DEAR BARRY: Our home is listed for sale. We accepted an offer a few weeks ago, but the buyers canceled the deal after the home inspection. The home inspector reported numerous problems with the foundation and structure.
We immediately hired a licensed structural engineer who determined that the foundation and structure are sound and that the home inspection report was inaccurate. So now we have a disclosure problem for future buyers. There are two conflicting reports, and both must be disclosed. What should we do? –Kim
DEAR KIM: Home inspectors should not draw conclusions about the structural integrity of foundations. Instead, they should point out specific foundation defects that are visible and recommend further evaluation by a licensed structural engineer.
Here are a few common examples: A home inspector could say, "Large cracks are visible in the foundation stemwall"; or "Gaps between the foundation and the sill plate indicate possible building settlement"; or "Decomposed concrete is apparent on the interior foundation surfaces."
Disclosures of this kind describe observable conditions without drawing structural conclusions. When home inspectors overstep that boundary, problems often result.
Now that there are conflicting reports, future disclosure must be carefully addressed. Keep in mind that the home inspector is a generalist and the structural engineer is a specialist. If your family doctor suspected that you might have a heart condition but your cardiologist found no problem, the specialist’s opinion would prevail. The same principal applies here.
Greater weight should be given to the engineer’s report because the engineer has a higher level of expertise with regard to foundations. His report should override the home inspection report. However, an additional precaution is advised to reassure future buyers.
Contact the home inspector and request a review of his findings. Show him the engineer’s report and request that he write an addendum to his own report, recognizing the findings of the engineer. Unless there were defects that the engineer overlooked, the home inspector should be willing to comply with this request. …CONTINUED
DEAR BARRY: We moved into our home a few months ago. The sellers disclosed no roof problems, and none was reported by our home inspector. But the first time it rained, water dripped from the ceiling light in the kitchen. Since the leak happened so soon after we bought the property, are the sellers or the home inspector liable for roof repairs? –Rudy
DEAR RUDY: In situations of this kind, sellers usually claim that the roof never leaked when they owned the property. In most cases, you cannot know if such claims are true. Every roof leak has its first occurrence, and it is possible that your roof never leaked before.
The first thing to do is locate the leak. Your home inspector should be willing to take a second look at the roof and help you find the defect. If damage or wear is apparent, that could indicate past leakage. It would also cast doubt on the thoroughness of the home inspection. In that case, the sellers and the inspector could share some liability.
Hopefully, the roof needs only routine patching. That can be determined when you and the home inspector are on the roof. Evaluation by a licensed roofing contractor is also recommended.
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.