DEAR BARRY: Say what you will about the benefits of home inspection … (inspectors) deny liability for the many defects they miss in their inspections, and they kill deals by applying current building codes to old houses. Your column often contains stories about incompetent home inspectors, but then you turn around and recommend home inspections. What’s up with that? –Kent

DEAR KENT: A home inspection can be of great benefit to homebuyers, or it can be a swindle, as you so bluntly put it. It all depends on which home inspector you choose for the job. You can hire a newly minted home inspector, fresh from the online training course, with little or no field experience. In that case, the inspection would not be very thorough, and you would probably feel that you had been swindled. Or you could hire a home inspector who panders to unethical real estate agents in exchange for future referrals. In that case, you would definitely be the victim of a swindle.

DEAR BARRY: Say what you will about the benefits of home inspection … (inspectors) deny liability for the many defects they miss in their inspections, and they kill deals by applying current building codes to old houses. Your column often contains stories about incompetent home inspectors, but then you turn around and recommend home inspections. What’s up with that? –Kent

DEAR KENT: A home inspection can be of great benefit to homebuyers, or it can be a swindle. It all depends on which home inspector you choose for the job. You can hire a newly minted home inspector, fresh from the online training course, with little or no field experience.

In that case, the inspection would not be very thorough, and you would probably feel that you had been swindled. Or you could hire a home inspector who panders to unethical real estate agents in exchange for future referrals. In that case, you would definitely be the victim of a swindle.

On the other hand, you could hire a highly experienced, ethically committed home inspector who provides uncompromised disclosure of property defects. In that case, you would receive a valuable service and would, by no means, be swindled.

The shortcomings of some home inspectors, as revealed by readers, are often mentioned in this column. An unqualified home inspector can make a longer-lasting impression than several good ones. Fortunately, there are many competent home inspectors whose knowledge and experience provide valuable benefits to homebuyers.

The central purpose of this column is to promote the importance of real estate disclosure and to create public awareness of the difference between qualified and unqualified home inspectors. A home inspector who foolishly applies new building codes to old homes can damage the collective reputation of the profession.

But there are many responsible home inspectors who recommend property upgrades, while stating that these are not required, due to the age of the building.

As for liability, there are some home inspectors who deny accountability for any defect that was not reported during an inspection. But this is not the case with all home inspectors. In fact, there are many reputable inspectors who take responsibility for undisclosed defects that were visible and accessible at the time of the inspection.

The bottom line is this: All professions have unqualified members. There are bad doctors, teachers, contractors, musicians, plumbers, pilots and home inspectors. And in each of those professions, there are also many highly qualified practitioners whose ethical standards outshine the dark practices of others.

Casting a shadow of condemnation on any profession, on the basis of a few bad apples, does an injustice to many respectable professionals. Next time you buy a home, take the time to learn which home inspectors in your area are the most qualified.

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

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