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posted: 7/6/2012 5:30 AM

What to do when sellers unwilling to repair foundation

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Q. We are in escrow on a house, and the sellers' disclosure statement listed no defects. But our home inspector found major foundation and drainage problems, and the contractor bid is over $40,000. Our Realtor says the sellers can refuse to cover these costs. Is that possible? What is the average amount that buyers are usually credited with this kind of problem?

A. In situations like this, repair costs are entirely negotiable. It all depends on how much you are willing to accept and how much the sellers can be persuaded to pay. In a buyers' market, it is easier to get sellers to pay for repairs. But some sellers are stubborn and would rather lose the sale than give in to repair demands. You will need to decide how strongly you feel about buying the property and whether it is worth the additional cost of repairs. From that perspective, you can decide how firmly to negotiate.

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The fact that the sellers disclosed no defects casts a shadow of doubt on their trustworthiness, although it is possible they were unaware of the foundation problems. Either way, $40,000 in repairs is no small issue. So be careful in your negotiations. If they will not budge, it might be time to walk away and look for another property.

Q. We are selling our home, and because we live in the Rocky Mountains, the buyers' home inspector did a radon test. On the day he was scheduled to pick up the testing equipment, he arrived two hours earlier than scheduled and let himself into the house without contacting us or our agent. My kids came home from school when he was packing up his truck. What recourse do we have for this intrusion into our home? Did he have the right to enter without permission?

A. The inspector should have called you or the agent to say that he would be arriving early to pick up the radon equipment. Failure to provide notice of early arrival and unauthorized entry into your home were breaches of professional protocol. He and the agent should be made aware of your displeasure, and a formal apology would be in order. However, as long as no damage was done, there is no point in taking legal action. Hopefully, your formal chastisement will ensure the inspector enters no one else's home without permission.

Q. The home we are buying is being sold "as is." Our home inspector said there is a carbon monoxide leak in the attic, and there are no carbon monoxide detectors in the home. Are we responsible for these repairs?

A. In many states, sellers of homes are required to install carbon monoxide (C0) detectors, regardless of whether the sale is "as is." More important, however, is the fact that C0 was found in the attic. This is a potentially life-threatening condition that calls for immediate evaluation of all fuel-burning fixtures to determine the source of the C0. This condition should be addressed by a qualified licensed contractor prior to close of escrow.

• Email questions to Barry Stone through his website, housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

Action Coast Publishing

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