Q. We bought our home when it was new. There had been another buyer before us, but he backed out of the deal because of a foundation problem. The builder disclosed that the problem had been repaired. We were desperate and angry, so we purchased the property. Now we are selling it, and the buyer's home inspector says the foundation was not properly repaired. It seems that we've gotten ourselves into a real mess. What could we have done to prevent this?
A. You made three critical mistakes when you bought the property. The first was to buy it when you were "desperate and angry." Regardless of why you were feeling that way, a home purchase should never be based on negative emotions. Property is very expensive, and that kind of expenditure should only be made with clear thinking and sober rationale.
The second mistake was to accept the condition of the foundation without written proof of the repair work. Adequate proof would have been an engineering report on the foundation problem and a contractor's receipt for the corrective work.
The final error was purchasing the property without hiring a qualified home inspector. Buyers often assume that a new home does not need a home inspection, and many homeowners have come to regret that unfortunate assumption. Had you hired a home inspector, you might have learned that the foundation was defective. Then you could have had it repaired by the builder, or you could have backed out on the deal.
The question now is whether the home is still covered by the state mandated builders' warranty. You should check with an attorney or with the appropriate state bureaucracy to see where you stand in that regard.
Q. Our buyers hired a home inspector and he has made an expensive mess. While testing the dishwasher, he left room to inspect other parts of the house. We hadn't used the dishwasher in years and the door seals had become dry and cracked. By the time the inspector returned to the kitchen, the floor was flooded, and the hardwood flooring is now warped and must be replaced. Are we stuck with the cost of this repair, or is the home inspector liable?
A. The home inspector has just learned an expensive lesson: Don't leave the room when testing an old dishwasher. Had he remained in the room while the fixture was running, the leaking would have been noticed when it started, and the unit could have been turned off before the flooding occurred.
A good practice for home inspectors is to start the dishwasher first when inspecting a kitchen. That way, the unit can be running while the inspector is evaluating the cooktop, oven, vent hood, sink plumbing, cabinets, countertops, and so on. By the time these other items have been inspected, there will have been time for dishwasher leakage to become apparent.
You should discuss the issue of liability with the inspector, and be sure to ask if he has insurance for this kind of accident.
• Email questions to Barry Stone through his website, housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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