Dear Barry,

The home I’m buying is occupied by the owners and will remain so until the day before the sale is completed. With all of the furnishings and personal effects covering walls and floors and filling the closets and garage, how can my home inspector possibly do a thorough job? –Erick

Dear Erick,

Home inspections typically occur while a home is occupied by owners or renters. This is one of the obstacles around which home inspectors must work, and in some instances, property defects definitely can escape discovery. A hole in a wall may be concealed behind a sofa, moisture damage might be covered by storage in a garage, someone’s bootleg plumbing work might be hidden behind a stack of suitcases, or an ungrounded outlet behind a piano might go untested.

In the majority of cases, furnishings do not prevent discovery of major defects, but exceptions are unavoidable. This is why final walk-through inspections are conducted by buyers and agents just prior to completing a sale, when personal possessions have finally been removed from the premises. It is also one of the reasons why sellers are required to disclose all known defects. Sellers are often aware of conditions that might not be apparent to the home inspector. With all parties working together in good faith – buyers, sellers, agents, and inspectors – significant defects have a good chance of being revealed. But no one can guarantee perfection in these processes.

Dear Barry,

We were surprised when our home inspector didn’t mention the refrigerator or the washer and dryer in his report. But our surprise turned to shock when we moved in and found that those appliances were gone. Are these items supposed to be included in the sale of a home, or are they considered as personal property, to be taken by the sellers when they move? –Mary

Dear Mary,

When appliances are freestanding, rather than built in, they are not regarded as components of the property and are only included in the sale if there is a specific agreement between buyers and sellers. This is why such items as refrigerators and laundry appliances are not included in a home inspection. On the other hand, built-in appliances such as cooktops, ovens, and dishwashers are regarded as fixtures. These are generally included as part of the sale of a home and, accordingly, as subjects of a home inspection report.

Dear Barry,

The seller of the home I’m buying disclosed that the house was treated for termites about two years ago. I was already nervous about buying a home, but this has me really worried. Is past termite infestation a reason to back out of a purchase? –Lisa

Dear Lisa,

If a past termite infestation was a basis for canceling a purchase, very few homes would be worth buying. Sooner or later, nearly every home with wood components has termite infestation, except in those rare climates where termites do not exist. As long as the termite problem in this home was adequately addressed by a qualified professional, there should be no need for worry. Just be sure to get a clear termite report before completing this transaction.

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


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