DEAR BARRY: We just bought an old house that needs fixing up. There’s so much to do, we hardly know where to begin. How would you suggest that we prioritize all this work? –Mary

DEAR MARY: The first items to repair are those that involve safety, such as electrical violations, faulty gas-burning fixtures, problems with the fireplace, or defective guardrails.

Second on the list are things that leak, such as plumbing fixtures, corroded pipes, faulty drains and the roof.

Next are items that affect the use of the home, such as heating and cooling systems, cooking appliances, and showers.

Finally, there is the long list of cosmetic upgrades, renovations, and routine maintenance and repairs. Doors, windows, cabinets, and other fixtures will need various repairs or replacements.

Before you begin, a professional home inspection would help to know which issues are most in need of attention.

DEAR BARRY: We bought our home two months ago, and our home inspector said the roof was in good condition. But we just had a big rain, and now the living room is all wet. The roof repairs will cost $680, and we just paid $250 for some outlets that didn’t work. According to the home inspection contract, the inspector is liable only for a refund of the inspection fee, which is less than $300. Is this all we are entitled to after a negligent home inspection? –Robert

DEAR ROBERT: Some states recognize the refund limit that many home inspectors place on their liability, but some states do not. That is a matter to discuss with an attorney. However, your home inspector may or may not have been negligent, depending on whether the defective conditions were visible and accessible on the day of the inspection.

In some cases, roof inspections are limited by steepness, weather conditions or fragile types of roofing materials. If your roof was accessible on the day of the inspection, visible defects should have been reported by your inspector.

There are also variables that affect disclosure of faulty electrical outlets. If the outlets were located behind furniture, the home inspector may not have been able to test them. In that case, nondisclosure would not have involved negligence.

These conditions should all be considered when assessing the liability of your home inspector.

DEAR BARRY: I’m planning to have my bathroom remodeled and have gotten three quotes from contractors. One thing I keep hearing from them is, "The building inspector’s going to want to see this or it won’t pass." How do I know what a city inspector wants to see? Would you recommend hiring a home inspector before or during this remodel? –Cathy

DEAR CATHY: The main things the municipal building inspector will want to see are plumbing lines, plumbing fixtures, electrical wiring and electrical fixtures. Other considerations are room ventilation, safety glass at the tub and shower, and proper room dimensions.

The primary concern for the city inspector will be compliance with building codes. Unfortunately, municipal inspections pay little or no attention to quality of workmanship. It is actually possible to do substandard work without violating the codes. This is where a professional inspection by a qualified home inspector could be beneficial.

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