Dear Barry,

I am quite disgusted with the home inspection industry. Before buying my home, I hired the inspector who was recommended by my agent. First of all, $350 is a lot of money to pay someone just to flush the toilet and inform me that there are rust stains on the bottom of the kitchen sink. What’s more, the inspector referred me to a structural engineer just because of a tilted foundation pier in the crawlspace. Couldn’t I perform my own basic inspection with some sort of checklist and then, if an item appears faulty, call a licensed contractor? –Gloria

Dear Gloria,

Judging an entire profession by the performance of one individual is a shortcut to unreliable conclusions. The best and worst practitioners can be found in every field of work. It is possible that a more qualified inspector would have disclosed a longer list of defects. On the other hand, this home may have been one of the few with very few faulty conditions. The recommendation for a structural engineer may or may not have been justified, depending upon the specifics of that situation.

As for your suggestion that you perform your own home inspection, ask yourself if you have the experience and expertise to evaluate the wiring in a circuit breaker panel, to review the conditions of a forced-air furnace, or to ascertain whether a fireplace and chimney are properly constructed and in operational condition. Ask yourself if you are prepared to crawl through an attic or foundation subarea and whether you would recognize the various construction defects that would pertain to roof framing, seismic reinforcement and ventilation. Additional examples could fill several pages and still not comprise a complete list.

Despite your recent disappointment, there are many highly qualified home inspectors who can provide detailed, comprehensive defect disclosure for home buyers. Rather than draw conclusions about the entire home inspection industry, buyers should try to find an inspector with many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness. Don’t simply rely on referrals made by your agent.

Dear Barry,

We just bought a home with a clay tile roof. Our home inspector reported some broken tiles, and the sellers had these replaced. But then the building was tented for termites, and the people who did the tenting never told us that they broke more tiles. Now the rains have come, and we’ve got a leaking roof. Shouldn’t someone have informed us that the roof tiles were broken when the house was tented? –Lonny

Dear Lonny,

Companies that fumigate houses for termites typically include a disclaimer in their contract, stating that they are not responsible for broken roof tiles. Essentially, they are informing customers of the likelihood of tile breakage, without accepting liability for roof repairs. However, it would certainly behoove these contractors, as a matter of professional courtesy, to disclose that tiles were in fact broken, regardless of whether they are responsible for repairs. These companies might not agree with this point of view, but a Small Claims judge might be inclined to reorient their perspective.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at

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