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by CareyBot

DEAR BARRY: In my area, there is a very successful real estate agent who is married to a home inspector. On all of her listings, she has her husband do the home inspection and then she gives the inspection report to buyers. And since she does not have the same last name as her husband, the buyers are not aware of the relationship. Is it illegal for an agent to conduct business in this way? –Mike

DEAR MIKE: Whether the practice is illegal depends on the real estate laws that apply in each state. But regardless of legality, it is clearly unethical for a Realtor to have her husband perform a home inspection on her own transactions. And it is doubly unethical to do so without openly disclosing their relationship to everyone involved.

Aside from ethics, the practice itself is foolish because of liability exposure for the agent and the home inspector. What happens when a defect is overlooked by the inspector and is later discovered by the buyers. Even if the home inspector is honest and competent, no home inspector is beyond making mistakes. If a defect is not reported by the husband of the agent, the relationship would certainly raise suspicions. The appearance of collusion and concealment would be unavoidable.

In the community where I do business, two agents have been married to home inspectors. Fortunately, both of these agents have exercised common sense and a high level of integrity. Neither has employed or recommended her husband for inspections in her own transactions. Both have shown the transparent honesty that should be the standard for Realtors everywhere.

DEAR BARRY: When we bought our home, the home inspector found a few minor problems, most of which have been repaired. Now that we are selling, the buyers’ inspector wrote up a major laundry list of defects. We think he did this to help the buyers force down our sales price. So now we’re in a bind. We can lower our price or cancel the deal. If we cancel, we’ll have to disclose all of the home inspector’s supposed defects to other buyers. What can we do? –Mark

DEAR MARK: Home inspectors have been accused of many things: professional incompetence; pandering to agents; being "deal killers"; and even stealing jewelry from the dresser drawer. But writing an exaggerated inspection report to force a lower sales price is a new one — at least to this inspector.

What matters most is whether the defects in the home inspection report are valid. It may be that the home inspector you hired when you bought the property did not do a thorough job. Rather than cast suspicion on the integrity of the buyers’ home inspector, you should ask the inspector to show you the defects that he reported so that you can verify them and understand them fully. In short: The validity of the buyers’ home inspection report needs to be confirmed.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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