QDEAR BARRY: We recently bought a house that had been repossessed by the bank. When we made our offer, our agent advised us not to get a home inspection because it was just an additional cost to us and the bank would not fix anything anyway. In hindsight, we realize that we should have had an inspection because the roof leaks and we get standing water around the foundation during wet weather. Do we have recourse, or did we just make a huge mistake? -- Barbara
ADEAR BARBARA: Any real estate agent who advises a client not to have a home inspection, regardless of the circumstances of the transaction, should be placed in stocks, as was common punishment for disgraceful behavior in Colonial America.
Advising a client to forgo a home inspection is the height of misrepresentation. It is a major ethical breach, the act of a slick salesperson or of someone who is inexcusably naive.
The purpose of a home inspection is not to prepare a repair list for the seller. Your agent's reasoning, therefore, was irrelevant. A home inspection is meant to inform you of the condition of what you are buying. A home inspector does not merely report on conditions that the seller might repair but also on conditions that you might have to repair or on safety violations that could have life-threatening consequences.
Your agent needs to learn the meaning and intent of real estate disclosure. Whether you have recourse is a question that can be answered only by a lawyer. Meanwhile, it would be wise to have an after-purchase home inspection to learn what additional defects await.
DEAR BARRY: We bought our home six months ago and had it professionally inspected. There were no apparent problems with the swimming pool, but two weeks after we moved in, we could tell that the pool was losing water. Sure enough, a leak detection company discovered leakage in the underground piping, a condition no home inspector could have discovered. The sellers reimbursed us for the $200 leak detection fee but refused to pay for repairs. They claim no knowledge of any previous leakage, but this does not seem plausible. Do we have any recourse? -- Matt
DEAR MATT: It seems highly unlikely that the pool level began to recede only when you took possession of the property. The sellers, it would seem, must have known the pool was losing water, because periodic refilling would have been necessary to provide a full pool at the close of escrow.
Depending on the cost of repairs, you might try testing this case in small claims court. In preparing your case, you should ask the neighbors if they are aware of any problems with the pool. You should also call all the pool maintenance companies listed in your phone book to see if any have worked on your pool and if their records show this problem.
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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