired. My choice at that point was to buy the property as-is or lose  my deposit. Since then, I have been told that the report should have been delivered within 24 hours. If that is so, shouldn’t the home inspector refund the money that I paid him?  Beverly

Dear Beverly:  In most states, there is no law declaring how soon a home inspection report should be delivered, but the standard of practice among home inspectors is to provide a report on the day of the inspection or the very next day. The reasons for prompt delivery should be obvious to every home inspector. Time is of the essence in a real estate transaction. Buyers have a limited time period for negotiation or for rescission of the contract. Home inspectors are aware of these constraints, unless they have been living in a vacuum, and should provide the kind of professional service that considers the needs of their clients and the importance of timeliness.

A four-day delay in processing an inspection report is inexcusable negligence and is reasonable grounds for requesting a refund of the inspection fee, especially since that delay prevented you from making beneficial use of the report. If the inspector has any sense of professional responsibility, he will not hesitate in providing that refund.

Problems of this kind are among several reasons why attending a home inspection is so important for homebuyers. When you accompany your inspector, you can discuss the findings, ask questions, and learn about the condition of the property before you receive the written report.

In some cases, there are circumstances that prevent a buyer from attending the inspection. A buyer may live too far away to attend or may be unable to get time off from work. When attendance is not possible, the inspection findings should be reviewed by phone later in the day. Then the buyer can proceed with negotiations before the written report is received.

Unfortunately, there are some home inspectors who prefer to work without buyers present and routinely send their reports without a verbal review. Inspectors of this type should find another line of work, and homebuyers should avoid such inspectors in every case. Home inspection is not just a technical process; it is a business in which the needs of customers are served.

A final issue in this situation is the role of your real estate agent, assuming that you had an agent. Part of a Realtor’s responsibility is to coordinate the various aspects of the transaction; to ensure that things take place in accordance with the purchase contract. If the contract sets a time limit on negotiating the findings in a home inspection report, then the agent should pressure the inspector to produce that report before the due date expires. If the inspector fails to meet his responsibility, the agent should submit a request to extend the negotiation period.

If your home inspector is not willing to issue a refund, your agent should exert some persuasion on your behalf. Hopefully, one or both of them will have the professional integrity to meet these responsibilities.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Should a Contractor Do Your Home Inspection?

Oct 14 2013

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  I am planning to buy a home but don’t know who the home inspectors are in my area. On the other hand, I have a good friend who is a licensed general contractor, and he has offered to do my home inspection for free. He is a very experienced builder with vast construction knowledge, and I would expect that he can do as thorough a job of inspecting a home as anyone in the inspection business. Is there any reason why I should not have him do my home inspection?  Seth

Dear Seth:  Hiring a general contractor to do a home inspection seems reasonable to anyone who does not know the scope and processes involved in home inspection, but a contractor inspection can be a costly mistake. A home inspection is not a walkthrough evaluation by someone who knows how to build a house. That is something that many homebuyers, especially first-time homebuyers, do not realize when they are faced with your choice. Home inspection involves skills, practices, and knowledge that are not essential to the process of construction, and this in no way minimizes the respectability of qualified contractors.

Most home inspectors start out as contractors who enter the home inspection profession and gradually learn to conduct thorough inspections. That learning process takes a few years and involves a very large number of home inspections. A basic apprenticeship in home inspection usually requires about 1000 inspections. Those who have done fewer than 1000 are likely to resent this opinion. Those who have done more than 1000 are sure to agree with it.

Home inspection is a process of investigation and discovery. Contracting is a process of mechanical skills and management. Although building knowledge is essential to the practice of home inspection, construction itself has little or no relation to the practice of forensic analysis. A home inspector is an investigator — a property detective – someone who observes and evaluates defects. The skills essential to a thorough home inspection are unique, are refined by years of practice, and are not essential to the process of building construction.

The focus of a home inspection is not merely the quality of construction, but the overall level of maintenance versus deterioration of the property, the operability and shortcomings of fixtures, compliance with numerous safety standards, the projected longevity of various materials and components, old versus new standards of construction, and much more.

Just as a traffic patrolman is not a crime detective; just as your family physician is not a medical pathologist; likewise, home inspectors are diagnostic specialists, distinct from professionals in the building trades.

What matters most when you choose a home inspector is to find someone who has done many inspections and has a reputation for thoroughness. If you need some referrals, call some of the real estate offices in your area and ask them who are the nit-pickiest inspectors. Those inspectors are the contractors you should consider before you buy a home.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Barry Stone

Barry StoneKnown today as "America's House Detective," Barry advises readers from coast to coast about home inspection and real estate disclosure, providing honest clarity, fresh wit, consumer protection, and even-handed fairness in his responses to real estate questions. Read more.

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