DEAR BARRY: In one of your columns, you recommended that sellers hire a home inspector, even though the buyers would probably hire an inspector of their own. As a seller, this concerns me. If my home inspector finds a major defect (something that has given me no trouble for the past 30 years), then I’ll have to spend thousands of dollars to repair it, or I’ll have to disclose it to the buyers. Frankly, I fail to see the advantage in this. Can you please explain again the advantages when sellers hire a home inspector? –Ken
DEAR KEN: There are three main reasons for sellers to hire their own home inspector:
1) Avoiding liability: If an undisclosed defect (one that you were unaware of for the past 30 years) is discovered after the close of escrow, you could be sued for nondisclosure. The fact that you were unaware of the problem would be for you to prove in court.
2) Avoiding repair costs: Disclosing defects at the outset of a purchase transaction enables you to do an as-is sale. When defects are discovered by the buyers’ home inspector, the buyers are more likely to insist on repairs.
3) Building trust: Providing a home inspection report to buyers is a good way to build trust in a transaction by demonstrating that you, the seller, have nothing to hide.
As a seller, it’s better to provide disclosure than waiting for disclosure to happen to you.
DEAR BARRY: The home I’m buying has electric ignition, rather than pilot lights, on most of the gas-burning appliances — the furnace, the cooktop, and the oven — but not the water heater. I thought that all gas fixtures would be equipped with electric ignition to conserve gas. Why is this not the case with water heaters? –Jesse
DEAR JESSE: Electric igniters are standard features on gas furnaces and cooking appliances because continuous pilot lights in those fixtures consume gas needlessly. With gas water heaters, the heat produced by a pilot light helps to maintain the temperature of the water in the tank. Therefore, the gas that fuels a water heater pilot light is not truly wasted.
Still, there are ways to minimize gas consumption in your water heater. For example, wrap the fixture with thermal insulation to minimize heat loss, and do not turn the thermostat to the high setting.
DEAR BARRY: My house was built in the 1960s. The ceramic tile in the bathrooms is outdated and needs replacement. I’ve heard that asbestos was sometimes added to the mortar used for ceramic tile during that period. Is it possible that the mortar in my house contains asbestos? –George
DEAR GEORGE: Tile contractors sometimes added asbestos to mortar because it made the material easier to apply. The only way to know if the mortar in your home has asbestos is to send a sample to a lab for analysis. The lab fee is only about $10 to $15. If the mortar contains asbestos, removal should be done by a contractor who is licensed to do asbestos abatement.