Dear Barry,

Before we bought our home, it was evaluated by the FHA home inspector, but he missed every important defect. Since then, we’ve spent lots of money on repairs, including a leaking shower, a rotted bathroom floor, three defective windows, a faulty furnace and problems with the electrical wiring. How could the inspector have been this negligent? –Melinda

Dear Melinda,

You have made the costly and common error of equating an FHA inspector with a home inspector, when in fact, there are no similarities of any kind when comparing these two distinct professions.

Home inspectors provide disclosure of visible property defects and spend several hours evaluating each home. They operate and inspect plumbing, heating and electrical fixtures; they walk on the roof; they crawl through the attic; they inspect the electrical wiring in breaker panels; test electrical outlets; and inspect the foundation crawlspace beneath each building. They evaluate fireplaces, test built-in appliances and verify compliance with numerous safety requirements. They review site drainage conditions, check for signs of faulty construction, and report on physical damage and substandard workmanship.

FHA inspectors do little, if any, of this. In fact, they are more correctly called “FHA appraisers.” Their inspection, when compared with an actual home inspection, is best described as a brief walkthrough. Basically, they look around, take measurements and note the apparent overall condition of the property. They operate nothing. They test nothing. They do not go on the roof; they do not enter the attic or crawlspace; and they do not determine functional conditions of fixtures. They do not pass go, but typically do collect more than $200.

It was your agent’s responsibility to recommend a professional home inspector (assuming that you were represented by an agent). It was the seller’s responsibility to disclose all known defects. All you can do now is hire an actual home inspector to see what other conditions remain undisclosed.

Dear Barry,

I just purchased a 55-year-old house. Since closing escrow, I’ve learned that the electrical outlets are not grounded. But this was never disclosed by my home inspector. If it had been, I would have requested an upgrade by the sellers. When I called the inspector to ask why this was not mentioned in his report, he said that grounded outlets were not required in the 1950s. Now we’ve got to spend thousands of dollars to make the house safe. Shouldn’t our inspector have informed us about these outlets? –Louis

Dear Louis,

Home inspectors should inform buyers when outlets are not grounded, even when homes are old and predate the requirement for grounded outlets. The purpose of an inspection is to inform buyers of pertinent conditions, especially when safety is involved. Whether repairs and upgrades are required is entirely irrelevant. What matters is providing unabridged disclosure. You should understand, however, that disclosure of this condition would not have obligated the seller to upgrade the wiring of outlets. The current condition of these outlets was legal when the home was constructed. Therefore, safety upgrades, although advisable, are not required.

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

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