QDEAR BARRY: You often recommend home inspections for brand new houses, but in my case, this has proved unnecessary. Since I bought my home about six months ago, I've had two problems, and the builder repaired them immediately. In another six months, my warranty will expire. What reasons, if any, can you give for having an inspection now? -- Mark

ADEAR MARK: The most common reason why buyers of new houses skip home inspections is that they plan to rely on the builder's warranty. This can prove a costly error. Buyers assume that all significant defects will become obvious during the warranty period. This is a faulty assumption.

All new homes have defects you can't see, regardless of the quality of the construction or the integrity of the builder. No one can build something as large and complex as a house without a few mistakes. To assume that all such errors will be readily apparent is a recipe for financial loss.

There might be problems in the attic, in the electric service panel or on the roof. They might involve safety violations with a chimney installation or the grounding of electrical outlets. There might be a defect in the roof framing, the gas connection to the heater or the site drainage. A home inspector who can discover such conditions will make it possible for you to take full advantage of your builder's warranty.

Professional inspection of a new home always helps -- if the inspector is truly qualified. Just be sure to find an inspector with many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness.

DEAR BARRY: We recently bought a home and had it checked by our agent's home inspector. The inspector noticed some loose floor tiles in the kitchen and said they could be repaired for about $200. The sellers agreed to credit us $200, so we closed escrow on that basis. Since then, two contractors have told us the problem is more serious and requires relaying the kitchen floor at a cost of nearly $2,500. How could our inspector have given such an inaccurate repair estimate? Why was his estimate oral, rather than part of the inspection report? Is he liable for the excess cost? -- Susan

DEAR SUSAN: Your home inspector should not have estimated the repair costs for your floor unless the estimate was included in his written report.

Because he did not provide a written estimate, his recommendation should have been "further evaluation by a qualified flooring contractor prior to close of transaction." If that had been done, contractors could have submitted the $2,500 estimate, and negotiations with the sellers for the actual cost of repairs could have taken place.

Your inspector's guess was unprofessional and ill advised. Whether you can base a claim of liability on an oral statement is doubtful, but the matter could easily be tested in small claims court. At the very least, you should notify the inspector of your displeasure.

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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