DEAR BARRY: I read your column religiously every week and it seems that most of the problems answered by you deal with questionable inspections by home inspectors. I am beginning to think that the majority of home inspectors are either extremely incompetent or are in the pocket of the sellers or realty agents. How can a buyer find an honest, reliable and competent home inspector? –Archie
DEAR ARCHIE: Your question raises more than one issue, so I offer the following four answers:
1. Many of the questions I receive are complaints about home inspectors. Human nature being what it is, people speak up more readily when they have a bad experience than when they have a good one. The fact is, there are many competent home inspectors in the profession, but people don’t write to say what a great home inspection they just had. Therefore, the complaints show up often in my articles.
2. Unfortunately, there are many home inspectors who do not perform thorough or competent inspections. No doubt, there are some cases where this is due to unethical relationships with Realtors. Personally, I don’t know any inspectors who operate on that level, so I expect that collusion of that kind is a rare practice.
But home inspectors are often exposed to subtle suggestions and pressures from agents. Without intending to be dishonest, there could be a tendency, in such cases, to soften the presentation of some disclosures.
3. Some home inspectors lack the knowledge and experience needed to conduct a thorough and adequate property evaluation. Most home inspectors receive ongoing education from associations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors and various other state associations. But not all home inspectors are on the advanced side of the educational curve.
4. The toughest question is: How can I find a competent, reliable home inspector? The best I can offer is a method that is not foolproof. Try to find someone with years of experience, who has performed thousands of home inspections. Look for someone who is regarded by real estate agents as a nit-picky perfectionist. In fact, you could call real estate offices and ask if there is an inspector who is known as a "deal killer" or "deal breaker." Inspectors with that kind of reputation are likely to be qualified and honest.
DEAR BARRY: The house I’m buying is more than 100 years old, and there appear to be some structural problems. The main support beam in the basement is cracked, causing the upstairs floor to sag. The sellers have installed temporary supports and say that permanent repairs can be done at a later time for about $1,000. Should I buy this home or leave it well enough alone? –Chris
DEAR CHRIS: If you seriously wish to purchase this home, you should disregard the sellers’ assessment of the support problems and have the foundation and framing systems professionally evaluated. Concerns regarding the structural integrity of a home should not be left to chance or to off-hand opinions.
The framing defects should be investigated by a licensed structural engineer. The property should also be fully evaluated by the most thorough and experienced home inspector you can find.
Additional problems will be revealed by a qualified home inspector, and with the sellers soft-selling a structural defect, additional findings could be decisive.