Dear Barry,

I’m having some difficulties with the seller of the home I am buying. When I first looked at the house, he said the fireplace was in working order. But my home inspector says there are loose bricks and mortar in the firebox. Now the seller says he never used the fireplace but was told when he bought the house that it worked. When I asked him to fix the loose masonry, he refused because the sale is not contingent on the findings of the home inspector. And he still insists that the fireplace is in working order, even though the home inspector disagrees. Does the seller have to pay to fix the fireplace? And if not, can I get out of the contract even though there wasn’t a contingency on passing inspection? –Kim

Dear Kim,

If the purchase contract is not contingent on the findings of the home inspection, then the seller is not required to make repairs, and the condition of the fireplace does not provide an option to cancel the purchase. The seller, however, should stop insisting that the fireplace is in working condition. If he has never used it, and if the bricks and mortar are loose, he obviously has no basis for that claim.

Your choice, then, is to decide whether the cost of chimney repair overrides the value of the home. If the property is acceptable to you in all other respects, does a fireplace repair of several hundred or even a few thousand dollars offset its desirability? If so, you may have to forfeit your deposit. Otherwise, you should proceed with the purchase and eventually pay to have the fireplace repaired. But before you decide, hire a fireplace specialist to provide a detailed evaluation, as well as a written bid for necessary repairs.

Dear Barry,

We have been house hunting for several months and have found three homes that interest us. Our plan is to write an offer for each of these homes and then buy the one that seems to be the best deal. But our Realtor doesn’t like this idea. She says it is unethical to make more than one offer at a time. We asked other Realtors we know if this was an acceptable practice, and they had no problem with it. Do you think we should find another Realtor who is willing to go along with our plan? –Kate

Dear Kate,

The only aspect of your multiple-offer approach that might be questionable is this: What happens if more than one offer is accepted. In that case, at least one of the offers would have to be rescinded, and this would be somewhat unfair to the sellers who accepted your offer in good faith. One way to avoid this problem would be to inform each of the sellers that you were making offers on other properties. Then they would understand the possibility of a rejection in case of multiple acceptances. Furthermore, the knowledge that you were making multiple offers might motivate them to accept your offer with some attractive inducements.

As for your Realtor: Think twice before finding someone else. You agent is apparently concerned about honesty and ethics. That kind of representation should not be taken for granted.

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


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