DEAR BARRY: I am presently buying my first home and am bothered by a difference of opinion between my home inspector and the seller’s roofing contractor. My home inspector has 20 years of experience. He found the shingles to be worn and brittle, with two years of remaining life. But the seller’s roofing contractor says the roof has five years of life. My agent says we should get a third opinion, but I’m thinking of canceling the deal. Why can’t the experts agree on the condition of the roof? –Mikel

DEAR MIKEL: No one can assign an exact amount of remaining life for roof shingles. It is a subjective assessment, not an exact prediction. Whether two years or five years, the point is this: The shingles show significant signs of aging and wear and have limited remaining life. They will soon need replacement. Home inspectors with 20 years of experience typically know their stuff, so you can probably rely on your inspector’s findings.

If you really want the house, try to negotiate a cash credit for roof replacement as part of the deal. That would certainly seem reasonable. You should base this on an estimate from a licensed roofing contractor. For that purpose, it would be wise to take your agent’s advice regarding a third opinion from another contractor.

DEAR BARRY: I recently had a flood problem in one of the apartments that I manage. The unit was vacant, and several weeks passed before the moisture condition was addressed. Now there is mold on much of the drywall. Everyone I ask seems to have a different opinion about what to do. Some say I should hire a contractor who specializes in flood damage. Others say I should get a professional mold inspection first. And one person says I should simply clean the mold with bleach and repaint the walls. What do you say? –Don

DEAR DON: The problem with mold issues today is that they can no longer be viewed as purely pragmatic problems. The overriding consideration is liability. The days when mold could be washed with bleach and covered with paint are over. Mold is now a legal issue, as well as a health consideration.

Some people, in fact, have been severely harmed by mold exposure. On the other hand, there are cases where moldy walls could be washed and painted with no adverse health consequences to anyone. But much more is at stake than the likelihood of health problems. For example, what happens when a future occupant of the building finds out that there once was mold in the building and demands documentation to verify that the mold was tested and that removal was done in accordance with environmental standards, with follow-up air-testing? In that case, you would wish that you had done more than apply bleach and paint.

This is the situation that now exists because of past lawsuits and widely publicized hysteria about the dangers of mold. It is from this standpoint that one must consider matters of mold, especially with rental property.

On this basis, a thorough mold evaluation by a qualified expert is recommended, prior to repairing and refinishing the interior of the apartment.

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

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