DEAR BARRY: We are buying a 50-year-old foreclosure home. Before placing it on the market, the bank had it remodeled by a licensed contractor, and the work supposedly meets FHA requirements. Is a pre-purchase inspection necessary in this case? If so, should we hire a professional home inspector to evaluate the house, or would a friend who is a building contractor be just as good? –Debbie
DEAR DEBBIE: The fact that the home was remodeled does not minimize the likelihood that defects will be discovered by a qualified inspector. Banks often repair or renovate foreclosed properties, but they typically do their hiring on a tight budget and often do not engage the most qualified people. As for FHA requirements, these are minimal and have little influence on what is likely to be discovered by a competent inspector.
A professional home inspector, if you get a good one, will provide a far more comprehensive evaluation of the home than your friend, the building contractor. This is not meant to demean the knowledge, skills or expertise of contractors. Inspecting a home requires far more than construction knowledge. Construction experience is a prerequisite to learning the processes of home inspection. Most home inspectors begin their careers as contractors, but several years of full-time work as an inspector are needed to master the skills of defect discovery.
To find a good home inspector in your area, call a few real estate offices and ask who the most experienced inspectors are, i.e., the ones who are known for their thoroughness.
DEAR BARRY: We bought our house about six months ago and hired a home inspector to check it out. It turns out he did not report that we have three layers of roof shingles or that we have active termites. Now we are faced with a lot of unexpected repair costs. What should we do? –Linda
DEAR LINDA: The maximum permissible number of shingle roof layers is not the same everywhere. For many years, the limit in most areas was three, but many states and municipalities have reduced this number to two layers. Your home inspector should have reported the number of layers, regardless of the requirement. If the maximum limit in your area is two layers, that should have been disclosed in the inspection report as a faulty condition.
Had this been disclosed, the sellers would not necessarily have made concessions, depending on a few factors. If the top layer was in good condition, if it was properly flashed and sealed, and if the weight of the layers was not causing the roof framing to sag, the sellers probably would have said, "Take is as is." In that case, the roof would have been considered noncomplying but functional.
As for termites, liability depends on whether a termite inspection is included in a home inspection in your state. In most states, termite inspection is a specialized service, performed by termite inspectors, not by home inspectors. That would determine whether your home inspector was negligent for not having disclosed termites.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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