DEAR BARRY: Before we bought our home, we hired a home inspector, but he didn’t report any of the major problems in the house. Now we have to repair the plumbing, the electrical wiring and the roof. When he did the inspection, he said everything was OK, but he was just lying, and we think he may have gotten a big tip from the seller or the agent. He was supposed to be working for us. Why would a home inspector do business this way? –Beatriz
DEAR BEATRIZ: To assume that a home inspector took a bribe is a big jump. When home inspectors fail to report defects, the problem is usually professional incompetence, not willful collusion with sellers or agents. Unfortunately, there are more than a few home inspectors who are just plain inexperienced or not adequately skilled as inspectors. Because of this, many homebuyers do not receive adequate disclosure. Furthermore, this problem is compounded by the many agents who recommend such inspectors to their clients.
The first thing to do is have your home reinspected, but this time you should find an inspector with a reputation for thoroughness and with many years of experience in the home inspection business. To find some leads, call a few real estate offices and ask for the name of the most "nit-picky" home inspector in town. Tell them you want a home inspector who is known as a "deal breaker." That’s the misnomer that some agents apply to the best inspectors.
A second report from a truly qualified home inspector will reveal the actual condition of your home and will provide a more complete list of the issues that were missed by the first inspector. Then you can notify the first inspector of your concerns and ask if he has errors and omissions insurance. Hopefully, he will be willing to address your concerns.
DEAR BARRY: I am a Realtor and recently closed escrow on a property that had been foreclosed by the bank. The bank insisted on an "as is" sale, which is customary with foreclosed homes. My buyers hired a home inspector but decided to forego a termite inspection. After moving in, they found termite damage in the subfloor of the kitchen and dining room. We’ve learned that the listing agent knew about this but withheld disclosure because it was an "as-is" deal and because the seller (the bank) was not required to disclose defects. Do you think my buyers have recourse? –Karen
DEAR KAREN: People often misconstrue the term "as is" to mean a release from the requirements of real estate disclosure laws. In the case of lenders who foreclose on a property, there is, in fact, an exclusion from the requirement to disclose. But this exclusion does not excuse Realtors who withhold disclosure of known defects. The requirement to disclose all known defects is an ethical and legal imperative for all real estate agents. Withholding knowledge of a defect, such as termite damage, is not acceptable for an agent, even when the seller of the property is a bank.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.