DEAR BARRY: When our son bought his home, the Realtor convinced him that a home inspection was not needed. She told him that the owner was "Mr. Fix-it," who maintained the home in perfect condition. On this advice, my son signed an inspection waiver. After moving into the home, numerous problems became apparent. The seller says he had no knowledge of any defects and refuses to pay for any repairs. Do we have any recourse against the seller or the agent? –Patrick
DEAR PATRICK: Disclosure liability for the seller depends on whether he knew about the defects. If he claims no such knowledge, it’s your word against his, and that could be a stalemate. Agent liability, however, could be another matter.
Of all the mistakes a real estate agent can make, few are as inexcusable as advising a buyer not to hire a home inspector. Agents who do this are either unethical or are ignorant of the basics of real estate disclosure.
Every home — even ones that are owned by "Mr. Fix-it" — should be inspected. All homes have defects that can be found only by a qualified professional, and Mr. Fix-it is unlikely to have fixed everything. This is common knowledge among agents who are experienced and truly professional.
Mr. Fix-it may keep the home and landscaping in perfectly manicured condition, but what does he know about the wiring in the electrical panel, about faulty plumbing conditions under the house, about fire safety violations in the attic, or about conditions in the fireplace or chimney? These are just a few of the scores of conditions that are evaluated by a qualified inspector, and your son’s agent should have known this.
Agents who advise against home inspections expose themselves to unlimited levels of liability. When defects are found after the close of escrow, they become the first targets of anger and blame for having advised their clients to forgo an essential form of homebuyer protection. When costly defects are found after the sale, agents and their brokers can be sued for misrepresentation and can be subject to ethics complaints against their licenses.
Home inspection should be a part of every purchase. It protects the agent as much as the buyer. Agents who are wise make no exceptions to this rule.
DEAR BARRY: The home we are buying has large cracks in the concrete walkway leading to the house. We would like the seller to repave the entry, but our Realtor says it’s unlikely that the seller will do so. Is it out of the question to ask to have this repaired or to be given a credit since it is a safety issue? –Glenn
DEAR GLENN: You can ask for any kind of repair you want, but your agent is probably right. Most sellers would not be willing to pay for this kind of repair. If the cracks are large enough or uneven enough to pose a trip hazard, you can request repair as a safety upgrade, but don’t be surprised or very disappointed if the answer is no. Conditions such as this are usually taken on an as-is basis.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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