Q DEAR BARRY: As a real estate agent, I have had problems with a local home inspector. On a recent inspection, he found some foundation cracks and stated that the building was "structurally defective." His report recommended that "the north and south walls of the house each have five hydraulically driven steel piers.

Estimated cost of structural defects: $8,000 to $10,000." A subsequent inspection by another home inspector stated that the cracks were normal for a 75-year-old home. Does a home inspector who is not a structural engineer have the qualifications to advance such findings? -- Sandra

ADEAR SANDRA: Recommendations of the kind you have quoted are far beyond the pale of established home inspection standards. Without being licensed as a structural engineer, no home inspector should advance conclusions and solutions that would constitute or resemble an engineering analysis.

Most states prohibit unlicensed persons from performing the services of a qualified engineer. In a worst-case foundation situation, where a home inspector sees major cracks, an appropriate recommendation would be as follows: "Large cracks were noted in the foundation.

Further evaluation by a licensed structural engineer is recommended." For a home inspector to specify particular kinds of structural repairs, as you have cited, is over-reaching and irresponsible.

DEAR BARRY: Before she bought a house, my friend hired a home inspector. After she moved in, she discovered that there were no rain gutters, but the inspector checked off the box that indicates aluminum gutters. Shouldn't the inspector have realized there were no gutters? Has my friend paid for gutters that she did not receive? What should she do? -- Anna

DEAR ANNA: Indicating the presence of rain gutters when there were none was most likely a simple note-taking error on the part of the home inspector. He probably checked the wrong box.

However, the cost of a home is not increased or decreased by the presence or absence of rain gutters. In many areas roof gutters are not even required. You should contact the local building department to determine whether gutters are required.

If not, it is unlikely that your friend paid for gutters that were not received.

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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