Dear Barry,

Before we bought our home, our agent assured us that she would hire a home inspector and handle all the details. We were first-time buyers and had no idea how the inspection process works. We were not told when the inspection would take place and, therefore, never met the inspector. What’s more, we never received a copy of the report. Instead, our agent simply told us that “everything checked out.” So we trusted her and closed the deal. Since then, we’ve had to pay more than $30,000 for major repairs to the roof, the well, the septic system, and dryrot damage in the subfloor. No one will take responsibility for all of these undisclosed problems, and our agent just says, “The buyer must beware.” We feel totally used and want to know if this is this the way unsuspecting buyers are routinely treated in the real estate business? – Nathan

Dear Nathan,

Your unfortunate experience is frustrating and unfair, but it is definitely not the norm. Clearly, your financial interests were misrepresented. Not only was the home inspection process derailed, but your agent was flagrantly out of step when quoting the old “buyer beware” caveat. That “used-car-salesman” attitude has no place in today’s real estate market, where total disclosure is the name of the game. Again, this is not the standard of practice for most real estate professionals.

At the outset, your agent should have included you in the home inspection process. You should have been present at the inspection, if you were living in the area. You should have had the opportunity to meet and confer with your inspector, to ask questions, to gain a full understanding of the condition of the property. And above all, you should have received a copy of the inspection report long before the deal closed. What, after all, is the point of an inspection if you don’t receive the information provided by the inspector? Finally, it should have been your prerogative, not your agent’s, to determine which conditions were significant and which were not. Your agent had no business deciding whether the findings of the inspector were matters of concern or whether they supposedly “checked out.”

In addition to a full home inspection, with all the trappings and services, there should have been specialty inspections by a septic contractor, a well contractor, and a pest control operator. In all of these respects, you were denied the advice, support, guidance and disclosure that one would expect from an ethical and reliable professional.

Dear Barry,

When I purchased my home, the inspector recommended that I check with the building department to verify that the construction was permitted and received final approval. But with all the hectic details of buying property, I neglected to do this. After the sale, I learned that the final signoff on the property never took place. The seller and agents did not disclose this circumstance because no one knew, and now I’m stuck with a home that was never approved for occupancy. Who is liable in this situation? – Pat

Dear Pat,

If the home inspector advised you to check for permits, you should have followed that recommendation. Having foregone that process, the liability is apparently your own. However, the original builder may still bear some liability, depending upon the age of the building. But regardless of liability, you’ll need to call the local building department for a final inspection. At that point, you’ll learn what they require for final approval. You may even get lucky and receive a signoff without having to perform major corrective work.

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

***

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