DEAR BARRY: A home inspector recently came to our house and scared off our buyers with false assumptions about our foundation and with nit-picky disclosures of all kinds. Our foundation was actually repaired last year, but we never patched the stucco crack that occurred before the repair work was done. The home inspector assumed that the crack occurred after the foundation was repaired. He reported this to the buyers, and they bailed out of the deal. He also stated in his report that the stream at the bottom of our property (nowhere near our house) is "a major erosional feature." On the nit-pick side, he mentioned such things as a small stain on our carpet and a scratch on the bedroom door. How can we market our home to other buyers with this kind of inspection report to disclose? –Ginny
DEAR GINNY: When home inspectors report defects, they should state what they see and limit their conclusions to things they can confirm. If an inspector sees settlement cracks in a stucco wall, the cause may be apparent, but the age of the crack can rarely be determined. A more appropriate disclosure in this case might have sounded like this: "The stucco is cracked near the repaired foundation corner. It is uncertain whether this crack occurred before or after the repair work was done. Consultation with the contractor who performed the repair work is recommended. It is also recommended that the adequacy of the repair be confirmed by a licensed structural engineer." That kind of disclosure alerts buyers to a potential problem and directs them toward a proper evaluation.
As for the other disclosures in the inspection report: There is a reason why home inspectors try to list every apparent defect. Many inspectors have had claims and lawsuits for problems that were not included in their reports. This is an unfortunate aspect of the business of home inspection. Unreasonable liability pressures are placed on inspectors by a minority of nit-picky buyers. This leads to outrageously nit-picky reports for the rest of us.
DEAR BARRY: My friend just bought a house in as-is condition. After moving in, she noticed a gas leak. What can she do about it? –Rose
DEAR ROSE: No one should wonder what to do when a gas leak is discovered. Gas leaks should be reported immediately to the gas company. A gas technician will be dispatched on the spot and will either fix the leak or turn off the supply valve. If the gas company cannot fix the problem, your friend should hire a plumber to repair the leak.
By the way, if your friend did not discover the leak until she moved into the house, she may not have hired a home inspector before she purchased the property. If not, she should hire a qualified inspector now. Failure to hire a competent home inspector is among the costliest mistakes a homebuyer can make, and it is often made when people buy homes on an "as-is" basis. As-is means that you must accept all of the defects. But it does not mean that you should accept them blindly.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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