QDEAR BARRY: When we bought our home, the home inspector didn't want us to attend the inspection. He simply mailed us the report. Since moving in, we've found defects that were not reported to us. Now we feel that we should have been at the inspection. Among the undisclosed problems were ungrounded outlets and several venting problems affecting furnace safety (discovered by the man from the gas company). I guess not being allowed at the inspection should have been a red flag. -- Ben

ADEAR BEN: Were you represented by a qualified real estate agent? Real estate professionals typically arrange for their buyers either to attend the home inspection or at least meet with the inspector at the end of the inspection for a full review of the findings. Lack of adequate representation, or no representation, can hurt a real estate purchase.

Refusal to permit buyer participation at a home inspection is a red flag. No home inspector with a healthy understanding of the profession would deny customers the right to attend their own inspection. The buyers are paying for it and have every right to be there.

Inspectors who would do this have no concept of the service business they are in and should either reevaluate their professional function or find another way to make a living. It's a matter of attitude, of realizing that the purpose of the inspection is to provide buyers with a thorough understanding of the condition of the property being bought -- to be the buyers' private consultant and advocate. Without that attitude all other aspects of the inspection become suspect, particularly the thoroughness of disclosure. This has now become painfully obvious to you, as undisclosed defects are gradually being revealed.

Qualified home inspectors routinely test accessible wall outlets and report when they are not grounded. Failure to note such an obvious and common defect is a sign of professional negligence. In addition, various defects involving the ventilation of gas-burning fixtures are commonly reported, as these can significantly affect the safety of occupants.

The unanswered question now is, how many additional defects remain to be discovered and disclosed? This uncertainty can only be resolved by another home inspection, performed by the most thorough, experienced and well-respected home inspector you can find. Call a few real estate offices in your area and ask who is known for meticulous investigative detail. Find someone who has many years of experience in the business, is a member of a recognized home inspector association and welcomes you to the inspection.

DEAR BARRY: We want to build an addition on our home but can't get a permit because of an easement on the property. The original purpose of the easement was to provide access to two homes behind ours. Those properties now have their own driveways. Is there any way this easement can be removed? -- Elizabeth

DEAR ELIZABETH: If the easement on your property was established for purposes that are no longer necessary, there should be a legal means of having it nullified. Consult your local building department or whatever government agency regulates easements. If you encounter difficulties, you may need a lawyer.

Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

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