DEAR BARRY: My son is buying his first home: an older house with an addition. Neither the seller nor the agent will say if the addition is permitted, but the agent assures him it was built to code. My son hired a home inspector who says the addition is not secured to the foundation. So now my son is wondering what to do next. What do you recommend? –Albert

DEAR ALBERT: Your son may not be dealing with trustworthy people, and it’s good that he discovered this before closing escrow. The main issues are:

1. Sellers who do not disclose a condition that would be of concern to a buyer, such as the permit status of an addition, may be acting unethically and in violation of state disclosure laws.

2. Agents who declare that an addition is "built to code" are claiming to be familiar with every aspect of the construction — foundations, framing, plumbing, electrical wiring, etc. They are also claiming to have a comprehensive knowledge of the building code, plumbing code, mechanical code, electrical code, etc.

3. Agents who refuse to disclose whether an addition is permitted are ethically suspect. Instead, an agent should advise clients to get the permit history of the property from the building department.

Your son should simply find another property. This is a buyer’s market, with no shortage of homes for sale. The sellers and their agent are not in a position to drive a hard bargain.

DEAR BARRY: We had a home inspection when we bought our house, but the inspector made no mention of structural defects. Now we are having major settlement problems. Can we sue the home inspection company? –Geraldine

DEAR GERALDINE: Before you put on your battle gear, call the inspection company and ask the inspector to look at the problems and discuss the issues. How the inspection company responds will determine your next step.

There are two factors that determine whether you have a basis for a claim. If the defects that were missed were visible and accessible at the time of the inspection, then the inspector may be liable. However, the contract that you signed at the time of the inspection probably has limitations that reduce the inspector’s liability.

For example, you may be required to have an arbitrator or mediator, rather than going to court. The contract may also set a maximum dollar amount for liability.

Before deciding on a course of action, have the matter reviewed by an attorney.

DEAR BARRY: When we leave our summer home, we turn off the gas to the water heater. Is this a good idea, or should we turn the control knob to the vacation setting? –Edwin

DEAR EDWIN: The vacation setting is best. The problem with turning the water heater completely off is the potential for leaks. When the fixture becomes cold, the fittings shrink. When you relight the burner, everything expands, and this can adversely affect the fittings. If you turn the thermostat to the vacation setting, the pilot flame will remain lit, maintaining a slight warmth in the tank.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Real estate news and analysis that gives you the inside track. Subscribe to Inman Select for 50% off.SUBSCRIBE NOW×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription