Dear Barry,

I need to know if home inspections are required for cooperative living units such as condominiums and townhouses. As a buyer, home inspection is listed as an option in my purchase contract, but my Realtor and the listing agent both say that a home inspection is unnecessary. They assure me that the property management company performed a thorough inspection before the property was listed for sale and that there were no problems with any of the appliances. Should I rely on this advice? –Henrietta

Dear Henrietta,

For a real estate agent to advise against a home inspection is the height of professional irresponsibility and seriously undermines the trust that is essential between a client and agent. It is probably the most unreliable advice you are likely to receive in this or any future real estate transaction. Essentially, you are being misinformed about the substance and scope of a home inspection by comparing it to the walkthrough inspection likely to be conducted by a property manager. Be assured that no management company is qualified to conduct the kind of property evaluation that is routinely performed by a professional home inspector.

To test what you have been told by the agents, ask if the property manager’s inspection was done in accordance with the standards of practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) or a similar state association. Ask also for a copy of the management company’s inspection report. If they have such as report, is it truly limited to appliances only? Was there no evaluation of the electrical system, including an inspection of wiring in the breaker panels? Were the outlets tested to determine proper grounding, correct polarity, and GFCI compliance for shock protection? Did they test and evaluate the plumbing and heating systems? Did they walk on the roof to determine the condition of the material, the quality of installation, the likelihood of leakage, or the need for repairs and maintenance? Did they inspect the fireplace and chimney, the firewall in the garage, conditions in the attic and below the building?

The likelihood that these were included in a property manager’s inspection is about as probable as a white Christmas in Jamaica. In this case, common sense and buyer prudence trump the advice of your agents. Don’t close the deal without a professional home inspection. A qualified, experienced inspector will find defects that were never considered by the property manager.

Dear Barry,

I’m about to buy a 1920s house and am concerned about possible moisture problems in the two-room basement. The walls, floor and ceiling in one of these rooms were recently coated with concrete. Can I assume this is a disguise for water damage or dampness in that area? –Linda

Dear Linda,

Although it is possible that concrete was applied to conceal a moisture problem, further evidence is needed to draw a conclusion of this kind. Make sure that your home inspector gives serious attention to this concern and to the likelihood of any moisture problems in the basement. You might even consider a review of the property by a geotechnical engineer to evaluate ground water conditions in general. And pay attention to visible signs of mold or musty odors.

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

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