QDEAR BARRY: I am quite disgusted with the home inspection industry. Before buying my home, I hired the inspector who was recommended by my agent. First of all, $350 is a lot of money to pay someone just to flush the toilet and inform me that there are rust stains on the bottom of the kitchen sink. What's more, the inspector referred me to a structural engineer just because of a tilted foundation pier in the crawlspace. Couldn't I perform my own basic inspection with some sort of checklist and then, if an item appears faulty, call a licensed contractor? -- Gloria
ADEAR GLORIA: Judging an entire profession by the performance of one individual is unreliable. The best and worst can be found in every field. It is possible that a more qualified inspector would have disclosed a longer list of defects. On the other hand, this home may have been one of the few with few faulty conditions. The recommendation for a structural engineer may or may not have been justified, depending upon the specifics of that situation.
As for your suggestion that you perform your own home inspection, ask yourself if you have the expertise to evaluate the wiring in a circuit breaker panel, to review the condition of a forced air furnace, or to determine whether a fireplace and chimney are properly constructed and working well. Ask yourself if you are prepared to crawl through an attic or foundation sub-area and whether you would recognize construction defects in roof framing, seismic reinforcement and ventilation.
Despite your recent disappointment, there are many highly qualified home inspectors who can provide detailed, comprehensive defect disclosure for homebuyers. Rather than draw conclusions about the entire industry, buyers should try to find an inspector with years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness. Don't rely simply on referrals made by your agent.
DEAR BARRY: We bought a house with a clay tile roof. Our home inspector reported some broken tiles and the sellers had these replaced. The building was then tented to treat for termites and the people who did the tenting never told us that they broke more tiles. Now the rains have come and we've got a leaking roof. Shouldn't someone have informed us that the roof tiles were broken when the house was tented? -- Lonny
DEAR LONNY: Companies that fumigate houses for termites typically include a disclaimer in their contract stating that they are not responsible for broken roof tiles. Essentially, they are informing customers of the likelihood of breakage, without accepting liability for repairs. However, it would certainly be a good idea for these contractors, as a matter of professional courtesy, to disclose that tiles were broken and whether they are responsible for repairs. These companies might not agree with this point of view, but a small-claims court judge might be inclined to change their perspective.
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 Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.
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