DEAR BARRY: Our son just made an offer on a home. The sellers and their agent say the house was "built to code," but they won’t say whether the addition was built with a permit. Our son’s home inspector reported that the addition is not secured to the foundation. How would you assess this situation? –Tim

DEAR TIM: Your son should proceed with caution. He does not appear to be dealing with trustworthy people. The home inspector’s findings bear this out, but even before the home inspection, red flags were waving.

How can a real estate agent declare that a home is "built to code"? To make that kind of judgment with any degree of authority, the agent would need extensive knowledge of several volumes of building standards and codes. The agent would also have to inspect the framing, plumbing, electrical wiring, mechanical systems and numerous other aspects of the construction, not merely on the surface, but within areas of the building that are not accessible for inspection.

Worse than this is the agent’s and seller’s refusal to say whether the addition was built with a permit. Declaring that the work was done to code is a demonstration of ignorance. Withholding disclosure is totally unethical.

In cases where sellers or agents are not dealing in a straightforward, honest manner, the best advice is to find another property. We are currently in a buyer’s market, with no shortage of good deals for those who keep on shopping.

DEAR BARRY: Every time I use my ventless gas fireplace, a powdery gray dust settles on everything in my home. I’ve stopped turning it on because I have to clean my entire house after each use. What could be causing this? –Ann …CONTINUED

DEAR ANN: There are a few possible causes for this fireplace problem. Natural gas contains fine particulates. If you use a ventless fireplace for several hours, these can enter the air in the form of a fine whitish-gray ash. The manufacturers of ventless fireplaces recommend not operating these fixtures for more than two hours at a time. They also specify opening a window when the fireplace is in use.

Another possible cause involves combustible materials that might have been left in the fireplace at the time of installation. Examples include sawdust, paper labels and packaging materials. You should have the unit serviced by a qualified professional to determine the precise cause of the problem.

DEAR BARRY: Every time the sun shines, I get wasps in the big window of my living room. My exterminator said he sprayed for this, but I still get 50 to 100 wasps a day. What should I do? –Donna

DEAR DONNA: Your exterminator must be doing a general spraying around the area, rather than searching out the locations of the wasp nests. Before spraying, he should take some time to investigate.

In the meantime, you can kill any wasps that get into your home by spraying them with rubbing alcohol. Just fill a spray bottle with alcohol, set the nozzle to the squirt position, and try it out. You’ll feel like an anti-aircraft gunner. Alcohol drops them on contact.

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


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.

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