QDEAR BARRY: We recently bought a four-year-old home. After we moved in, we discovered an air-conditioning problem that was never disclosed by the sellers or the home inspector. In one of the bedrooms, no air comes from the vent. We called an air-conditioning contractor and he said the main air unit is not strong enough to reach that room. The only solution, he said, is to replace the entire system, a major expense to say the least. Shouldn't this have been disclosed to us? -- Shelly
ADEAR SHELLY: It is the responsibility of sellers to disclose all known property defects. Failure to do so is illegal in most states, and one would expect a homeowner to know that a particular bedroom does not receive conditioned air. Of course, the sellers could claim they didn't know about the problem. They could say, for example, that this was a spare bedroom they never used. For all you know, that could be the truth.
Home inspectors routinely operate heating and air-conditioning systems. That process typically includes checking for reasonable air output at all registers. It appears your inspector did not test this adequately.
An unusual aspect of this situation is the contractor's recommendation to replace the main air unit. That seems somewhat extreme as a remedy for lack of airflow at one register. More commonly, this problem is caused by a blocked or disconnected air duct. You should get a second opinion from another contractor. If the solution is less costly, perhaps you won't need to fight over disclosure.
DEAR BARRY: We've had three purchase offers on our home, but one inspection report has prevented the sales from closing. The first buyers to make an offer hired the home inspector. The inspection report included a cost estimate for repairs. When the buyers saw this, they canceled the sale. Since then, we've had two more offers, but each time we show the would-be buyers the inspection report and estimated repair costs, they change their minds. Did the home inspector violate professional guidelines by including repair costs in the report? What can we do to resolve this problem? -- Eurline
DEAR EURLINE: Most home inspection reports do not contain a list of repair costs. Some inspectors include these estimates as an added benefit to their customers, sometimes as part of the service and sometimes for an added fee. That violates no professional standards. However, the costs listed in home inspection reports tend to be high so the inspector will not be liable if repairs cost more than predicted.
One way to solve your problem is to have a general contractor provide an actual bid for the recommended repairs. This will provide a more accurate estimate. These costs could even be categorized, separating the routine repairs from those that are more critical.
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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