Dear Barry,

As a real estate agent, I have had many discussions with fellow professionals about how to recommend home inspectors to buyers. We want to give buyers good advice, but we also want to limit our liability. Here are the three schools of thought on home inspector recommendations:

1. Provide a list of available inspectors and advise buyers to research and choose whomever they want.

2. Recommend one inspector who regularly works for the real estate company, who belongs to a large network/franchise, and who indemnifies the real estate agent and company.

3. Don’t recommend anyone: just tell buyers to investigate home inspectors on their own.

Which of these options do you advise? –John

Dear John,

If agent liability and client representation are primary considerations, there are problems with all three options. Fortunately, there is a fourth choice that better serves the needs of everyone.

The problem with option #1 is that a list of available inspectors will include the qualified, the unqualified and the mediocre. What if your buyers choose one of the less-qualified names on the list? In that case, disclosure of property defects would be incomplete, damaging discoveries could occur after the sale, and you could be blamed for placing that inspector’s name on the list.

The problem with option #2 is that the inspector is being chosen for reasons other than actual competence at finding defects. Belonging to a network or franchise and purchasing insurance coverage for agents are not relevant measures of professional competence among home inspectors. Recommendations made on that basis could result in undisclosed defects being discovered after the sale, and that spells liability.

The problem with option #3, recommending no inspector and advising buyers to go shopping, is that most buyers have no idea how to choose a home inspector. If they pick someone who misses many defects, they can blame you for not providing direction in accordance with your knowledge of and experience with local home inspectors.

The best way to serve the interests of your clients, while minimizing your liability, is option #4: Recommend the home inspector who you have come to recognize as significantly more thorough than the competition. If two or more inspectors meet this high professional standard, that’s even better. Then you can provide a list that consists of the distilled essence of the profession.

In the world of modern business, there is no way to fully immunize oneself against liability. The best we can do is to minimize exposure as much as possible. When recommending home inspections, option #4 is the most practical way of achieving that end.

Dear Barry,

The last time I ran my bathtub whirlpool, all sorts of disgusting particles were emitted into the water. I’d like to use it once in a while, but after that filthy surprise, I’m afraid to turn it on. How can this system be cleaned? –Michelle

Dear Michelle,

A simple and effective way to clean the plumbing in a bathtub whirlpool system is to fill the tub with hot water, add dishwasher detergent, and run the pump for about 30 minutes. Then run a rinse cycle with clear water. This should remove any residual impurities.

Whirlpool piping often develops black “crud” because residual water in the lines becomes stagnant. For some people, this has caused bacterial infections. Therefore, periodic flushing is highly recommended.

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

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