DEAR BARRY: I’ve been a home inspector for more than 10 years and have had some ethical challenges. On a few occasions, agents have asked me to "omit" information from a report to help secure a loan and close the deal. The very idea of this offends me. By omitting disclosures from a report, I would compromise my integrity and the credibility of my profession, all for the sake of future referrals.

My job is to provide genuine disclosure to homebuyers. If I actually miss something during an inspection and learn about it later, I hire a licensed professional to repair the problem. Because of this policy, I have never been sued or even threatened with a lawsuit. Besides that, I sleep well at night. Your thoughts on this would be appreciated. –Larry

DEAR LARRY: The agents who ask you to compromise your reports are more transparent in their dishonesty than the few "bad apples" I’ve worked with. I recall suggestive comments such as, "Hey Barry, this deal is really important to me, so I need a ‘really good’ report." Taking them at their word, I gave them the best (i.e., most complete) report that I could. Before long, I became known as the "deal killer" and received no more referrals from those "bottom-feeders."

The good agents who routinely recommend me — the ones with integrity, who believe in total disclosure — tell me of the unhappy reactions of listing agents who learn that I am scheduled to do the inspection. "Oh no! Not Barry! He’ll kill the deal!"

In truth, good home inspectors do not kill deals. Serious defects do that. It is the job of good inspectors to make sure their clients don’t get stuck with those serious defects.

Home inspection is the only profession where competent work can discourage endorsements. But honest home inspectors sleep well at night, and that’s better than a few dishonest referrals.

DEAR BARRY: We had our brick fireplace covered in granite, but now we can’t replace the faulty gas valve in the wall. The hole in the granite is large enough for the gas key, but it is not large enough for our plumber to repair the valve. The granite company says the stone cannot be removed without major damage. So we don’t know what to do. This will definitely be a problem when we eventually sell the house, and besides, we’d like to use the fireplace sometimes. Do you have any ideas? –Francis

DEAR FRANCIS: Without inspecting the fireplace and the surrounding walls, it’s difficult to fully analyze the problem. If you have a wood-burning fireplace with a gas lighter, you could simply abandon use of the gas lighter. If you have a gas log fireplace, then repair is essential. If the fireplace is located at an exterior wall of the building, you might be able to reach the valve by making a hole on the outside.

Another possibility is to have a masonry contractor make a temporary hole in the firebox itself.

A final option would be to abandon the old gas line and have another one installed, somehow. Other possibilities might be apparent to an imaginative contractor, but without examining the fireplace, those are my best blind guesses.

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