Dear Barry,

Our Realtor recommended a home inspector who has a very good reputation for thoroughness and honesty. But the agent and broker for the seller have refused to allow that inspector on the property. They say the inspector is a "nitpicky deal-killer" and that their real estate office will not do business with him. They say I can choose any other inspector in the area, but not the one my agent recommended. Don’t I have the right to hire a home inspector of my choice? –Andrea

Dear Andrea,

Your question raises two issues affecting the seller’s agent and broker — one of legality and one of liability. Let’s begin with the legal question: whether you have the right to a home inspector of your choice. The answer depends largely on the wording of the purchase contract. Most real estate contracts contain clauses such as "inspector of the buyers’ choice." If such wording is in your contract, the seller’s Realtors would have no right to ban your inspector. If taken before a court of law, your choice would probably be enforced.

The other aspect of this issue involves Realtor liability. Regardless of the wording in the purchase contract, agents and brokers who restrict a buyer’s choice of a home inspector make themselves liable for any defects that are not disclosed by the home inspector of second choice. What if the inspector who is allowed by the seller’s Realtors were to miss a significant defect involving the foundation, roofing, electrical wiring, plumbing, etc.? The buyer could hold those Realtors liable for having prevented a more qualified inspector from evaluating the property. It could then be alleged that those Realtors were trying to limit the thoroughness of defect disclosure. In a case of that kind, the Realtors’ legal defense might not play well to a jury.

In short, boycotting qualified home inspectors is an indefensible posture for real estate professionals. It increases liability, it is usually a violation of contract, and it demonstrates a lack of ethics by those agents who do it.

Dear Barry,

The home we’re buying has two furnaces. Our home inspector found cracked heat exchangers in both of them, and we’re not sure what to do about this. Should we insist on replacement of the furnaces, or would it be OK to repair them? Should we ask for a price reduction on the home and fix the furnaces later, or is it OK to continue using the furnaces as they are? –Tom

Dear Tom,

A cracked heat exchanger is the most hazardous of all furnace defects. It means that combustion exhaust can enter the house, exposing occupants to deadly carbon monoxide. Therefore, do not continue using those furnaces under any circumstances. Immediate repair or replacement is essential. If the furnaces are relatively new, replacement parts are probably available, which would enable repair rather than replacement. With older furnaces, total replacement is usually the only option.

If you ask for a price reduction on the home, rather than having the furnaces repaired or replaced, get bids from licensed heating contractors so you’ll now how much of a reduction is appropriate. But once you take possession, don’t procrastinate on repairs. If, for any reason, the defects were to be forgotten, someone could begin to use those hazardous furnaces.

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


***


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