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posted: 9/14/2012 5:01 AM

Home inspector: Foundation problem keeps on killing sales

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Q. We bought our home last year. It was a fixer-upper, but our home inspector found no major problems. After spending $75,000 on renovations, we put it on the market and had a buyer in just three days. But the buyer's home inspector found a foundation problem that our inspector had missed. We called our home inspector. He who looked under the house again and said he saw no problem. So the buyer canceled the deal. We had the foundation repaired by an engineering firm and found new buyers. Coincidentally, they hired the same inspector as the previous buyers. He said the foundation problem had been repaired, but the buyers were spooked and canceled the deal again. I would not have purchased this home if my home inspector had found the foundation problem. He worked for a nationally reputable firm, so I thought he would do a good job. What can I do to resolve this situation?

A. Before answering your question, something should be said about your choice of home inspectors. It doesn't matter if a home inspection company has a glowing national reputation. What matters is the knowledge and experience of the individual inspector. Not everyone who works for a reputable firm is an excellent inspector. The inspector you hired was apparently not the best, but that was a lesson learned, and now you need to move ahead with the sale of the property.

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If the foundation repairs were performed in a substantial manner by a competent, licensed contractor, this should have been affirmed by the inspector who originally discovered the problem. You say he did this, but still the buyers were scared off. Perhaps the inspector is not as good at communicating as he is at finding defects. Or perhaps these were overly cautious buyers.

To prevent this foundation issue from becoming a problem in any future transactions, you should have the repair work evaluated by a licensed structural engineer. If the engineer is satisfied with the quality of the repair, he can provide a letter to that effect, and that letter can be used as disclosure to buyers. If the engineer is not satisfied with the repair work, he can advise you accordingly. Once you have written affirmation that the foundation is stable, it should be provided to buyers before they hire a home inspector. That way the issue will be resolved at the outset of the transaction, before the inspection report can spook or surprise the buyers.

Q. I read your article about the window requirement for a basement bedroom. If a basement room doesn't meet exit requirements, can a family member legally use it as a bedroom?

A. No one can prevent a family member from sleeping anywhere they choose in their own home. If a person is so inclined, they can sleep in the kitchen, bathroom, or a closet. Without a window for emergency exit, a basement room is not a legal bedroom, but no one can prohibit a family member from sleeping in it.

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

Distributed by Action Coast Publishing

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